Shinto's second life
Updated: Feb 25, 2020
People's creativity and efforts when it comes to Shinto continue to amaze me! Being a scholar of Japanese religion, anthropology, and digital media, I am incredibly excited by the manifestations of Shinto materiality and practice in the virtual world "Second Life."
For a little background, Second Life is a "free 3D virtual world where users can create, connect, and chat with others from around the world using voice and text" developed by Linden Lab (secondlife.com). Users create their own customizable avatar through which they can navigate, build, and interact with their virtual environment with a computer and mouse.
Anthropologist Robert Boellstorff wrote the landmark ethnography, Coming of Age in Second Life, and since its publication in 2008 more and more anthropologists are researching human sociality within virtual worlds.
Building in the Second Life sandbox is one of SL's greatest features and allows users to create almost anything, including Shinto shrines!
If you'd like to check out or be a part of the Shinto action on SL, here are a few resources I've found:
There is a whole community of people interested in Shinto on Second Life: the "Second Life Shinto Shrine Register" (SLSR)! The network has its own Facebook page, Second Life page, website, and Discord. In-world, you can visit all sorts of beautiful shrines dedicated to the kamisama, including Amaterasu Omikami and Inari Okami.
A group of students at Ball State University built a Shinto shrine and Buddhist temple as a part of an educational grant. The sites are interactive; your avatar can toss coins into the saisenbako, pray to the kami, meditate, etc. You can visit them by using this link to teleport: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Ball%20State%20University/182/159/1022.
Second Life has a robust marketplace where people share objects they've created with others. This allows users to incorporate a kamidana into their virtual house or to acquire various elements to even build their own shrine.
That's all I've got for now, but I'll definitely be exploring Shinto in Second Life more soon!