During out two week break from language school a Japanese friend suggested we visit the Okazaki (the town we live) Castle and eat at a famous tofu restaurant on the grounds. As we toured I was saddened with how distant the Shinto gods are to the people living on earth. As you walk the grounds there are areas with papers and wooden plaques the Japanese buy to write their prayer requests. A person buys the special paper or plaque at the shrine in hopes the gods will grant them their desire. Common requests are for good exam scores or a boyfriend/girlfriend. On stones names are engraved of those who gave significant amounts of money to the shrine is hopes of finding favor with the gods.
The part where I really was emotionally struck was the bell attached to the front of the Shrine. I asked my friend what it was for and she said it is the signal used to call upon the gods if you want to make a request. After my friend told me this I said out loud, “It is the most comforting thing that our God hears us when we call and never needs to be awoken from sleeping. In fact he’s active even while we’re sleeping.” We do long for the Japanese to know and understand this truth!