Religion in Japan: Shinto, Buddhism, and Society

Background: In this lesson, students will learn about Japan’s unique balance between its rich religious heritage and its generally secular government. As many Japanese practice both Shinto and Buddhism, students will learn the basic beliefs and practices of both and the ways in which believers combine elements of both into their everyday religious practices. Students will get a better sense of the way religion is deeply entrenched in Japanese culture, marking the foundations for countless everyday practices and rituals regardless of individuals’ actual beliefs in deities and teachings of Shinto and Buddhism. Students will get a sense of the way religious practices have evolved over time in Japan. Objectives Students will o Identify the major beliefs and foundations of Shinto o Identify the major beliefs and foundations of Zen Buddhism o Analyze the ways in which both major religions are combined o Discuss the role religion plays in everyday Japanese life and the ways in which this role has evolved in recent years.

Taoism. geographical locations. a small excerpt from a lecture of Harvard professor Helen Hardacre. although Confucianism. and it achieved a very strong social influence in the country. 3. and Christianity have also greatly influenced Japanese culture. As a class. the society where religion has the least influence. However. images. read the following. (15 minutes) Now introduce the topic of religion in Japan by explaining the following essay. That is to say. written after an interview with Kazuko Minamoto of the Japan Society.Day One 1. Now ask students for their impressions of Japan: o What is Japan like? What do you associate with it? o How is Japan similar to the United States? How is it different? o What’s the government like? What’s the social structure? Students will likely know quite a bit about Japanese culture. and also be a member of a parish of a Shinto shrine in the neighborhood where they live. for a very long time. beginning in 1868. 2. if we add up the number of people who belong to all of the branches of Japanese religions in the country. have students brainstorm: o What comes to mind when you mention the term Buddhism? Shinto? Students can name concepts. or summarize to the class. (5 minutes) To begin this lesson. Otherwise. which deals mostly with Japan’s economic status (Appendix 1). This has been true since the 1950s. Shinto and Buddhism. (15 minutes) Tell students this lesson will be focused on the two major religions of Japan. to the class: Many people think that Japan is perhaps the most secular society on earth. the Japanese have been affiliated with a branch of Buddhism and have also been linked to Shinto. go on to the next activity. Feel free to read. that is 1600 to 1868. we get at least twice the number of the total population. give students the BBC News Country Profile on Japan. A secular society is one where religion has very little influence or place in the public realm. If you feel you’ve adequately covered some of the major features of Japanese society. the Japanese have had a pattern of belonging to at least two religious groups. Added to that. facts. etc. Thus. They may belong to a family temple in the case of Buddhism. Christianity came to Japan in modern times during the Meiji period. and have them read it silently. Why is this so? The reason is that. That has been true since the Edo period. . distribute. A long time in which these patterns became very deeply entrenched. historically.

