If I Don't See These Gods While I'm in Japan, I Should Have Just Stayed Home

Not literally of course, but in terms of statuary and enshrinement.

Me in 6 months.

I often complain about why more Shin Megami Tensei games aren't set outside of Japan (fun fact: Strange Journey wasn't called SMT IV only because it wasn't set in Tokyo), but after being here for a little bit, I'm beginning to see the other side of it. While the Japanese might not be the most spiritual people on Earth, there's almost a small roadside shrine for every vending machine you see along the way. In the middle of large commercial districts and strip malls, there will be a shrine or other building hundreds of years old. It's exactly this juxtaposition between the cutting edge and traditionally spiritual that has always defined the Shin Megami Tensei series.

With its well-preserved local Shinto religion and imported and reinterpreted Dharmic traditions (i.e., Buddhism), not to mention its own shaky history with Christianity, Japan has one of the most visible and diverse religious ecosystems in the Eastern world. That's not to say SMT would make less sense in New York City or the true birthplaces of modern religions in Persia or India, but those locations would likely miss the subtle running commentary about modern life and how it can't see the forest for the trees. Still, it doesn't explain why gods like Odin and Baal are flocking to Japan like Beelzebub to Kanbari. Though I suppose when you're a god, you already have lifetime front-row seats to the End of the World show.

But onto business...

There's a mini statue of Jizo near my apartment and I've already been to Fushimi Inari Shrine, but neither of those guys have been in SMT. Sad how that makes the difference. However, technically my first encounter was a mini-shrine with Uka no Mitama's name on it.

Oh, and Japanese teenagers saving the world? Based on the kids I teach, that idea requires a whole different level of faith.

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7 Comments
Posted by Soren

yes

this list right here

yesss

Oh, and make sure to check out the sick Okuninushi statue at the Izumo Shrine when you get the chance!

Posted by Eirikr

@Soren: Phew, man, that's gonna be out there. If being here in Osaka is like being in Dallas, then that shrine is more or less in California. Doesn't mean I won't try though.

And glad you liked it! If there's any majors I forgot to list, just holler.

Posted by Soren

@Eirikr: I'd keep an eye out for Acala. Dude's been subject to some... expressive statuary, to say the least.

Maybe check out the rest of the Vidyaraja gang while you're at it? I'd assume they're not too far off from one another, at least.

Posted by Hailinel

Now this is an awesome list. Sounds like a fun trip to take!

Posted by Eirikr

@Soren: Fudo Myoo looks like he just caught a whiff of one of the other Vidyarajas' passed gas. Do you know where that one is? My first encounter with the guy here was in a gashapon machine as part of a sculpture set.

@Hailinel: It's more than just a trip, man -- it's work, first and foremost. But with any luck, by next year maybe I will have traded in the teacher's cap for a student's once again to study Japanese religion and myth at a university here somewhere. There's an unreal amount of it that's still not in English, and that's just from stuff I've tried to look up about certain gods that are in SMT.

Posted by Soren

@Eirikr: That one's in Chikubushima, Shiga. It's at least not as far off as Shimane, though that's not saying much.

Posted by Eirikr

@Soren: Okay yeah, that's actually not too far away. I don't know why I didn't add him from the start. I really can't think of anyone else major, though there's probably an obvious one I'm missing.