How do the Japanese handle disasters like the recent earthquake and tsunami, with the nuclear disaster forming a trifecta of tragedy. You might think they would turn to religion, and they do. A very small minority of Japanese are Christians, but they do have their spiritual sides. When it comes to celebrations and joyous occasions, their spiritual outlook is defined by their ancient Shinto heritage. However, when it comes to the kinds of tragedies they have recently faced, they tend to turn to Buddhism.
Yet, in their everyday, day to day lives, the Japanese are a very secular oriented people. It might be hard to understand for some people, and some might even consider them hypocritical, only crying out to their God, or Gods, when they have some great, overwhelming need, but otherwise ignoring them.
But are they really? Is it not a sign of maturity that they live their lives in a strict code of honor and adherence to ethical standards without applying a dogma or relinquishing control, and this responsibility, to some benign, or malignant spirit?
What I find interesting about the turn to Buddhism during a tragedy is their need for understanding. Is their hardship caused by some kind of universal karma that has brought this on themselves, perhaps?
The Japanese are not that different from all of us, are they? We tend to thank God, however we conceive him or her, for our good times, and pray to God for relief from the bad times, we ask for forgiveness and sustenance, etc., but otherwise, we too go about our daily mundane lives without giving it that much thought, for the most part. That's because our secular society is such that we too have learned to not lean so heavily on the superstitious need to find a divine cause behind every event. We tend to ignore the divine and the spiritual.
The only thing unique about the Japanese is they go from one religion to another, whichever one suits the occasion, with feeling the need to form a syncretic union of the two. Whereas we tend to stick to one path.
But then again, the Japanese are, at heart, pagans, I believe, so its more natural for them to look to different Gods in regards to different matters. Most Americans look to just one as the answer to everything. Sometimes they don't know what the right question is, but they're still pretty sure about the answer regardless.