Your Name – An Autoethnographic Study of Shintoism

Contextual Essay:

The area of study which I chose to explore was centred around spirituality in anime with a focus on the successful film Your Name. Throughout this project I have been able to immerse myself in Shintoism’s ideaologies and faith in an attempt to cultivate my understanding and knowledge in relation to Japanese culture by employing my own cultural framework and assumptions (Ellis, 2011).

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 and evaluating their transformative effects through qualitative research and experiences relating back to my own cultural framework (Moore, 2017).

In this way, as a storyteller, I used the medium of YouTube and video to convey my message to an audience suited to my chosen area of study (Allen-Collinson & Hockey 2008). Taking both a qualitative and quantitative approach, I interviewed my own personal biases and framework within my analysis and research to develop a greater understanding and respect for Japanese culture, specifically Shintoism (Ellis, 2011). I also chose to use YouTube as my medium due to narratives also being a valuable source of data for research, and immersing one’s self in a culture is the most powerful form of self-reflexivity and reflection (Marshall & Rossman, 1999). So, I wanted to give a voice to my research.

This last iteration of my auto-ethnographic research exemplified how anime transcends the notion of physical borders and can create an engaging experience for a plethora of cultures. It also explores the notion of anime as an effective form of communication in regards to Japanese spirituality as Your Name refers to and uses Shintoism as a major plot point.

Wanting to focus on this aspect of spirituality in the film, I aimed to address three main points. The notion of my own relationship with spirituality and how it framed my perception of the film, how Your Name conveyed notions of spirituality throughout the film and the effectiveness of Your Name’s allusion to spirituality.

Further research provided me with the insight that 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). In this way, we can see anime as a medium, is attempting to amplify the message and importance of Shintoism by targeting a younger generation.

I find this parallel of the cultural global flow of politics and relation to spirituality quite interesting (Rockerfeller 2011). 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 borders. “The personal is the political” (Ettorre, 2017, p.7-14) and is necessary to understanding another culture. Australian culture since 1788 has been ruled by figures who support Christian views and challenges, with those who oppose having very little power.

Japanese culture has therefore not only influenced the way I contemplate about other cultures, but has forced me to think about the structure of my own and the global flows, diasporic mediums and broader transnational flows of digital media’s presence in spirituality. The main theory which I believe I am exploring through this experience was Ellis et al. mentioning 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 the Your Name anime.

With cataclysmic and thought-provoking contributions like this to our global society (McLuhan & Powers 1992), it will become easier to understand cultural differences such as Shintoism using global mediums such as anime. In turn, we will have to use our past experiences and assumptions, and employ our cultural framework to cultivate understanding (Albrow 1990: p. 45).

I really did enjoy this experience and research into Your Name and its relationship with spirituality. Using a narrative format for the expression of my research was supported by the scholarly references, ideologies and thoughts which I have used throughout my research, filling the missing spaces of my knowledge (Ellis, 2011). This was my personal insight, I detailed notions, ideas and values which I once did not understand, giving my own personal and cultural assumptions as a point of interaction between my own personal framework and Japanese culture (Denshire, 2013, p. 2).

Jumping in with no prior knowledge of Shintoism and it’s relation to Your Name and Japanese culture provided me with the basis to explore my own cultural framework. Bloggers and theorists on the internet such as Gone-kechou (2017) and their own ideas have assisted my own understanding in the way Your Name correlates to Japanese culture and Shintoism. It is the global sharing of ideas and ideologies of cultures that allows us to truly understand different values of people from around the world.


References:

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.

Allen-Collinson, J and Hockey, J (2008) Autoethnography as ‘valid’ methodology? A Study of disrupted identity narratives, The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, 3 (6): 209-217.

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&gt

Denshire, S 2013, ‘Autoethnography’, Sociopedia, vol. 62, no. p, pp. 1-12.

Marshall, C., & Rossman, G. B. (1999). Designing qualitative research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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/

Rockerfeller, S A 2011, ‘Flow’, Current Anthropology, Vol. 52, No. 4, pp. 557-576.

McLuhan, M & Powers, B 1989, ‘The Global Village’, Oxford University Press.

Albrow, M 1990, ‘Globalization, knowledge and society: readings from International sociology’, London; Sage Publications, pp. 45.

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