Heading out now to Liz's birthday lunch in Kyoto...lovely day for it. Tonight I play a few songs at The Cellar in the Folk Jamboree thing.
Tuesday I went down to the Osaka Peace Center in Osakajo-koen. Very sobering exhibits about the air raids on Osaka in WWII and about the Japanese invasions and atrocities in Manchuria, Korea, and elsewhere in Asia. Also small exhibits on the atomic bombings and on the Auschwitz
camp. They also have more exhibits on nuclear disarmament, the ecological crisis, and the work of Unicef (though this was one was all in Nihongo so I didn't really get it).
Kaz talked a little bit about how Shinto was misused leading up to the war. The whole "Emperor as a living kami who must be obeyed" thing was a creation of the Meiji restoration (which, ironically, pretty much occurred at the demand of the United States), later used in the early 20th century to ramp up nationalist fervor. Shinto shrines were built in occupied territories in Asia and the conquered people made to pay homage at them.
Zen, too, was abused, the bushido ideal twisted to the point of Zen priests cheering on kamikaze attacks.
The dangers of mixing religion and politics. There's a bumper sticker slogan, "The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake", but it's much worse than that. Despite legends of "The Burning Times", not all that many people were murdered in witch-hunts, while mixing religion with politics in Japan gave us millions dead in the Pacific theater of Word War II.
And yet...as ethical teachers, religious leaders have always had to become involved in the politics of the day. Buddha tried to get local kings to be nicer (and was almost assassinated for his trouble). Jesus might have talked about rendering on to Caesar, but once he became a threat to the power structure, bam!, crucify him. Gandhi and Martin Luther King were great spiritual leaders who led political movements - using a tactic of civil disobedience put forth by that Transcendentalist proto-pagan Thoreau.