Almost all Japanese visit shrines on New Year’s Day. most people participate freely in both Shinto and Buddhist rituals. while a woman hoping to have children might visit a shrine and ask for an easy pregnancy process and birth. and the nature of the visit is often dictated by the particular needs or desires of the family. They’re co-existing and co-accepted. and other natural elements. during the beginning of Meiji period. including rocks. for dealing with the suffering that comes with death. In the early 20th century.E. regardless of their religious orientation. and Buddhism. while Buddhist temples tend to fulfill needs that deal with the completion of life. A family with a high school student. Shinto and Buddhism. the indigenous religion of Japan since around 500 B. for example. celebrating a life together that is to come.. for example. it is because of Buddhism’s influence. For example. many Japanese visit a Shinto shrine on New Year’s Day. associating the loss of the unborn child with a small statue located within the temple. The emperor declared himself a Shinto deity. After this. Buddhist rituals. help Japanese cope with the suffering that comes from having to detach themselves from what they were close to. or belief sets. as Shinto principles generally don’t allow for the materialization of beliefs. which are distinguished by one general guiding principle: Shinto shrines are generally used to celebrate the beginning of life and mark certain turning points. trees. wherein the emperor announced his non-deity status and Japan established a policy of religious freedom that is still in place today. 5. Shinto shrines are very often located right next to Buddhist temples and are sometimes even in the same compound. Buddhist temples are often used for funerals and for answering questions about the afterlife.C. however. might visit a shrine for academic achievement. many couples choose to get married in Shinto shrines. have cohabitated for centuries. with people worshipping both simultaneously. the government officially separated Buddhism from Shinto and created State Shinto in an attempt to stave off Western influences and establish itself as an independently powerful empire. people can make offerings like sake and rice to honor the kamis and nourish the priests. or death. Japanese bring their children to shrines at the ages of 3. as the kamis are believed to be in all parts of nature. . which creates a fascinating and multi-faceted cultural environment. There are certain Buddhist temples where parents can honor lost or aborted fetuses.Religion in Japan: An Overview The two major religions in Japan. Also. until the end of WWII and Japan’s defeat. the rituals have become so entrenched in Japanese culture that even those who do not label themselves as religious can be found at various times in shrines and temples as specific needs arise. and 7 to celebrate their having made it to this age and to ask for purification and protection in the future. Outside the temple. or statues. which was introduced in Japan around 600 A.D. And by now. Shinto was declared as a non-religion and rather as a political and societal force that unified the country under one set of beliefs. Another difference between Buddhist and Shinto practices is that shrines do not contain idols. In contrast. icons. In Japanese society today. Shinto. It is customary in Japan for parents to bring their one-month-old babies to shrines in order to ask for good health for the baby. are blended in practice but undeniably distinct. Many Japanese recognize that both religions. to usher in the new year and wish for good fortune. If a figure is in fact inside or associated with a Shinto shrine. are complementary and essential in dealing with life’s issues. Shinto practices have always excluded the use of human figures. then..

) o What makes Shinto different from other religions you know? (Make sure students mention that Shinto has no founder. Distribute the handout on Shinto.? 5. how would you describe Shinto when it first began in 500 BCE? (Students may point to the emphasis on nature. written scriptures. etc. Ask students to write at least a paragraph about an important family tradition that has passed down through at least two generations. Buddhism. Make sure students understand that Shinto is very difficult to define and often considered more of a tradition in Japan rather than a distinct religion. Tell students to finish the assignment as homework. fortune-telling. . heroes.) o In what ways are Shinto and Buddhism similar? (Tell students you will revisit this question later after learning a bit more about Buddhism. consulting older members of their family as necessary. students will share their traditions with the class. Islam. and when students are done reading (either as a class or individually). Hinduism. (10 minutes) Remind students that one of the four affirmations is preserving tradition and family values. one of the two major religions practiced in Japan.) o How is a kami similar to and different from gods in other religions? o What do the four affirmations make you think of? In what ways are they similar to and different from Christianity. For example. religious law. ask the following questions: o In your own words. the family. The next class. and specifically birth and marriage. etc. Explain that family. or organized priesthood. is considered to be sacred to Shinto followers. (20-25 minutes) Tell students they will now delve into Shinto. medicinal practices. has rarely had followers who practice only Shinto. Shinto has always been intertwined with Buddhism and Confucianism and.4. for that reason.

