Living among the spirits; do you believe in Nyanko-sensei?

We are never alone...

I believe he is real even though I have never seen him.

I have recently finished watching Natsume Yuujinchou. Natsume can see and interact with the spirits. From his point of view, they are living among us humans. Though human cannot see the spirits, the connection exists. People sometimes pray for their help, sometimes offer them food as an offering. The spirits are everywhere, in every street corner, every tree, every statue, every shrine and every house.

When I watched Natsume Yuujinchou, I had no problem getting into the story. Those spirits were not just fantasy or fairy tale. They were not like Pokemon which we all know was not real. To me, the story of the spirits went hand in hand with my everyday belief and probably with my daily life. Here, I am sharing some of them with you.

The spirits in my backyard

Well, it wasn’t exactly my backyard since the land itself didn’t belong to me legally. Right behind my house, there was a pretty wide unused land. Many tall trees grew there; it was like a little forest. At the center of the land, there was an ancient well with large ancient tree taking root right be its side. The tree root had penetrated so deep that it became part of the well’s stone wall. My family psychic (yep, we had family psychic!) once told me that the well was a sacred place guarded by the spirits of an elderly couple. They dressed the way people used to do a few hundred years ago. Fortunately, they are kind and caring. My family and my neighbor had erected a small shrine at the well. We often offered them food and asked for their blessing and protection. I suspected that my cat could see them because I often saw him sitting at the well staring at something I could not see; maybe it was just some small animals hiding among the trees.

Then tragedy happened last year. The land was sold to a different owner who planned to build an apartment complex there. All the trees are brutally cut down, the ground was totally leveled. Our sacred ancient well and tree were completely destroyed. It was a common belief among the locals that anyone who destroys ancient well would bring upon oneself misfortune. I could not be sure what happened to the new owner exactly but one full year had passed and there were still no signs of any construction on this land. Nowadays the land behind my house was a lonely, lifeless and empty space. I can feel the loneliness weighting in my heart every time I look at it. I always wonder if the sadness I am sensing belongs to the elderly couple who have lost their home.

The funeral

Last week, I attended a funeral. It was a nice and quiet one but what I wanted to share was the coin tossing. During the body transportation from the house to the temple where the funeral was taking place, coins would be tossed out of the car at every road intersection, gateway and bridges the car passed through. The coins were payment for the spirits who guarded these said areas so that they let the spirit of the dead pass through. That sounded kind of spooky because that meant there were spirits everywhere we went. Luckily, I am the person who completely lacks any kind of sixth sense. I try to imagine those spirits looking kind of strange but funny like they are in Natsume Yuujinchou and it helps.

That’s just only a few examples of how the spirits affect my daily life. They are not deities and they have feelings just like we do. It’s just that we cannot see each other or directly talk together, can we? Of course, I am Asian and I commonly worship ghosts. I wonder how Western fans feel about those spirits and anime which deal with the similar subject.

ps. I will write full review of this series sometimes soon.

19 responses to “Living among the spirits; do you believe in Nyanko-sensei?

  1. I’m at crossroads here. I don’t believe in ‘God’ but I believe in spirits. I don’t agree with this idea of intelligent design, yet I believe in the supernatural. I like to believe that someone’s watching over me, but that someone isn’t this supposed ‘God’, for some reason.

    • I don’t think you are alone on this. There are so many things influencing our thoughts and belief nowadays that it was hard to be solidly firm on anything. ^^

  2. I’ve been thinking about putting Natsume Yuujinchou on my plan-to-watch list…

    I think all of life is connected, so spiritual energy is everywhere and in everything. We’re never really alone. :)

  3. This makes me want to complete the series. I’m going to put this one up on my priority list.

  4. I’m “east” meets “west,” as a hapa born to a white father and a Korean mother, and raised in the U.S. Okay, more like west with a dash of east. ;)

    I was raised in a Christian family and consider myself a disciple of Christ. I don’t believe in the idea that spirits are everywhere, as is part of syncretic Shinto religion. But I understand the concept, which has a beauty to it. But I do believe that there are demons among us, that angels exist, and that we each have eternal souls, among other things.

    I don’t know if you’re Japanese, but if you’re speaking about Japanese religion, and big contrast between it and Protestantism has to do with “everyday belief” as you mention. I find the idea of praying for luck and blessing from a multitude of spirits very interesting, as well as the idea of what has been called a “practical religion.” As for “ghost worship,” I’m not sure what you speak of, though I’m certainly familiar with ancestor worship and have paid reverence as ancestor tombs on hillside graves before.

    The Christian religion is more relationship-based, when done “correctly,” I suppose. We pray to a God and expect an answer. We have faith that God cares for use and our seemingly insignificant lives. And at the same time, we seek to love God by sacrificing for Him and by doing things that bring Him glory. The deeper our trust in Him, the deeper our relationship goes as we’re able to pray about dreadful hurts and terrible secrets – it’s very similar to relationships between friends, which grow stronger when deep things are shared.

    Anyway, thanks for the awesome entry! I hope you don’t mind, but I’m thinking I’m gonna link to it on my blog. :)

    • I am mostly influenced by Chinese belief and Ancestors worship but honestly, my family has incorporated, adapted and simplified several beliefs and traditions into itself. At the end of the day, I think I can easily accept anything, even God, even Ghost though my version maybe a bit different or adapted. One thing for sure, it’s all about the relationship just like you said :)

      ps. thanks a lot for referring back. I’m flattered :)

  5. Pingback: Living among the spirits; do you believe in Nyanko-sensei? | Canne’s anime review blog « Beneath the Tangles

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  7. Thanks for sharing your stories. It’s sad to read about what happened to those trees. :(

    I also still need to finish this series.

  8. Currently I’m reading the Natsume Yuujinchou manga as it’s being relesed over in the states. But it’s taking so long I’m thinking of watching the anime while I wait for more.

  9. I believe in spirits as well, but I don’t think I’ve had such personal experiences with them. Anyways, thanks for the personal note. ^ ^

  10. Not having any experience with spirits is a good thing because spirit encounter is usually spooky, to say the least >_<

  11. Pingback: Thoughts from the Book of Friends: concerning ghosts and monsters! | Canne's anime review blog

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