The questions of whether Shinto is a religion or not have been long debated and I will not get into the politics of Japanese religion systems. However Shinto is a big part of Japanese life and people practice Shinto rituals disregard of belief in religion. What I will talk about is the impact Shinto has on modern media and technology. You might not think it but Shinto and other "religions" still play a big part in modern culture. References to religion and religious narrative can be seen in a lot for todays Film, TV, Music and Books.
Got To Catch Them All
Pokémon is one of the most popular franchises in the world, with many TV series, Films, Video games, Trading cards and more. With the explosion on Pokémon Go this summer it is more popular than ever. Pokémon draws a lot from Shinto and Animism. If you look at the Pokémon characters, many of them have similarities to the Kami (Gods) in Shinto. Hannah Gould in her article "If Pokémon Go Feels like a Religion, That’s Because It Kind of Is" shows us comparisons between some of the Pokémon and Kami from the Shinto faith. She mentions the similarities of, "Whiscash bears a strong resemblance to Namazu, a catfish who causes earthquakes in Japanese mythology; meanwhile, grass/dark Pokémon Shiftry is clearly a Tengu or goblin" (Gould, 2016).
My Neighbour Totoro (film)
How We See Robots
In Christopher Mims article, he quotes from Heather Knights study,
"In Japan… they’re culturally open to robots, on account of animism. They don’t make a distinction between inanimate objects and humans." (Mims, 2010).
This shows us good reason why Japan is accepting of technology and robots. They can worship objects as they can be seen as representations of Kami and are treated the same as you would treat anything sacred. This is the opposite in the west where worship of an inanimate object is seen as worshiping a false idol. With Japan being one of the leaders in technology and innovation in that area, you can see how Shinto beliefs can be seen to have played an important role in technological advancement.
Other Shinto References In Pop Culture
There are many other reference to Shinto and characters from the Shinto "Religion" throughout the different medias. You can play as a depiction of Amaterasu in the Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds. In the Stargate series, Amaterasu is depicted as a Goa'uld system lord who comes to Earth after Anubis's demise to form a truce with earth. In Anime and Manga, Shinto themes like Kami are ever-present and also use Amaterasu in many different stories. (“Shinto in Popular Culture - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.”)
From the above text we can see that "religion" still has an influence over popular culture and technology. Especially in case of Japan and Shinto, however we do see this all over the world and in every religion. Religious stories and the characters in them have been used over and over again to tell stories. The connection between religion and popular culture is something I am interested in exploring further. And how religion is coming to terms with new technologies and modern society in general. How are they using technologies to keep people engaged in their beliefs. And are religions open to adapting to this new world and moving with the times.
- Gould, H. - “If Pokémon Go Feels like a Religion, That’s Because It Kind of Is | Technology | The Guardian.” Accessed October 5, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jul/12/pokemon-go-addictive-game-shares-much-with-religious-devotion.
- Mims, C. - “Why Japanese Love Robots (And Americans Fear Them).” Accessed October 5, 2016. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/421187/why-japanese-love-robots-and-americans-fear-them/.
- “Shinto in Popular Culture - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.” Accessed October 5, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shinto_in_popular_culture.