In the first iteration of my auto-ethnographic research, I began to make sense of the spirituality in the film “Your Name” through my own spiritual journey. After this experience of comprehending this film through my own cultural past, I would have to systematically analyse this personal experience to understand it (Ellis, 2011).
Further reading lead me to find that the spirituality in the anime film was indeed Shintoism. This provided me with even more questions about the socio-political, religious and cultural features of anime in conveying spirituality.
I found, in my experience, that a few key moments or epiphanies stood out to me, being transformative to my own understanding of Japanese culture and spirituality. I was able to understand this through identifying and analysing the following phenomena below and evaluating their transformative effects through qualitative research and experience (Moore, 2017).
The Shinto Religion and Your Name
Whilst watching the film, I seemed to have an epiphany towards the significance of the Shinto faith in the films progression of plot and character development. The strong relation between the characters, the spiritual figures and entities was extremely interesting to observe and try and comprehend using my previous experiences in my own faith.
Shinto is an ethnic religion which the high focus on ritual practices which are passed down through generations. The main ideology of the spirituality is to make the connection between present day Japan and the ancient past using mediums such as sacred shrines. Shinto is the largest among three religious traditions in Japan, the others being Confucianism and Buddhism.
The film has some correlation to the political discussion concerning Japan’s lack of a cultural identity with concerns coming from the Japanese government. In 2013, the government was fearful after 84% of Japanese children admitting on an international survey that they felt worthless (McNeill, 2013). The government attempted to combat this by taking Japanese culture back to basics and by making morals and spirituality more prominent in education (McNeill, 2013). I believe, Your Name is used as a medium to convey this message to a target market including the younger generation of Japanese citizens, displaying the importance of spirituality and faith in individuals lives.
It is important to note the political implications which spirituality has in this research as it is a prominent part in the understanding of culture and the transgression and ‘breaking down’ of boarders. “The personal is the political” (Ettorre, 2017, p.7-14) and is necessary to understanding another culture.
Shinto today is the religion of public shrines devoted to the worship of a multitude of gods (kami). Kami are defined in English as “spirits”, “essences” or “gods”, referring to the energy generating phenomena. Kami refers to the divinity, or sacred essence, that manifests in multiple forms: trees, rivers, animals, places, and even people can be said to possess the nature of kami. “Kami and people are not separate; they exist within the same world and share its interrelated complexity.” (Pilgrim & Ellwood, 1985).
Your Name explores this notion of a divinity or sacred essence through the main characters (Taki and Mitsuha) being affected and (to some degree) possessed by a kami figure, catalysing supernatural or spiritual events to occur. These supernatural events include transcending time, body possession and the kami Musubi. This is vastly different to the monotheistic faiths which I am exposed to daily.
As a catholic in a highly Christian society and country, I am influenced by the dominance of the ‘Australian’ monotheistic culture. Polytheistic faith is frowned upon in Christianity and is not considered ‘canon’ as Christians believe in monotheism.
Ellis (2011) mentions that comprehending a unique culture and medium of communication is almost impossible to empathise with through theories and assumptions, as we have no means of feeling what people from different cultures from us are experiencing. In this way, I have no true understanding of the Shinto spirituality and/or Japanese culture, however I can observe and attempt to learn through cultural mediums such as Your Name anime.
The significance of Musubi and the Shrine Maidens
Furthermore, whilst watching this film, I was extremely intrigued by the traditional ways in which Mitshua’s family passed down their spirituality through further generations. This appealed to me in a way I did not except as my own family does not have strong ties to faith.
Upon further reading into the plot and analysis of this anime film, I found that Mitsuha’s family (the Miyamizu) passed down teachings from thousands of years to protect their home, Itomori. With the aid of their god Musubi, their mission to save themselves in dire situations would be a success.
It is this spirituality and connection which the Kagura (or Shrine Maidens) had to their god which saved Itomori in the face of adversity and sudden disaster. The notion of ‘Kawataredoki‘ is also explored as a meaning of ‘twilight’ and supernatural happenings- because in Japan, strange things happen at twilight. This happens in the film however only for a short time while the moon and sun coexisted with each other being symbols for Mitsuha and Taki’s entities.
Symbols and tropes explored have great significance to understanding the progression and experience of Your Name
Your Name resonates with spirituality and symbolism highly. The focus of the film is with the stars, sky, sun, moon and most importantly, comets.
Tasokare is a concept which means ‘missing memory’ and the sun in this film is the basis for finding this memory . Throughout the film, the sun is almost always shining in the shape of a Polaris – the northern most and ‘brightest’ star in the sky – which was a form of celestial navigation by sailors.
This is similar to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in Catholicism, all contribute to the Catholic faith and combine to create a connection between the spirituality and its adherents. There is a foreboding symbol of ‘light’ in the Shinto tradition which shines on Your Name which is extremely comparable to that of Christianity.
An example of this use of light in the film is when Mitsuha and Taki meet on the highest point of Itomori, transcending time and space at Kawataredoki. When the polaris light finally shines again, they disappear physically and from each others memory. One of the main forms of ‘presence‘ and practice of Shinto is to ‘live in the now‘ as the deity of light, Amaterasu, taught. ‘To live in the now’ is an effort to observe yourself in the passing moment (Sell, 2010). The disappearance and reappearance of the sun in this scene conveyed the Shinto faith and its relation to light.
Musubi and Mitsuha’s hairtie
Musubi was based on Shintoism’s Musubi Gods responsible for creating the world in the Japanese narrative.
As time passed, the kanji「産霊」became「結び」 when it began to be associated with love and matchmaking.「結び」is read as “to tie” meaning the God of love connects soulmates through a red thread of fate (Gone-kechou, 2017).
Your Name invokes the red thread of fate in the braided cord Mitsuha uses to tie her hair which Taki later clips around his wrist after Itomori is destroyed as a symbol of them being soulmates. On top of the mountain, the red thread briefly flashes as Taki and Mitsuha pass each other, and the two can feel the pull of fate connecting them, transcending time. In the opening, the red cord wraps the two together exemplifying their distance and romance before eventually coming together. Whenever one thinks of the other, the red cord is making a conspicuous appearance.
Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. 2011 ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1
Moore, C 2017, ‘Digital Asia: Autoethnography Redux’, Seminar, Prezi, DIGC330, delivered 31 August 2017.
McNeill, D 2013, ‘Back to the future: Shinto’s growing influence in politics,’ The Japan Times, 23 November, viewed 7 September 2017 <https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/11/23/national/politics-diplomacy/back-to-the-future-shintos-growing-influence-in-politics/#.WbOUwdMjHVo>.
Ettorre, E 2017, Autoethnography as Feminist Method: Sensitising the Feminist ‘I’, New York : Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.
Gone-kechou 2017, Symbolism in Kimi No Na Wa, Animo, weblog post, 22 April, viewed 8 September 2017, <http://aminoapps.com/page/japan/2834690/symbolism-in-kimi-no-na-wa>.
Sell, W 2010, Shinto, Symbols of presence in the Japanese Culture, weblog post, viewed 7 September 2017, <http://japanesesymbolsofpresence.com/shinto.html>.