I’m sure you’ve all had the experience of being called home on short notice to participate in a Shinto ceremony in your living room. This happened to me once — we were starting some “reform” work (what the Japanese like to call remodelling) in our house, redoing our bathrooms and replacing the older, allergy-causing tatami mats with Okinawa-style square mats, and so we called our neighborhood Shinto priest out to bless the house before starting the construction. There are two main religious traditions in Japan: Shinto, which sees kami or spirits in natural objects and which is generally called on for life-affirming events such as baby namings, weddings or starting construction on a new house; and Buddhism, which Japanese generally turn to when dealing with death, funerals or remembering lost loved ones. For our groundbreaking ceremony, the priest spread out an offering consisting of fish, rice, clean water, oranges, a daikon radish and sake, and proceeded to bless the house and its inhabitants. The Shinto priest who performed the home-blessing ceremony was the same one who did the groundbreaking ceremony when we started construction of the J-List office more than a decade ago, and he was fascinated with how far our little company had come, bringing interesting Japanese products to people all around the world.
Building something in Japan? You’d better call a Shinto priest.