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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Beyond the pet cemetery

ペットの仏壇

Beyond the pet cemetery


Where does Fido go when he dies? A pet cemetery? Well, just in case there is a doggy heaven, get him an altar too! This product was spotted in a Tokyo department store, and in a country that is pet-crazy, has to be one of the more way-out pet accessories on the market.

This pet altar was on sale in the Buddhist accoutrement section of the department store, along with the sutra books, candles, incense, prayer beads, and small altars for humans.

Buddhism is one of the two main religions in Japan, native Shinto being the other one.

Most Japanese do not consider themselves to be exclusively one or the other, but generally identify themselves as Buddhists who practice Shinto rites at the times and occasions when Shinto rites are traditionally called for, such as births and weddings.

In many ways, Shinto is less a religion than a historically accrued body of rites to appease and beseech gods of the traditional Japanese pantheon. Although, even here things become confused and the provenance of the respective Buddhist and Shinto gods can be uncertain, or at least not considered discrete. (Read more about the Buddhist/Shinto distinction/confusion here.)

But the Buddhist idea of the soul has it inhabiting every living thing, and transmigrating once the body it inhabited has gone. In this sense, having an altar for your pet makes perfect sense, if your lavishing of care on, and entreating heaven on behalf of, its soul will ensure it as least as good a life, hopefully better, in its next incarnation.

And for only 1,000 yen plus goods and services tax of 50 yen - what's that in the context of eternity?

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