Sunday, December 24, 2006

Amaterasu in Cyberspace?

This is an interesting article about the ‘new’ Shinto religious following. It is best exemplified by a question that's being asked in Japan today:

“Does god exist in cyberspace?”

Whoa, tomodachi – don’t ask that when bloggers are around. In fact some bloggers would even claim to be ‘God in Cyberspace’, so the answer from them would be a confident ‘yes’.

Well, it seems the Tokyo-based Association of Shinto Shrines has been pissed off with some websites offering virtual visits to Shinto ‘shrines’. Those sites even sell amulets, online of course.

The Association is so alarmed by the cyber services, that it intends to issue a Shinto fatwa next year on shrines' use of the Internet.

Now, the Association is no small marble because it supervises around 80,000 shrines across the country. Since the cyber issue, it has sent out notices in July saying: "No Shinto god exists on the internet."

That's a wee presumptious. How would they know?

Well, Yoshiya Senoo, chief of the association's research division, said: “Shinto gods are enshrined in a place and space of a shrine, and therefore it's fundamental for worshippers to actually visit the shrine."

KTemoc doesn’t agree – gods (like bloggers) are everywhere and anywhere. A shrine is merely an convenient earthly location to represent the ‘presence’ of a deity. The shrine is, so to speak, an earthly interface (could be anywhere) for the worshipper to interact with Him or Her. Whether it's an online site or a physical location doesn't matter.

To this atheist, the most important shrine is the one in one's heart (or less poetically, in one's head or thoughts).

Some shrines like the Shingu Shrine in southern Japan, however, see no problem with online worshipping.

Its chief priest, Hideo Morikuni, obviously a cool dude, one who moves with the times and technology, said: "Young people in particular use the service and in many cases it leads to them actually visiting our shrine."

On his shrine's website, online visitors are asked to pray as they usually would - by bowing twice, clapping their hands twice and bowing once again - to the sound of beating drums.

Perhaps with 18 selections of drum rhythms?

Visitors can then enter their name, email address and other details and submit a wish for free for the shrine to pray on their behalf. Praying at an actual shrine usually involves throwing coins into a wooden offering box.

Morikuni said his shrine receives 10-20 online prayers per month.

I wonder whether a typical e-mail to the Goddess Amaterasu would take the form of:

ama, luv u, am (:-( :-(*) pse :-)~~~~~<

In case the Goddess seeks your translation help before She downloads the precise response or blessings, has any of you guys got the message?

Excuse the pun (can't resist it), but don't be Lost in Translation.

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