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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.
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.

List items

  • Iconography of Amaterasu is rare outside of paintings, but she is enshrined at the famous Ise Grand Shrine southeast of Osaka. At the top of my list.

  • A famous statue of the Asura is on display at the national museum in Nara. A must-see. I've already seen ads for it at train stations.

  • Here's a big one. Bishamonten is highly venerated throughout Japan, but I want to see one of the near-colossal statues of him within a Buddhist temple. He's seen amongst the ubiquitous Seven Lucky Gods so technically I've seen some little tourist trap trash of him in some shopkeeper's window, but I'm not gonna count that.

  • As part of the quartet of the Heavenly Kings, Zouchou shouldn't be too far behind Bishamon.

  • Ditto.

  • Ditto.

  • Statuary of Zaou Gongen exists somewhere, I've seen pictures of it!

  • There's a statue somewhere of both the Hare of Inaba and Okuninushi.

  • See above. Okuninushi is probably enshrined somewhere, too.

  • Masakado's Shrine in Tokyo. Will probably be a while before I get a chance to see this one.

  • Because iconography of Arahabaki doesn't exist to my knowledge, I'll settle for seeing one of the Dogu statues his design is based on. The famous one is in a Tokyo museum.

  • Ame no Uzume has to be somewhere, right? If nothing else, I'll settle for seeing the traditional location of the Amano-Iwato cave where Amaterasu hid and Uzume mirthed it up. That's reaaaaaaally far away though.

  • Vairocana (Dainichi Nyorai) has statues throughout Japan.

  • The mitama are enshrined at Amaterasu's Ise Grand Shrine, I'm pretty sure.

  • Ditto.

  • Ditto.

  • Ditto.

  • DONE! Seen at a tiny shrine just outside of Nagaoka, Kyoto.

  • I'm pretty sure there's a shrine to Susano-o somewhere. It just makes sense, right?

  • Likewise for Amaterasu's other brother.

  • If nothing else, I'd like to see the traditional site of where Izanagi sealed off Yomi and Izanami. I believe it's far northwest of Kyoto.

  • Ditto.

  • Looking up at the sun while I was in Tokyo did not produce the desired results.

  • I almost forgot about old Billiken. The famous statue of him is in Tsutenkaku Tower in Osaka.

  • Statue in Shiga Prefecture and elsewhere.

  • Shrines to Hachiman are all over Japan (he's the second-most enshrined deity in Japan after Inari), so I shouldn't have to look far.