and death. When he died. What are the fundamental beliefs of Buddhism? ii. These texts are called sutras. and with time new branches of Buddhism emerged. Discuss the following as a class: i. the final release from earthly suffering. In what ways do the Five Precepts sound similar to other religious principles. sadness. one day happened to wander and see an old man. 5. he attained nirvana. He was born a prince. have students share their writing in small groups. or how they celebrate major events like births and marriages. Quick Guide to the Origins of Buddhism: According to tradition. for example. a sick man. which is most widely practiced in Japan. review the four affirmations of Shinto: o Tradition and the family: traditions passed down through marriage. and set out to find the cause of human suffering. discussing their family traditions with one another. Siddhartha left his palace. the founder of Buddhism. He became a wandering monk. it is the story of Siddhartha. (15 minutes) Now. in the region that is now southern Nepal. and became the Buddha (“the awakened or enlightened one”). ask students the following: o Why are traditions important to your family and to families in general? o How are religion and tradition tied together? Are there instances in which the tradition is more important to you than the religious foundation behind it? (Encourage students to think generally of what they do on various holidays. Realizing that suffering is the lot of most humans. the Buddha's teachings were written down by his followers who spread his message. what is the foundation of Buddhism? o How is the story of the founding of Buddhism similar to other religious creations you know? o Does Siddhartha remind you of any other religious or historical figures? Explain. When the class reconvenes. Read the following story to students. sickness.) 3. the founder of Buddhism was born in 563 B. particularly Zen Buddhism. having been shielded from the knowledge of poverty. he found his answer—his awakening—and proceeded to teach others. Siddhartha. After his death. Ask students to discuss answers to the following questions: o Based on this story. (15-20 minutes) Now have students read the handout on the core beliefs of Buddhism (Appendix 3).Day Two 1. birth o Love of nature: it is sacred and the way to be close to god o Physical cleanliness: baths. wash hands and mouth o Matsuri: worship and honor of kami. When class begins.E. renouncing his princely life.C. An organized religion began to take form. like Christianity’s Ten Commandments? . 4. named Siddhartha (“he who achieves his goal”) and also known as Shakyamuni (“sage of the Shakya clan”). (10 minutes) Now students will explore Buddhism. aging. After years of searching. ancestral spirits 2. and a dead man.

Rather than rely on powerful deities. Zen also values intuition instead of habitual. which mean “meditation. While Zen was first introduced into Japan several centuries earlier. its emphasis on the possibility of sudden enlightenment and a close connection with nature derive from Chinese influences.” emphasize individual meditative practice to achieve self-realization and. it did not become firmly established until the thirteenth century. . (5 minutes) Explain. enlightenment. This allows the teacher to offer the student helpful assistance in his spiritual development. Chan and Zen. Zen stresses the importance of the role of a teacher. While Zen practitioners trace their beliefs to India. when the warrior class began to favor this school of thought. using the paragraph below. thereby. briefly. with whom a disciple has a heart-mind connection. logical thinking and developed expressionistic and suggestive (rather than explicit and descriptive) painting styles and poetic forms as well as illogical conundrums (koan) to stimulate one's intuition. what distinguishes Zen Buddhism from other types of Buddhism: Zen Buddhism Zen is the Japanese development of the school of Mahayana Buddhism that originated in China as Chan Buddhism. What are your reactions to the eightfold path? What is the purpose? What other religious guidelines exist that are similar? 6.iii.

(25 minutes) Now give students the article “Religion Today” by Hiroko Tabuchi (Appendix 4). as a unique situation? o How is this similar to other trends around the world. (10 minutes) Begin a discussion on the state of religion today in our country: o How have you seen religion change in this country in recent years? o Are your beliefs different than those of your parents? Of your grandparents? o Can you say anything in general about the way young people approach religion now as opposed to before? (Students might note the influx of more modern church services. etc. including those in the United States and Canada? How is it different? (Students might note similarities in terms of the modernization of many religions.) o In what direction do you think Buddhism is heading? Other religions? What connections can you make between religious and other trends going on now in the midst of rapid globalization? . After reading the article together. but differences in terms of the weight religious organizations have in recent years had in American politics.) 2.Day Three Note to teachers: There is built-in extra time for Day Three for you to finish any hanging activities from previous days. lead the class in discussion: o What kinds of problems is Buddhism facing in Japan today? o Why do you think those challenges exist now? o What kinds of obstacles do religions in general face in Japan. including multi-media elements. 1.

