Case study: U.S. President and his Shinto shrine visit

Shinto shrine entrance

News story put together from several different sources

Read this news story and the e-mail which came in reaction to it. How would you respond?

     While in Japan for economic talks with the Japanese Prime Minister, the U.S. President is planning to visit the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo to experience part of Japanese culture. Former U.S. presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan also toured Meiji Shrine during visits to Japan.
     Although the American President is coming to Japan as a guest of Japanese leader Koizumi, the prime minister has said he will skip the visit to the shrine because it would be politically awkward for a Japanese prime minister to lend official status to a place where ruling emperors once were worshiped as divine.
     The Shinto shrine is dedicated to Emperor Meiji, the grandfather of Hirohito, the Japanese emperor during World War 2. Emperor Meiji played a major role in transforming Japan from a feudal state into a modern industrial country. There are three imperial shrines in Japan; the one to be visited by the U.S. President supposedly has the dead emperor's soul enshrined in it. The shrine was destroyed in World War 2 by U.S. bombings and rebuilt in 1958.
     White House sources say that the President will follow the common etiquette of sanpei at the shrine entrance, clapping once and bowing. He will also sign the shrine's registry book.

E-mail from Japan in reaction to story

In reaction to the story about the President's visit to the Meiji shrine, I received the following e-mail. Suppose I asked you to help me compose a response to this e-mail. What would you suggest that I write?

     Praise the name of the Lord!
     I am a Japanese Christian. We Japanese Christians are shocked to hear that the U.S. President will visit the Meiji Shrine and pray to the Shinto gods while he is staying in Japan.
     Our pastor preaches that we should have no other gods before the Lord our God. Each New Year's Day, ordinary Japanese go to the shrines and pray to the Shintoism gods. In Japan we Christians have a special New Year's Day service at every church in order to keep us from going to the shrines at that time. In Japan, it is not easy to be a Christian. The American President's planned prayer to the Shinto gods will become a heavy hindrance to our evangelistic outreach. Please understand our situation and pray for us.
     May God bless you!
     Takahiko Yamada

What would you say in response to this Japanese Christian?

Additional background information

arrow   Shinto info at Japan-Guide.com [ read article ]
arrow   Shinto info at ReligiousTolerance.Org [ read article ]
arrow   Temple or shrine: Which is it? [ read article ]

Another case study involving Shinto

NextShould a Japanese Christian attend a neighborhood celebration held at a Shinto shrine? [ read more ]

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Copyright © 2002 - Last Updated: April 13, 2014 | URL: http://home.snu.edu/~hculbert/shrine.htm

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Article by Howard Culbertson. For more original content like this, visit: http://home.snu.edu/~hculbert