Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
I admit there was some personal interest when I volunteered to cover the praying/speed-dating event at a shrine in Tokyo recently. I wanted to see what a matchmaking event at a shrine involves and who would attend.
I did not expect, though, that I would actually get involved.
A group of 14 women and 14 men gathered at Imado shrine in Tokyo, which honours Japan’s indigenous Shinto gods of marriage. The participants varied in age and occupation, but had one common goal — finding a good marriage partner.
“We said it’s up to the gods now. If we go on as we have, we probably won’t ever meet anyone,” Rie Suzuki, a 40-year-old attending with her friend told me.
The event, which combines praying with speed-dating, is aimed at marriage and the economic stability it could provide, as singles actively seek a partner through “konkatsu,” or spouse-hunting.
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.
For a variety of religious and cultural reasons, women are sometimes excluded from certain traditional Japanese rituals such as entering the ring of the ancient sport of sumo.
At a hadaka matsuri, or naked festival, I covered this week, women were not getting into a muddy pond with loin-cloth wearing gents but were having fun on the sidelines.
For many, the cherry blossom is the quintessential Japanese flower, its fragile pink petals symbolising the transience of life and its advent in spring an excuse for “hanami” picnics beneath the boughs, where sake and song flow in equal measure.
But some, myself included, confess to a deeper affection for the more modest plum, whose five-petalled white and pink flowers bloom in February, heralding spring despite a winter chill.