But this and other traditions are under pressure as a young generation more in tune with Western culture and ideas grows up. Japanese troops have served in Iraq Japan's role on the world stage is considerable. but it remains a traditional society with strong social and employment hierarchies . he is expected to continue his predecessor's economic reforms Economy: Japan has the world's second-largest economy. . But the deployment of Japanese troops in Iraq following the US-led invasion in 2003 divided public opinion. Japan has said China promotes an anti-Japanese view of history. precipitated major banking. its multinationals are household names International: There has been tension with China and South Korea over Japan's wartime past.had by the 1990s run out of steam. wooded interiors. Japan has found it difficult to accept and atone for its treatment of the citizens of countries it occupied.Appendix 1 Country profile: Japan The economic miracle achieved by Japan in the second half of the 20th century was the envy of the rest of the world. The 1997 Asian financial crisis.Japanese men have tended to work for the same employer throughout their working lives. A Japanese court caused outrage by overturning a compensation order for Korean women forced to work as sex slaves.propelled by highly successful car and consumer electronics industries . Life for the majority on the four principal islands is in sprawling conurbations on overcrowded coastal plains. Japan has the world's second-biggest economy. South Korea and China have also protested that Japanese school history books gloss over atrocities committed by the Japanese military. AT-A-GLANCE Politics: Shinzo Abe succeeded Junichiro Koizumi as prime minister in September 2006. Critics said the move violated the country's pacifist constitution. Fewer than 25% of Japan's people live in rural areas. It is a major aid donor and a source of global capital and credit. and bouts of recession. But the rapid post-war expansion . which surround mountainous. Japan's relations with its neighbours are still heavily influenced by the legacy of Japanese actions before and during World War II. public spending and private sector reforms.

2006) Capital: Tokyo Area: 377. chemicals.894 sq miles) Major language: Japanese Major religions: Shintoism. Buddhism Life expectancy: 78 years (men). computer parts. o o o o o o o o o Full name: Japan Population: 127. 85 years (women) (UN) Monetary unit: yen Main exports: Vehicles.Twenty percent of the world's earthquakes take place in Japan. which sits on the boundaries of at least three tectonic plates. powerful quake. The government has set targets for reducing the number of deaths and the economic damage after any future.7 million (via UN. scientific instruments and watches .864 sq km (145.

Starting about 500 BCE (or earlier) it was originally "an amorphous mix of nature worship. no body of religious law. came down from heaven and roamed throughout the earth. There are numerous other deities who are conceptualized in many forms: o Those related to natural objects and creatures. Shinto creation stories tell of the history and lives of the "Kami" (deities). The complete separation of Japanese religion from politics did not occur until just after World War II. no written scriptures. the Kami bear little resemblance to the gods of monotheistic religions. 3." 2 o Guardian Kami of particular areas and clans o Exceptional people. Susano. As in much of Asia. who gave birth to the Japanese islands. He is famous for killing a great evil serpent. Her shrine is at Ise. fertility cults. divination techniques. Shinto beliefs: 1. Unlike most other religions. The word "Kami" is generally translated "god" or "gods. The Kami are the Shinto deities. The Emperor was forced by the American army to renounce his divinity at that time.Appendix 2 Brief history of Shinto: Shinto is an ancient Japanese religion. Shinto has no real founder. Their children became the deities of the various Japanese clans. Her descendants unified the country. hero worship." However. The Yamato dynasty consolidated its rule over most of Japan. Divine origins were ascribed to the imperial family. There are no concepts which compare to the Christian beliefs in the wrath of God. Among them was a divine couple." 4 Its name was derived from the Chinese words "shin tao" ("The Way of the Gods") in the 8th Century CE. Her brother. 2. Shinto established itself as an official religion of Japan. along with Buddhism. She is the ancestress of the Imperial Family and is regarded as the chief deity. The two . About 84% of the population of Japan follow two religions: both Shinto and Buddhism. 2. At that time: 1. and only a very loosely-organized priesthood. Christianity is very much a minority religion. they sustain and protect the people. his omnipotence and omni-presence. from "food to rivers to rocks. and shamanism. Izanagi-no-mikoto and Izanami-no-mikoto. or the separation of God from humanity due to sin. including all but the last of the emperors. 3. o Abstract creative forces They are seen as generally benign. Buddhism first arrived in Japan from Korea and China during the 6th through 8th centuries CE. Amaterasu Omikami (Sun Goddess) was one of their daughters. 12 Fewer than 1% of Japanese adults are Christians.

