My dear reader, are you excited? Because I am. *^*
I am pleased to present you my blog tour post of Heidi Cullinan’s Antisocial (out August 8).
Next to a review which I dedicate a different post to (otherwise this post would be extraordinary long) I have a super informative blog post prepared. 🙂
As soon as the review is online you find the link here. *click*
My post’s topic is about Japan’s shrines and I hope you enjoy the information as much as I do. :3
Heidi really did a great research and you feel the love for the book’s topic and for the japanese culture. As a fan of the japanese culture myself this was such a great read – not only the book but this Spotlight on Japan’s Shrines, as I call this post.
See also a detailed list of the other blog participants further this post or check this list out, it will updated as soon as new content is up.
Also: don’t forget to check the giveaway at the end. You want to win a cool prize, don’t you? 😉 And I dare say it is pretty cool. :3
But enough rambling, happy reading. :3
As I mentioned, Heidi did a great research on shrines and temples in Japan. Here are her results:
In Antisocial, several of the characters hunt down Shinto-style shrines on their college campus, and the main characters end up creating their own version of a home shrine. Today I’ll talk a bit more about what real Shinto shrines are like and why I included them in the story.
Difference between shrines and temples
Westerners often conflate Shintoism and Buddhism, but the shrines I’m speaking of are strictly Shinto. There’s a complicated relationship and influence between Shintoism and Buddhism too complex for a quick blog post and which, frankly, I’m underqualified to discuss, but for the purposes of our discussion, simply know the two are different and yet neighborly in Japan. Shintoism isn’t a religion in the way that Westerners understand religion. It doesn’t have a rote belief system handed down in the way Christianity or Islam does, and its gods behave (and even become gods) differently.
Shrines are the dwelling place for the kami (god), and people go to shrines to pay homage to them and petition them for help in their daily life. These visits are usually quick and not at all like western attendance of church, and visiting a Shinto shrine is different than visiting a Buddhist temple. The architecture and procedure is different at a Buddhist temple, the worship at a Shinto shrine being slightly more involved and the architecture always involving a torii, the signature arched gate into the shrine. It doesn’t have to be red, but it often is.
History of Shinto shrines
Visiting a Shinto shrine is a common tradition meant to invite the god of that shrine to look favorably upon the petitioner. A common shrine visit, for example, is for students to visit Tenjin, the god of learning, when they’re preparing for exams. Visiting shrines in Japan is an old, rich tradition dating back thousands of years, and as such it has a colorful history, including periods of abuse and corruption. For a time the shrines had great power and influence, much like the medieval Christian church. Nowadays this is not the case. The history of shrines in Japan is an interesting one and worth investigating, as is the history of Japan in general. A great place to start is A New History of Shinto by John Breen and Mark Teeuwen.
Components of a shrine
Shinto shrines can come in all shapes and sizes, from the grand to the humble, and while they do need particular elements, they don’t need a fancy building. They do require the dwelling place for the kami, and there must be a purified yard or court, complete with ropes or barriers to keep the yard clear of impurities. You’ll often see braided rope and what seem to be little paper chains dangling from the cord at shrines. The latter are hakuhei, and the rope can be viewed as a barrier, a spiritual antennae, or both. There are no images of the gods at the shrine, but there is a sacred mirror which is said to reflect the spirit of the god. There are other elements included at the shrines as well, sacred objects which may or may not be included.
Many Japanese homes have kamidana, household shrines which have similar elements of the large shrines. They’re not very large, but they must be kept at certain heights and be arranged in certain ways, and above all they must be kept clean. Cleanliness is vital in Shinto, because jinja (the spirit of the shrine) cannot abide kegare (uncleanliness). The entire point of Shinto is to keep oneself clean too, to keep one’s spirit clean of negativity. This is what the rope barrier keeps out, why the shrine is positioned in a particular way. Everything about the shrine and the attention given to it is about keeping positive energy centered around it.
How to visit a shrine
Today in Japan, shrine visits are common and an important part of everyday culture. Shrines are found everywhere, from the grand shrines in Kyoto to the tiny shrines in rural areas to the one at the top of Tokyo Tower. People who visit the shrines are asked to follow certain rituals: entering through the torii, the gate to the shrine, staying to one side or the other as the center is reserved for the god; washing at the temizuya, cleansing hands, and cleaning their mouth. Saisen coins are offered at the altar, and the bell is rung to greet the deity. Two hand claps show respect and happiness from the petitioner as they give their prayer.
Shines also have ema cards, where petitioners write their wishes and hang them near the shrine in hopes they will be granted. These are purchased from the shrine and help raise money to keep the shrine in operation. Shrines also often have fortunes people may draw, particularly during festivals. Festivals, as you can imagine, are a popular time for shrines.
Shinto and shrines in Antisocial
The shrines in Antisocial are Shinto, somewhat, but they’re Americanized, lost to time and made over by fraternities and people with tangential connections to Japan. When Skylar and Xander make their home shrine, it’s in the spirit of a kamidana, but it isn’t Shinto, not really.
