So what’s religion like in Japan vs the US?

By Chi Onyeka

So I was born and raised to be an avid Christian and I remember getting into an argument about whether God was alive or not in the 5th grade. Here nowadays, you can’t do that because people are sensitive about things like that, hence the reason why you’re not supposed to talk about religion in public. It’s not at all that the US isn’t religiously diverse, it’s just that there are so many strong opinions developed about religion in the US that people prefer not to be so open about their religion. For instance, you wouldn’t see someone openly saying the grace at a restaurant or blabbing about atheism, because they wouldn’t want someone to get offended. Religion isn’t really applied to the daily life unless you attend or reside in a place that identifies strictly as one religion.

In Japan, on the other hand, people don’t really identify as one religion; they merge different aspects of each religion into their daily lives. The main religions practiced in Japan are Buddhism, Shintoism, and Confucianism. Some people even practice two religions at the same time! But Chi, what do you mean by they apply religion to their daily lives? Well reader, here’s what I mean. Take itadakimasu, for example. Itadakimasu is the practice of saying thanks before a meal to the gods and everyone who contributed to making the meal. If you’re about to eat a nice warm bowl of miso shiru at the most popular restaurant in Tokyo and you say “Itadakimasu!,” no one would give you side eye because that’s a part of their culture and you’d probably get more side eye not saying it anyway. That’s what I mean.

In conclusion, there’s definitely more than one religion in both the US and Japan. It’s just the portrayal of religion in Japan would be more open and common because it’s normal to be a Buddhist in the morning and a Confucist in the evening. Whereas, in the U.S, that kind of stuff is rare because we follow mainly monotheistic religions that tell us to not bow down before another God, so if a Christian says “God Bless you” to a Muslim..that might be seen as a problem. So in the US and Japan religious diversity is handled differently.

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