Friday, June 08, 2007

Anime: Revealing the Soul of Japan

Japanese religious beliefs "show up" in anime to a degree that is surprising. Shinto and Liminality in Anime, a post on John Morehead's blog, includes links to two scholarly articles that articulate the role of Shintoism in Hayao Miyazaki's animated films, Spirited Away & Princess Mononoke.
Note: Miyazaki is an award winning creator of both anime movies and manga (comic books). Due to the exceptional quality of his productions, Miyazaki has gained an international audience. Ghibli Studios, co-founded by Miyazaki, has been called "the Japanese version of Disney." Spirited Away & Princess Mononoke are two of the highest-grossing films in the history of Japanese cinema. They also accurately depict the traditional, animistic Japanese world view (which has not changed that much since ancient times).

The photo above is an advertisement for the feature length anime, Spirited Away. The large building is a bath house where the 100 million gods of Japan go to get cleaned up.

The photo below is a screen capture from Princess Mononoke. The little white figures are forest gods called Kodama. According to Wikipedia: "A kodama is a spirit from Japanese folklore, which is believed to live in certain trees (similar to the Hamadryad of Greek myth). Cutting down a tree which houses a kodama is thought to bring misfortune, and such trees are often marked with shimenawa rope.

Friday, June 01, 2007

"J-Pop in Context" -- preparing for Cornerstone workshop

It has come to pass that I am doing a workshop called "J-Pop in Context" at Cornerstone Festival. Cornerstone is an annual event that takes place in some out of the way place in Illinois (USA). I am really looking forward to being there as it will be an opportunity to meet people and experience great music, films and other art.

Here is a draft of what I will present:

For "J-Pop in Context" which will take place in the "Imaginarium" I plan to use two or three anime (Japanese animated films) as "conversation starters." In particular I have prepared screen shots from two of Miyazaki's fine works (Spirited Away & Princess Mononoke).

Here are the tentative titles for the three workshops at the Imaginarium:

1. Myths, Mysteries & Mayhem: how Japan came to be the way it is, an historical/cultural overview.

2. Sin, Shame and Salvation: if Japan is so "secular" why is anime so spiritual? A focus on the worldview of Japanese as revealed in anime.

3. Hikikomori: Modern Japanese Hermits
Why are large numbers of “lost” Japanese hiding out in their rooms?

I will also do one session at the "Flickerings" venue where I will show a short video taped interview of a young man named Taku and discuss it. I have known Taku for several years but I didn't realize until this week that he spent about three years as a hikikomori. Here is what Taku wrote to me:

Sure (I will do the interview) But I don't really know if I'm the one that you are looking for though.

I mean, I was kind of "active" one.
I don't know if I can call myself "hikikomori".
I used to be a high school drop-out, but that was loooong time ago.

I said I become kind of "hikikomori" for a short time, even sometimes now. But serious ones are not even
going outside for years + years.

It promises to be an interesting interview! As far as I know, this will be the first interview with a hikikomori person that shows the person's real identity. I may post it on, we will see.

Billy Graham: "A Spiritual Gift to All"

I have grown up "knowing" Billy Graham. He has been an important influence in my life so this article meant a lot to me. Perhaps more than any other person who is both a Christian and a world-famous celebrity Billy Graham has lived a life of integrity. He is a genuine, 24/7 worshiper of Jesus who offered his life to God.

This article pays tribute to Billy at the time of the dedication of the new Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C. LINK to TIME Article: Billy Graham: "A Spiritual Gift to All"