Welcome again to JJNN for Saturday August 23rd, 2008. Today we will be taking about pseudoscience in shintoism.
Shintoism is the native religion of Japan. It has a long history that includes many interesting folk tales that explain how Japan and the Japanese people came to exist. Shinto is an animistic believe system, which means their gods (known as kami) live in natural objects. For example, Mt. Fuji is a god. So is Mt. Yahiko near my house. There are gods in very old and big trees known as shinboku. One of those trees can be seen below.
Shintoism is rather interesting as a religion because there is really no praying that we would think of as praying. Once or twice a year people go to shrine and make a wish (I guess that is sort of like a prayer) to the kami of the shrine, but is is not done in a way like church back home.
Any way, shinto is very interesting. I invite you to consult ol' wiki if you want to know more about it, because this post would get very long if I went on and on about shintoism. What I really want to talk about it one specific pseudoscience in shintoism. It is the process of blessing a car.
Almost everyone in Japan that buys a new or used car will take that car to the nearest shinto shrine and have the car blessed by a shinto priest. The theory goes that when you get a car it comes with evil spirits (que creepy music). Apparently these evil spirits must be like the gremlins of yore. For a large chunk of money (it's a different price at different shrines) the shinto priest will come out and do their form of an exorcism on the car. This is what one of these ceremonies looks like.
Sure it is entertaining to watch and deeply linked to Japanese culture, but what is waving a stick over a car really going to do in the end. It will do just the same as when Christian priests throw holy water on a car. Absolutely nothing! In fact, if people really believed in the ceremony I can see it having the opposite effect. The driver will get so relaxed in their car that they start driving sloppily and end up causing an accident. In sort, blessing a car is a waste of money and time.
Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 車祓(くるまばらい). It is pronounced kuruma-barai and means car blessing. I got a new (very old) car a few weeks ago. Maybe I should bring it in for a car blessing just so I can see the look on their faces.
That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.