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Saints and Kami

Throughout Philippine history, peoples’ objects of devotion have changed, from the ancient Anitos that reflect the pre-colonial indigenous culture of Filipinos to the popular veneration of Jesus and countless Saints of Christendom introduced by the Spanish. Likewise, the

Japanese culture also possesses a counterpart to these customs in the form of the indegenous Kami of the Shinto religion and the different deities brought upon by the influence of Buddhism from China and India.


A statue of St. Peter at Manila Cathedral

Interestingly enough, it is easy to spot the similarities of the religious practices of the two cultures. For example, inside many Filipino homes, one can find an altar or ofrenda usually adorned with images of the Holy Family, local patron saints, and deceased relatives or ancestors. Families would traditionally light candles and give offerings to the saints and departed loved ones especially on All Saints and All Souls days in November.


In Japanese homes, one can find small shrines, called Kamidana and or altars, called Butsudan, dedicated to, as one would’ve guessed, the different deities of both Shinto and Buddhist traditions, respectively. It is also not uncommon for these to house artifacts or mementos of deceased family. Similar to Filipinos, the Japanese also pray to these holy objects by lighting incense and or giving offerings.


O-Jizou statuettes at Yamadera, Yamagata Prefecture

In Bayombong, one can easily notice the presence of the town’s patron saint: St. Dominic de Guzman either by the imposing cathedral named after him or through the annual town patronal fiesta. The presence of a patron saint for towns or cities is a very common phenomenon in the Philippines as well as several hispanic countries in South America and Europe. In Japan, there are also what can be described as patron deities scattered throughout the country. One of the most popular deities in Japanese Buddhism is called: O-Jizou-sama, the patron deity of travellers and someone who guides the souls of deceased children.


It is interesting to see similarities in what may seem as vastly different cultures to the naked eye. By learning more about these aspects of culture, communities can understand and appreciate each other in more meaningful ways.


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