Jan 8, 2017

Cannabis for old rope; It's a no go for Shinto shrines in Mie

Cannabis for old rope; It's a no go for Shinto shrines in Mie photo

"Local gov't nixes cannabis cultivation request for Shinto rituals"

In reading this headline one could be forgiven any mad images of priests and impressionable worshippers getting high in a hazy temple back room amidst a frenzy of chants and prostrations to a higher (not in the same way) power. At least these are the images that this expat came up with.

Alas, I'm some way off the mark. This is Japan after all, largely Godless and devoid of any sense of humor when it comes to cannabis.

In the piece by KYODO NEWS (Jan 6, 2016) we learn that the cannabis in question is that which can be cultivated into hemp and then used in a kind of rope called 'shimenawa', itself used in Shinto rituals. A group of shrines in Mie prefecture, we are informed, had a request to cultivate cannabis for this purpose rejected by the prefectural government. Reasons cited for the rejection were theft and misuse (without mention by whom).

OK, so while not as titillating as any bonkers ritual involving 'shepherd and flock' getting spaced out, we are presented with an interesting insight into just how potentially petty such institutions can appear, especially in the eyes of expats from more, shall we say, liberal parts of the world.

Perhaps the obvious place to start is that the state might be so terrified of citizens getting hold of cannabis, they won't even allow it to be prepped on their shores for use in a type of rope. In the KYODO article we are told that the group of shrines had not prepared adequate security measures for the cultivation. However, we also learn that the prefectural government believes imported cannabis will do for shimenawa rope. Could we in turn be forgiven for thinking then that authorities here in Japan appear comfortable with other nations bearing any burden and potential risk to their people, in the cultivation of cannabis? Well, when we are told that 90% of cannabis imported to Japan for use in shimenawa rope comes from China … actually, no, let’s just leave that there.

Assertions that the rope should be made from hemp at all will likely depend on one's understanding and appreciation of attention to detail in religion. The folks over at 'Shinto' have been using cannabis and hemp in offerings, rituals, and clothing since the good old days. Whether 'time' sets sufficient precedent for this to continue is a debate that could go on for more 'time' than we have here.

Anyone who might like to cite such time honored use as a weapon in pro-legalization debates would likely be doing so against a background of the futile here in Japan. As the case above shows, 'government' in Japan has a very limited tolerance of cannabis and would probably be quick to make (or break) any tenuous connection between use of cannabis for rope, or because it helps grandma deal with her arthritis, and it being smoked through a bong by someone who wants to forget their troubles.

Attitudes towards cannabis aside, perhaps we can actually find ourselves some praise to give to the government in Mie over their rejection of the request. The leaders of big religion are arguably no different from the leaders of big business; give them an inch and they'll take a mile, and so often we've seen such people afforded a leniency glaringly absent in the lives' of the rest. In this sense then, while an expat may or may not like this country's policy on cannabis, at least it's being evenly applied.

What do you think? Is this too much governance? Can the rope be made from something else? Does Japan need to grow up over its attitude to cannabis, or have they got it right over here? Leave us your thoughts.

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