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  • Writer's pictureSweet Orange

#26 おかげさま(1)Thankfully (Okagesama) 1

Rev. Kodo Tanaka 田中孝道

Title: Thankfully (Okagesama) 1


One summer, a Japanese family friend of mine casually sent their daughter to a summer camp at a church, thinking that she would improve her English. The daughter came home and said, "Mom, you're not my real mother. I was born of God." Needless to say, this mother was surprised.

Have you ever been asked, "What is your religion?" and had a hard time answering? (Well, I don't know the religious denomination of the temple where my grave is, and I'm not particularly Buddhist just because I visit the grave, so I'll be blunt here...) I'm not religious. This may be true in the sense that you don't live your life with a particular religion in mind. But consider, for example, "no religion" as the so-called materialism or atheism, which means "I don't believe in anything I can't see, hear, touch, think about, or understand.

So why do so many Japanese people visit shrines and temples all over Japan at the beginning of the year, even in the cold and crowded weather? They all put their hands together and pray for something. It is nothing but a religious act. Even if you only look at Hatsumode, you can see that many Japanese are not "irreligious".

The United States of America was founded on Christian principles, and its lifestyle practices are based on Western monotheistic ideas. Furthermore, the year 2022 is counted from the birth of Jesus Christ, and the concept of the week from Monday to Sunday (Sabbath) is also said to be based on the Western idea of "God's creation" or "Jesus' resurrection. I was born and raised in Japan, but I am also living in the logic of Christianity.

Furthermore, as shown in the example at the beginning of this article, children who grow up in the U.S. are already part of the "American society" of schools and are more deeply involved in the culture and traditions than their Japanese parents. They recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily, vocalize the phrase "A Nation Under GOD," and live their school lives based on those values.

Why do we bow? Why do we say "Itadakimasu"? (Japanese say Itadakimasu before eating a meal.) Why can't we leave food on the table? Why do we see people off at the door? And, "Why do we hold a Buddhist memorial service for a dead person for years?" The gap between what they see and hear at school and what they are taught at home in American society must be more than a little confusing for children. Also, when you try to teach them, you may find that many Japanese customs are difficult to explain to them.

In order for our children to live strongly and proudly as Japanese Americans, we, the adult generation, need to be the foundation. In order to do this, we need to understand the American values and the Japanese values, and we need to know about the "religion" that underlies these values. I would like to write about my thoughts in the next few articles.


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