Religion and spirituality in Japan – a non topic relegated to nature

Little pink sakura petals prettily cover the ground. It’s that time of year again: when it’s finally warm enough to walk around the house naked. I approve. It’s only my third sakura season in Japan, but I’ve come to take comfort in the repetitive nature of the four seasons. 

After a three week hiatus, I return to the forest near my school. The insects are back. Eek. Ah well. The bird are chirping. The flowers are in the bloom. You know – that spring stuff that’s way better in person than the trite nonsense I’m currently writing. So this afternoon, I sat in the forest and took a deep breath in and out. I did it over and over again. I feasted on the sights and sounds and felt an elusive sense of peace I’ve never felt in my life.

Where did the last semester go? Living a life with a schedule filled to the brim and not taking the time out is no way to live. Shame on me. 

As a born-and-bred city girl – nature has always confused, fascinated and scared the crap out of me. The earthquakes in Japan don’t help. But the older I get, the more I long for that connection with nature. One thought led to another and the next thing I knew I was thinking about animism. The Oxford Dictionary defines animism as “the attribution of a soul to plants, inanimate objects, and natural phenomena”.

These days, this belief is condescendingly considered ‘primitive’ and ‘backward’ by many people. I don’t know how people can spend time with nature and animals and not think it has a soul. And then we go on and on about the environment and organic food. We humans are a strange species. 

Despite the number of shrines and temples that are EVERYWHERE and I do mean EVERYWHERE – I wouldn’t describe the Japanese as a particularly religious or spiritual people. Shinto and Buddhism are the two major religions here. Shinto is based on the old Japanese culture, whilst Buddhism came to Japan via China. 

Apart from a few rituals and customs, I don’t believe religion plays a big part in Japanese life. Having said that, one of the reasons why I love visiting shrines is because of the exquisite nature that often surrounds it. 


Which brings me to my new Wildwood Tarot Deck. The deck is based on pre-Christian European beliefs and the artwork portrays humanity and nature’s inextricably linked destinies. The card I drew for the day is Three of Stones: Creativity.

Known as the Suit of Pentacles in traditional tarot – the three of stones shows a lady whose feet are so firmly rooted in the earth that they are one and the same. She draws upon the strength of the earth and the stones. She shares a personal and intimate connection with her surroundings. Her facial expression is one of peace and unity with the world around her. 

This is exactly how I feel today. Rooted. Resolute. Reenergised. I left the forest a different person than the one who entered it. I stepped on countless pink sakura petals on my way out of the forest. 

Till next time, my beloved forest. Till next time. 

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