Celebrating Life In A Shinto Shrine

John K. Nelson has studied two Japanese Shinto shrines in detail. He explains the philosophy behind the beautiful ceremonies and rituals.

You do not want to know how many phone calls we made trying to find an expert on the Shinto religion.

The reasons we had such trouble are… complicated, having to do with the political landscape of Japan, among other things.

A heritage that acknowledges the life force which circulates through nature, human beings - why should it stop at inanimate objects? And especially in a place like Japan where you have mountains that explode, you have avalanches, you have very volatile nature that can either benefit you - or rub you out. Extending the idea of a life force to the natural world makes logical sense in that particular context.- John Nelson
John Nelson at the Suwa Shrine in Nagasaki, 1987. (John Nelson)

All roads lead us to John Nelson, an anthropologist and professor in the department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of San Francisco. 

Professor Nelson has written many books about religious traditions in Japan and about life in  Shinto Shrines specifically.

 In this feature interview, Professor Nelson reveals the philosophy at the heart of Shinto and helps us connect the dots between the Japanese religion and Marie Kondo's renowned system of tidying up. 

And he walks Mary through a Shinto hand clapping ceremony of thanks.


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