Shintoism in Japan

Shinto (神道) in Japan

In Japan, there are shrines(神社 l.e.,Gods place) and buddhist temples in every town. Shrines are usually related to “Shintoism”, and of course Buddhist temple to Buddhism. Japanese religious view is very unique. In general, we practice both Shintoism and Buddhism and they has been getting alone in Japan history. This is because the concept is different and also the way of practices, views, and origins. The main practice of Shintoism is worship of Gods, and Buddhism is participating or learning the way to be a Buddha. There is no conflict between Shitoism and Buddhism in Japanese history.

The origin and date started of Shintoism is unknown. It has been said about 800B.C. Shintoism is a religion believing every nature has a god. For example, there are a god of water, wind, tree, mountain, fire, and so on. “Omatsuri (festivals)” is a known practice of Shintoism. You often see the “Torii” (A gateway to the holly space) in front of Shrines which is for distinguishing the human and Gods world.


The pictures below is a shrine on top of a mountain at Yamanakako in Yamanashi prefecture. It is called Divided stone shrine (“石割り神社” Ishiwari shrine). A God of the mountain is worshiped on this shrine.

Getting to this shrine, you go up about 500 stairs and walk about 30 min.

Long stairs. It is about half of them. Often used for trainings of national level athletes.


Road to the Shrine in the mountain.


The Shrine


This is the reason why it is called “divided stone shrine”

In Shintoism, stones are often referred to a representative of God and are believed to have a strong power. You can find stones in many stories related to Shintoism.

[amazonjs asin=”B005M2AI0I” locale=”US” title=”Shinto the Kami Way”][amazonjs asin=”1405155167″ locale=”US” tmpl=”Small” title=”A New History of Shinto”]

Ishiwari Shrine

より大きな地図で 石割山〜日向峰〜奥ノ岳ルート を表示

Japanese drinking culture

Drunk people in Japan

Many countries have an alcohol drinking culture. Let me introduce one of the Japanese drinking culture. Tokyo is “a nightless entertainment city” especially near the famous stations. Many chain store Izakaya (a bar with food) are open till morning, sometimes 24 hours. You can find them almost every stations in Tokyo 23 wards. It is very controversial whether it is good or bad for Japanese people. My opinion, it is clearly not positive for Japanese people. Well, I understand that it is fun to hang out and drink with friends till the morning sometimes, but not all the time. Japan does not have a time restriction for serving and selling alcohols in the law. You can buy alcohols at a convenience stores anytime. This is because you can find so many drunk people on the trains and streets in Tokyo. It is surprising that there are so many business men with nice suits puking on the street even in the train. Japan has an interesting way to social/business communication occasion called “nominication”(drinking communication) especially among business men, and I believe it might cause disgraceful behavior of them in the picture below.  I will introduce “nominication” in a different blog post.


I took the picture below at Ikebukuro station around midnight. The girl seemed to be a college student  passed out. Ikebukuro station is one of the largest stations in Japan and very crowded even around midnight.


Drinking is fun, but you should know your limit.

Flush!! not Flash

Common English mistakes for Japanese people

‘r’ and ‘l’ + vowels

As you know, Japanese people have very hard time to pronounce /r/ and /l/ sounds in English. It is because Japanese doesn’t have phoneme (“a basic sound unit of a language”) to describe the sound /r/(Alveolar, Approximant ) and /l/(Alveolar, Lateral). However, Japanese language has similar sound called /r/ (postalveolar, flap) which sound more likely flap ‘d’ allophone [ɾ] sound  for English speakers.

For example:

English word “buddy” /bʌdɪ/  sound “Bali”  /ˈbɑlɪ/ is very similar for Japanese people. The word “Bali” would be /bari/ in Japanese, but pronounced very similar to English flap “d” [ɾ].

Imagine a situation when you are  away from your family for long time for work on the ship with Japanese people (it is hard to imagine), they are so dead tired everyday, and  you keep hearing Japanese people are  saying “Daddy”.

Well, as you know, they are not  saying “Daddy”, but “Dari” which means “sluggish” all the time. Anyway, “Dari” is often used among young generations. I use the word too, but I am trying not to use much because the word is used very casually but often shows negative attitude to the others. Be careful.

Now, you know why Japanese people often make mistakes /r/ and /l/. But how can I explain this???

The Japanese word is saying “flush”. Well, this button is not for “flashing” This is flush the toilet button.


There are more common English mistakes for Japanese: vowels. Here is the vowel charts for Japanese and English.


Chart 1: Japanese vowels               Chart 2: English vowels

Before describing the mistake, let me introduce a bit about Japanese phonological system. Japanese language is a mora centric language. The word is or character called “Hiragana” are consisted by 3 types of syllable structures, 1) vowel, 2) a Consonant and a Vowel and 3) /n/. All Japanese words are combination of these types. For example, きれい /kirei/ beautiful = 3 syllables,  そら /sora/ sky = 2 syllables, and おんな /onna/ women = 3 syllables.

Japanese words are pronounced as described in phonemic form in “Romaji” as /kirei/. This causes the “flash” and “flush” problem. Since Japanese doesn’t have a vowel /æ/ as in “flash”/flˈæʃ/, the closest sound is /a/. Hence, they would spell it out as “flash” instead of “flush”. If a Japanese person who doesn’t know the word “flush”, he would pronounce “flush” /flush/.

Here is a very funny video clip of very famous Japanese comedy show:

A video clip on Dailymotion (Downtown Gaki no thukai)

Listen carefully what a guy on the video in the clip says. You will find how hard some English pronunciations are for Japanese people.

For more information on Phonology:

Introductory Phonology