I’m thinking about religion and culture. In the beginning of the year, the Japanese writing class in Yokohama that I attended read “The Brothers Karamazov” by Dostoevsky. I read it in English because in Japan, I tend to read Japanese books after Japanese books. I consciously try to balance my reading and writing. Anyhow, one of the classmates refused to read “The Brothers Karamazov.” He blurted out that those foreign novels were immersed in religion. Many Japanese probably feel that way. I used to think so, too. All the rituals, utensils, and everything else are different. It isn’t easy to understand or explain one culture. But as anything, the difference is enticing. So I read “The Brothers Karamazov” at last, and I’m glad I did.
Because religion and culture grew together, I need to learn more about the religious background. Even though I’m Japanese, the world of Genji Monogatari is like a foreign country to me. To understand it, I need to know more about Shinto, Buddhism, and the way of Yin and Yang. Those are the base of Japanese culture.
Last month, I made a visit to the Gumyouji Kannon in Yokohama, and for the first time in my life, I attended their service. The Kannon was carved in the Heian period like Genji Monogatari. Inside the temple, a monk set a fire and chanted. The audience watched the fire and chanted along with him. The chant grew and grew as the flame went up. It was very soothing, relaxing. I came out of the temple happy. I said to a friend of mine, who went with me,
“From the ancient time, people came here because there were no psychologist offices.”
“I agree,” she said.
“This is all fascinating to me because I didn’t study much when I was young.”
“Me, too. It was good that we hadn’t studied much, wasn’t it,” she said, holding her cane with a flower print.
We looked into each other’s eyes and laughed together.