Shinto Priests and Air Force Chaplain Bless Firefighters at Yokota Air Base

By Chris Gladis, Flickr user MShades ( [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By Chris Gladis, Flickr user MShades ( [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Shinto priests bless a fire engine at an historic ceremony at the Yokota Air Base in Japan.

Japanese Shinto priests helped an Air Force Chaplain in Fussa, Japan blessed a new fire engine late last month.

Shinto Priests and Air Force Chaplain Bless Firefighters at Yokota Air Base[/tweetthis]

Fire Engine 14 was blessed by reading prayers and offering food and drink to Shinto Gods. Maj. Oscar Fonseca, 374th Airlift Wing chaplain, also said prayers.

Blessing the firefighters’ fleet is a long-held tradition, however, this is the first time Shinto rituals have been included in the ceremony.

Airman 1st Class Thomas Smith, a 374th CES firefighter, said he is thankful for the prayers.

“I feel that any blessing that you receive, regardless of religion, is a good thing,” Smith said. “Just knowing that people care and are willing to take the time to come out here to try and make your job safer by blessing the truck is a gift.”

Shinto, which is considered to be the ethnic faith in Japan, comes only second to Buddhism.

According to the statement of one of the firefighters, this is the first time that he has witnessed such a ritual at Yokota Air Base, despite working there for so many years. He also claimed that attending such a ceremony was good for his spiritual health.

After the ceremony concluded, Major Oscar Fonseca, who is the 374th Airlift Wing captain said, "This ceremony of the blessing of the fire truck is important because it makes our firefighters feel safeguarded. The psychosomatic effect of feeling spiritually protected through a blessing may enable these firefighters to carry out their job effectively."

Even though the main object of focus is the new fire engine, this ceremony is more about the property and lives that will be saved by the firefighters when they will be using this new engine. As the Civil Engineer Squadron Commander, Lt. Col David McCleese said, “It’s about making sure that our guys come home safely after a call.”

America’s military has not always had an amicable relationship with Shinto.

During World War II, the Shinto Directive was announced. This was an order issued to the Japanese government in an attempt to ban the Shinto religion. The order was published based on ideas that were closely related to freedom of speech regarding the matters pertaining to religion.

During the course of the Second World War, the Allies thought Shinto was used as social propaganda and a tool of ultra-nationalism, as well as a disguise for militarism. Because of this, the State Shinto was stripped of support from the public. No public funds could be dedicated towards Shinto shrines or temples, nor towards any entities who were related to the Shinto religion in any manner. Public officials who were believed to be following the Shinto religion were immediately terminated from their posts.

However, attitudes in 2015 are much different.

"I believe that the dual blessing here today is a sign that we are all one big family," Fonseca said. It has provided a great opportunity for us to come together and share with one another."


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