The beauty of Shinto, however, is that it is a flexible religion—if you can even call it a religion at all. Of all the belief systems, it is one of the most willing to bend to the people and culture using and believing in it. It’s more tied to Japanese culture than anything else, more interested in serving the idea of helping people become better versions of themselves and striving towards a good life than presenting a set system. In fact, Shintoism has no set system. It morphs with the culture and the times, always adjusting its straight lines as the culture moves itself. It fits well with the societal-harmony focused Japanese culture, because it doesn’t want to fight that goal, it only wants to help it do better.
One of my favorite novels is American Gods by Neil Gaiman. In the novel he says, among other things, that in America gods “don’t stick,” that they don’t do well here. I’ve always thought that was the most astute statement I’ve ever heard anyone say. We do seem to struggle to find belief systems here. It’s so hard sometimes to define what “America” is, what we come from and what we believe in. I could absolutely see a group of well-meaning but clueless Americans trying to implant a Japanese college in New England in the late nineteenth century, could see those gods ebbing and flowing in the awkward way things do in America, never quite taking off and yet not leaving. Never getting a strong foothold but not dying out.
For myself, I have always loved borrowing gods. In our house we have statues of Bast and Ganesha and so many others—now we have the gods of fortune and even a Funko figure of Fudō Myōō. I commissioned my daughter to draw me Tenjin, the Shinto god of learning. I enjoyed learning even more about Shintoism for this novel, and I hope someday to visit these shrines for myself.
I hope you get a chance to visit too!
I actually swooned a bit when I read about this cultural exploration. Thank you, Heidi for this. ❤ And for myself I can say: I really hope to visit Japan and their shrines and temples.
Here is the list of the other Antisocial Blog Tour participants. From the 2nd till August 19 there are pretty cool posts prepared and opinions shared. 🙂
August 2nd – Joyfully Jay
August 3rd – Mikku-Chan
August 5 – Gay Book Reviews
August 6 – Diverse Reader
August 7 – Birdie Bookworm
August 8 – BFD Book Blog || Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
August 9 – DirtyBooksObsession || My Fiction Nook
August 10 – Nell Iris || Pretty Sassy Cool || Stories That Make You Smile
August 11 – Keysmash || Bike Book Reviews
August 12 – Bayou Book Junkie || The Novel Approach
August 13 – Boy Meets Boy Reviews
August 14 – Molly Lolly
August 15 – Marker’s Musings
August 16 – MM Book Escape || Love Bytes
August 17 – The Cozy Reading Corner || Wicked Reads
August 19 – Making It Happen
You also want to be inspired by music while reading? See Heidi’s playlist on spotify
Author: Heidi Cullinan
Genre: M/M Romance, a-, gray-, demisexual, new adult,
less/no graphic sexual encounter
Release Date: August 8, 2017
Lenght: 341 pages
Cover Art: Natsuko
Cover Design: Kanaxa
A single stroke can change your world.
Xander Fairchild can’t stand people in general and frat boys in particular, so when he’s forced to spend his summer working on his senior project with Skylar Stone, a silver-tongued Delta Sig with a trust fund who wants to make Xander over into a shiny new image, Xander is determined to resist. He came to idyllic, Japanese culture-soaked Benten College to hide and make manga, not to be transformed into a corporate clone in the eleventh hour.
Skylar’s life has been laid out for him since before he was born, but all it takes is one look at Xander’s artwork, and the veneer around him begins to crack. Xander himself does plenty of damage too. There’s something about the antisocial artist’s refusal to yield that forces Skylar to acknowledge how much his own orchestrated future is killing him slowly…as is the truth about his gray-spectrum sexuality, which he hasn’t dared to speak aloud, even to himself.
Through a summer of art and friendship, Xander and Skylar learn more about each other, themselves, and their feelings for one another. But as their senior year begins, they must decide if they will part ways and return to the dull futures they had planned, or if they will take a risk and leap into a brightly colored future—together.
Author Bio – Heidi Cullinan
Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, playing with her cats, and watching television with her family. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.
Praise for Heidi
Heartwarming and achingly beautiful —USA Today
Emotionally heartwrenching…with self-deprecating humor. — Romantic Times
Cullinan balances … love-conquers-all romance in a context full of real contemporary challenges. — Publisher’s Weekly
I fell in love with the sheer beauty of the writing. — Dear Author
Cullinan reached inside and pulled out ALL the feelings: fear, guilt, sadness, anticipation, happiness, love, lust, bitterness, loneliness, togetherness, and coming of age. — The Book Pushers
There is a giveaway for a set of an Antisocial prize bag, containing a Paperback copy of Antisocial, a 11×17 cover art poster and a 7 gods phone strap.
Your chance to win *click*
Please note: the giveaway is not sponsored, administered or endorsed by Mikku-chan / A World full of Words.