The Swastika for many people in the world conjures up horrible images of death camps, fascism and total war. After all, it was the emblem of the Nazis, who tried to take over the world and killed millions upon millions in the process. So why is this a post about swastikas? This is a post about swastikas because-you may find this a bit surprising-you will seem them quite often in Japan. Is Japan a bastion of Nazism? Of course Japan isn’t a bastion of Nazism, however, the swastika is quite prominent in certain places in Japan. What is the explanation then? A simple one I’m afraid, but one that tells us a little something about Japanese culture and religion, as well as a new side to a symbol much of the world has come to hate.
The swastika is a very ancient symbol that can mean a wide variety of things, depending on the one using it. It is used in many religious traditions, such as Hinduism, and Jainism to name two. Another religion it is used in is in Buddhism, where is represents “Man”
or 10,000, symbolizing everything or eternity. This particular swastika in my picture is on what I believe is a small Shinto shrine in Minato ward Tokyo. In fact, this is another good example of why and how Shintoism is often mixed with Buddhism in Japan. So the swastika is all over Japan, but not to celebrate Nazism, but instead a symbol that goes back thousands of years rooted in Eastern religion and tradition.