Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
In the minds of many people, religious rivalry could occasionally be expected to spill over into violence in places as diverse as the occupied West Bank or Glasgow’s ‘Old Firm’ football derby.
Japan’s Kansai region, home to the world’s most renowned Zen gardens and some of the country’s finest cuisine, on the other hand, is not generally seen as a tinderbox of religious tension.
But over the last year a series of mysterious attacks on Protestant churches and other facilities have roiled the area, leaving many churchgoers shaken and perplexed.
There have been over 50 such incidents in the last 12 months, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported, all involving fire extinguishers being thrown through the windows of Protestant premises when nobody was inside. Although there haven’t been any injuries, NHK news last week showed parishioners saying the attacks were shocking and unsettling.
My young son and I were heading into Catholic church on Sunday in Tokyo when we noticed something odd: There was no holy water at the entrance.
It felt strange. What could be more Catholic than crossing yourself with a dab of holy water as you race into Mass to find a pew?
As his first stop during a trip to attend July 8-10 summit of G8 leaders in Italy, Aso went to the Vatican, gave the pope a Sony digital video camera and discussed the global economic crisis with him.
Pope Benedict has been criticised for his handling of relationships with the world's other religions. On Monday Tuesday, he is due to receive at the Vatican Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso, who has little difficulty with mixing and matching various faiths.
Though an avowed member of Japan's tiny Roman Catholic minority, Aso regularly pays respects and offers gifts at Shinto shrines. Japan's indigenous religion of Shinto is polytheistic -- its doctrine says the world is crowded with divinities, mostly in natural phenomena such as the sun, moon, wind and mountains. Combining this with Christianity's monotheism may sound like a contradiction, but it is something many Japanese Catholics take in their stride.