I know that kanashibari is a medical condition, not a religion. But how I came to find out about kanashibari is through the church that I attend in Kyotanabe, hence, I'd like to do my post on religion about the information as it was told to me at my church.
Two pieces of background information. First, I occasionally attend a bilingual church in Kyotanabe, along with a few other Kansai Gaidai students, both International and Japanese. I have been attending off and on since November and we have two hours after the message to talk to each other about anything and everything. During the course of conversation, we drifted to kanashibari, and to former and current members of the church who had experienced kanashibari.
Secondly, kanashibari is the Japanese word for a medical condition called "Sleep Paralysis." Kanashibari can also mean “night-terrors” but the discussion I had with members of my church on kanashibari sounds much closer to sleep paralysis. What happens in sleep paralysis is quite simple: you wake up and though your mind is conscious, you simply cannot move your body. This is not lucid dreaming (where you are aware that you are in fact dreaming DURING a dream) because sleep paralysis does not happen while the mind is asleep.
Now how does this tie into religion? As you probably already know, the percentage of Japanese who claim to be Christians is in the one-digits. The predominant religions in Japan are Shinto and Buddhism, followed by other “new religions,” while Christianity enjoys even fewer proclaimed practitioners. The church I attend is small and the building is never completely full (though we came rather close to filling the sanctuary on Easter Sunday, but that’s to be expected). And yet, repeatedly, someone who experiences kanashibari will come to the Kyoto International Chapel, talk with a pastor, convert to Christianity, and never have the problem again.
It’s such a frequent phenomenon in converts at Kyoto International Chapel that they have even created a manga about it, containing two testimonies of people who suffered from kanashibari and were cured upon conversion. The manga is short, sweet, and simple and is published in both Japanese and English. I have since given my Japanese copy away but the pastor is currently searching for the English copies so that I can post photos here.
The story, as explained to me in English (since my Japanese is not the most fantastic in the world), goes something like this. The individual (both testimonies in the pamphlet-manga are female) will begin experiencing kanashibari and the reoccurring feeling is that they are being held down, like something invisible is crushing them and keeping them from moving or even blinking their eyes. They try to solve it in the traditional Japanese way (go to a shrine or a temple), but that does not work. Eventually, in a completely unrelated event, a friend will invite the afflicted individual to Kyoto International Church. They will come and eventually they will talk to the pastor and convert to Christianity. They will also tell the pastor about their experiences of kanashibari and, after praying about it with the pastor and converting, the experiences will never happen again.
Just thought it would be interesting to share. I was surprised by how many members of the church experienced this. I’ve never heard of anything like this before. (photos as soon as I have them)