...Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara startled many when he said, "The Japanese people must take advantage of this tsunami to wash away their selfish greed. I really do think this is divine punishment."In both cases the victims are blamed for the atrocity. In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, one is left wondering why the most decadent part of New Orleans, namely the French Quarter, remained relatively unscathed.
In Japan, the Governor quickly apologized for his comments. The Japanese were shocked by this comment as it conflicts with their modern day beliefs rooted in science. While the country is widely secular, natural disasters often trigger a return them back to their ancient practices and beliefs in the supernatural. This is because the risk of improper burial can have lasting affects on the family. In times of calamity, ancient practices of Shintoism are likely to be followed in order to restore harmony in the universe. While these practices are more about practice than belief, they are a reflection of Japanese cultural that continues to endure in times of great need.
A Time For ShintoRead more about it at NPR.
After the funerals, when people begin building new homes and their lives, Shinto will move center stage. If Buddhism deals with death in Japan, Shinto deals with life. At the center are kami — life forces that are a little like deities, and are ever-present.
"The deities have two faces," Nelson says. One face is benevolent, as the deities help people in their day-to-day lives. "But those same deities have this wrathful side," he says, "which can manifest itself at unpredictable moments." And people turn to Shinto priests and rituals, he says, to restore the balance between the human and the divine.