Wonderment and Awe: the Way of the Kami
When watching the fantastic anime (animation) of Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki, it soon becomes apparent that he has infused his richly detailed worlds with an animistic world-view that references ancient Japanese beliefs, practices and myths. His films describe an intriguing mixture of earthy spirituality particularly drawn from the Shinto tradition. Shinto is less a religion than a way of life – a pantheistic and animistic faith that believes that every object possesses a spirit, and encourages nature worship, folk beliefs, ancient deities and rituals. It has no dogma or moral doctrine, except for four general tenets: worshipping and honouring the kami; love of nature; tradition and the…show more content… The framework of ‘the Ancient Way’, as developed by 18th century scholar Moto-ori Norinaga, offers the clearest codification of the earliest form of Shinto and this is where Miyazaki’s sympathies appear to lie. Through extensive studies of the Kojiki during the 1750s – a book that could be described as the ‘bible’ of Shinto – Norinaga describes the humble and non-intellectual ideas in this pre-modern faith. As opposed to the other spiritual ‘Ways’ such as Buddhism (‘the way of the Buddha’) and Confucianism (‘the way of Confucius’), Norinaga translated Shinto’s way (‘the way of the kami’) as just an ordinary path (Matsumoto 1970:76). This distinction of ordinariness and its non-dogmatic quality is particularly important as there are serious political and historical implications in the study of Shinto. However, in reading the symbolism and narrative of the Miyazaki’s films, it seems that he is attempting to move away from the contemporary sense of Shinto and its associated political discourse, and is instead seeking to redefine and recapture the ancient form of Shinto via a kind of visual cinematic practice.
Honouring the Kami
In ancient Japan, naturally occurring phenomena that were particularly awe-inspiring were given the title of kami, or gods, and were sometimes thought to possess the power of speech. Around the time these beliefs arose, during the early Jomon period (10,000 BC – 300 BC), it was believed that respect