The Animals II

Well, to continue my theme on animals and also trying to be at least a little bit less negative and depressing. Trying. not promising anything.

After we visited the cat island, we also stopped at a fresh food market and then at Munakata shrine. It's an old, very big and important shrine and the guide had a lot of information about the shrine and Shintoism in general. He told us that Shintoism deals with the everyday life and whatever happens to us here on earth and then Buddhism deals with the afterlife. So Shintoism is more focused on how things go while we're still living. The Munakata shrine is a part of a group of three shrines, dedicated to three sisters sent on Earth to help people. It was pretty interesting. There was even a sacred space around the shrine where the sisters supposedly arrived made a touchdown on Earth.

The Japanese really have a very different way of dealing with religion than us westerners do. Or maybe I should that Shintoism has a very different view than Christianity does. Well, duh. But it's been an education here in Japan, seeing how relaxed, in a way, people are with their religion. Christianity isn't at all a part of our everyday lives, not even for those people in Finland who are very religious. I'm sure they pray everyday or have a daily personal relationship with their chosen deity but they don't worship like Shintoists do. While you could see Christianity being very holy and spiritual, many people will still say it's corrupted. However, money and materialistic issues aren't seen as important in Christianity. In fact, it's kind of shameful to talk about and want to have money. 

In Shintoism, however, it's totally normal to pray for money and prosperity. It's okay to wish for a lot of clients, good luck in business etc. As a westerner, we love to look at the East as something super spiritual and non-materialistic but I think in the end, they just actually don't have such a complicated take on materialism as we do. We all need different kinds of material and earthly goods to survive, it's natural. Maybe if you have a more practical relationship with stuff, maybe then it's not such a taboo? Maybe then you accept it as a part of the mortal experience.

The Japanese also have a very different way of exhibiting their spiritual places. They take us into their shrines, show us their habits, expect to us follow, sell us their holy things as souvenirs. We can take part in their holy services even if we might have different beliefs. In western countries, if you go into a place of worship as a part of a guided tour, you'd never be told about the religion, much less expected to take part in a religious ritual. In European churches, our guides talk about art, architecture or history. I think Christians might even consider it offensive if somebody took part in their services just for fun, as a part of tour. Plus I've never seen churches sell crucifixes as souvenirs.

Then again, it might also be considered offensive if a tourist from another country and religion was told to take part of a Christian religious practice. Maybe it has something to do with Christianity's black history with crusaders and missionaries but sometimes I do kind of get the feeling that Christianity gets a bad rep just because. Most religions in the world are problematic, but they have all also been really crucial for the development of human societies and we all still reap those benefits. So let's just give all the people and religions a chance, you know? Do no harm, right! Getting to know local religions in Japan, I never felt weird or pressured into something. It's all an experience.

Okay, that wasn't about animals. But we humans are animals too! Only with some religion and an affinity for it thrown in. During this day I also saw a few other animals. For example, this snake trying to get inside a rock, like this:

And then I also saw some koi. They were quite brightly colored and beautiful, but in the photo it just kind of looks like water with a lot of very creepy holes in it.

And another spider, just because.

Oh and I also saw eagles! Real live, canyon-soaring-American-caww-caww eagles! That's at least how I always think of them. Their call gives me this clear image of an American canoyn, not a misty island in Japan. They should have marketed Ainoshima as the Cat and Eagle Island. The eagles were really impressive.

After the Ainoshima tour ended, me and Charlotte decided to go check out an owl cafe the cat island guide recommended to us. He actually even took us there, almost by hand, introduced us to the staff and helped us book a time. It was pretty incredible. Some, very few, Japanese don't like foreigners and can be a bit rude (the Japanese kind of rude, where you sort of pretend you don't know about somebody's existence) but most are incredibly kind and accommodating.

The owl cafe hosted maybe 20 owl, a few were there to hang out with us and the rest were napping or resting. It was an interesting experience too, though not with its ambiguity. I know the staff was very committed to taking care of the birds: only a certain amount of clients could come in every hour, there were strict rules as to which birds you were allowed to touch and how to touch them* but still I couldn't help thinking that these animals didn't belong inside a house. If they get to fly free one day a week, it's just not enough.

It was nice seeing the birds, they were much softer to the touch than I thought. One tried to bite me but not very hard. The staff was immediately worried but I have been bitten and scratched so much worse by Eddie, I don't care (I've always deserved the teeth marks, I tease him a bit sometimes). But I still wasn't sure if it was really okay, the whole deal. I hate being negative because the staff was really great and everything was as good as it probably can be in a situation like that buuuuut maybe the owls should still be free somewhere. 

After that we went to have dinner in a lovely Japanese restaurant. I think both me and Charlotte were a bit melancholy because I was leaving. So while the day was nice and full of experiences, it was also a bit of a downer, to be honest. I for one was kind of cranky all day, I had a stomach ache and it was raining, and it was one of my last days, so sometimes it felt like everything sucked. I really wanted to torch all the spiders! Just pour all my anger on them! I didn't though. Just have to try to take it easy, feelings are what they are and it's better to let them come as they come. Even in a month, you can develop a real friendships with people and it feels bad to have to part. But that's part of the residency experience, I think. I just really hope I can at least somehow keep in touch with the people I connected with here.

Okay, I said I'd try to be less negative and gloomy. I really tried. Maybe just didn't succeed.

*They gave us a security lesson with a stuffed owl, it was really cute, plus it always funny how they explain something in Japanese for maybe 5 minutes and then it's maybe like one sentence when they translate it to English. I don't even think it's only that they feel uncomfortable talking in a language they don't know, I think it's mostly because the Japanese language is just constructed so differently and the Japanese have such a different way of expressing things than us Westerners do


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