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2019.08.25 Sunday

A celebration for the souls.


    Konichiwa !


    My name is Constance Hinfray, I'm a new resident of ongoing art center.

    I'm half french, half german, and I am very interested about japanese culture.

    It's great to be able to research about the myths and the legends I've been fascinated about, but also observe how

    the the many spiritualities emerges in the daily life here.


    Maybe it's because as a kid we used to play too much gameboy and I finally end up believing I was a pokémon myself, 

    but I think that as french kids, growing up in the nineties, we were sensibilized somehow to animism. 

    The japanese animé wave impacted France and I can't count the hours playing and watch at The legend of Zelda or Pokémon.


    For my first post, I wan't to talk about a special phenomenon that I could observe.

    Our relations with our ancesters and death. Cultivating faith and maintaining a spiritual

    relation with the people we knew and loved has to be something very intimate I guess.

    In japan I discovered a whole invitation to do so.





    And not only with our ancesters, but with people who died in general.

    Praying for everyone may be something normal in a country that encounter so many

    disasters and lost.


    How the dominant religion in your original country brings the subject of death in the 

    dogma and aesthetic must surely influence the way we see the world, the life and death.

    Or you have an intern faith as strong as a roc and you are capable to select the holy education

    you get or you might slowly adapt yourself to the vision of whatever priest is in front of you.

    (The first time I understood japanese spiritual sensibility resonates with me was the first time

    I went to onsen. I was asked to get totally naked in front of other women, it is something I never

    have been told to do in France, where the tendency is rather to hide your nudity or add artifices to it.

    The pleasure to go in the bath, naked, outside under the sknow was unforgettable. )


    Lets go back to our subject.


    Do the deads live in harmony with the living in Japan.


    Early this week, I was invited by Yukie to attend a once-in-a-year festival called "Toro Nagashi - floating lanterns

    festival" , in the west of Tokyo, in the neighborhood of the Jindai-ji temple. This festival is part of a japanese-budhist

    traditional fest for the dead called "O-Bon" (a festive equivalence of our catholic "Toussaint").

    After a dinner made of Soba noodles, we walked in the night to a river in a very green and calm area.

    On the water were floating more than one hundred little lanterns, all with cute drawings and writings on it.

    The vision of this lights, and the orchestra next to it, in the dark yet intimate night was enchanting.


    We were a lot of people to look at the lanterns going away slowly on the water.

    The atmosphere was calm, quiet, relaxing. Not too much joy, but no sorrows and sadness.

    Just as soothing as a quiet evening, altogether.

    The event was dedicated to the people who lost life during 2011 earthquacke ( the one that 

    cause the explosion of Fukushima nuclear center.)


    The budhists believe that the spirits come back on earth during Obon and enter in connexion with their 

    family and beloved (I just met someone who told me that actually the family pick up the ghost at the cemetary for the week of Obon.)

    . The family welcome this special event and prepare an "altar", with fruits and invariably 

    an eggplant that symbolize a cow and a cucumber that symbolize a horse, to help the defunct to ride between the house and the cemetary.


    This is a very special moment, where the souls can be appeased, where the spirits that lost their ways after

    death can finally find home and peace.

    This is meaningful to me as I used to lay down under the stars and talk to my grandfather ( they said he was

    going to North pole when he died.)

    I'm still asking him some support from time to time but as an adult I'm sometimes asking myself if he can really 

    listen to me, as in the catholic education, the souls are going to heaven after they die and there is no real imagination about

    how to enter in connexion with the dead people.


    Making a special time to welcome them back and enjoying time with them feels actually natural and gentle.

    That this moment is neither sad or dark but rather enlightening and calming appears also as normal.

    If death is a continuity of life, and considered as something as natural as being born and breathe, how to

    deal with the influence of the religious dogma on what we feel and how we deal personally with our intimacy?

    In the catholic church, death is among other symbols, represented by Jesus on the cross, bleeding and sacrificing 

    himself. The cross is a reminder of the sacrifice he did for us and its held in the entrance of every catholic house and schools.

    In my opinion this representation cultivates rather fear toward dying and culpability (even if we did nothing wrong.)

    More precisely, it can stop the natural intimate connexions we developp with invisible worlds and the ones who left who

    needs our blessings and not be transformed into something sacred and distant.


    Now, in a complete contradiction to the soothing ritual the budhists offers to the souls, last august two prisonners were

    hanged in Japan. They commited murders on women (two and three). In Japan the death sentence is still allowed and more

    than 100 prisonners are waiting for the final sentence. Often they and their family don't know when its going to happen.

    In fact, the state gives itself the power to decide in full conscience and with using a painful method, the right of death toward

    an human.



    Two opposite mentalities are existing on the same territory and this makes me do a complete loop

    to conclude. In  " Princess Mononoké ", Miyazaki's masterpiece, nature and culture appear to be in complete contradiction.

    to my occidental eyes. I treated the movie as I would do with a Walt Disney, the good in opposition to the bad.

    No bad in the good, and no good in the bad. Of course I was on Princess Mononoké side, as I defend nature and wildlife.

    After talking with Takayuki, it appears that there are no good or bad camp. The bad is living with the good. Point.


    And this is the first introduction to the complex and multiple japanese culture and mythology.


    See you on the next lecture.