sincerity or true heart." Thus all human life and human nature is sacred. 4. It does not have its own moral code. o "Matsuri": The worship and honor given to the Kami and ancestral . the Kamis' creative and harmonizing powers. sensibility. All of humanity is regarded as "Kami's child. Shintoists generally follow the code of Confucianism. wash their hands. o Love of nature: Nature is sacred. There are "Four Affirmations"in Shinto: o Tradition and the family: The family is seen as the main mechanism by which traditions are preserved. They aspire to have "makoto". but give few details of the afterlife. Natural objects are worshipped as sacred spirits. From www. has been restored. Ancestors are deeply revered and worshipped. Their religious texts discuss the "High Plain of Heaven" and the "Dark Land" which is an unclean land of the dead. 9. This is regarded as the way or will of Kami. funerals are performed by Buddhist priests. and attitude. which was suppressed during World War II. "Shinto emphasizes right practice. the Buddha was viewed as another "Kami". and rinse out their mouth often. o Physical cleanliness: Followers of Shinto take baths. 6. Morality is based upon that which is of benefit to the group. Buddhism in Japan regarded the Kami as being manifestations of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Shinto does not have as fully developed a theology as do most other religions. to be in contact with nature is to be close to the Gods. Within Shinto. Believers revere "musuhi".ReligiousTolerance. 8. The desire for peace. Most weddings are performed by Shinto priests. Their main celebrations relate to birth and marriage. and for the world." 2 10. 7. 11.religions share a basic optimism about human nature. Meanwhile. 5.

Appendix 3 Buddhism: Core Beliefs Buddhism. they can attain Nirvana. It can take many forms: craving of sensual pleasures.a. most traditions share a common set of fundamental beliefs. the desire to avoid unpleasant sensations.) 4. pain. the desire for fame. living. is divided into a number of different traditions. . A practicing Buddhist differentiates between the concepts of rebirth and reincarnation. Nibbana). the individual may recur repeatedly. the impermanence of pleasure. like fear. In rebirth. but it is not identical to the original leaf. Samudaya: There is a cause for suffering. The mind experiences complete freedom. (Suffering ceases with the final liberation of Nirvana (a. One fundamental belief of Buddhism is often referred to as reincarnation – the concept that people are reborn after dying. failure. In fact. In reincarnation. Dukkha: Suffering exists: (Suffering is real and almost universal. They may be described (somewhat simplistically) as: 1. a new leaf will eventually replace it. After many such cycles. sickness. you must follow the Eightfold Path.k. anger or jealousy. It lets go of any desire or craving. Nirodha: There is an end to suffering. death and rebirth. The Four Noble Truths The Buddha's Four Noble Truths explore human suffering. liberation and non-attachment. He compares it to a leaf growing on a tree. However. (It is the desire to have and control things. This is a state of liberation and freedom from suffering.) 2. in a person does not necessarily return to Earth as the same entity ever again.) 3. Magga: In order to end suffering. like most of the great religions of the world. It is similar to the old leaf. if a person releases their attachment to desire and the self. Suffering has many causes: loss. most individuals go through many cycles of birth. When the withering leaf falls off.

5. This is generally interpreted as including the avoidance of fraud and economic exploitation. and feelings 8. This is sometimes translated as "not harming" or an absence of violence.The Five Precepts These are rules to live by. 1. along with any sexual harassment or exploitation. Samma kammanta – Right conduct by following the Five Precepts 5. criticism. gossip. For monks and nuns. following the right path in life Sila: Virtue. wisdom: 1. Samma sankappa: Right thinking. Do not kill. harsh language 4. the Internet. Samma ditthi – Right understanding of the Four Noble Truths 2. For the laity. mind. promote good thoughts. support yourself without harming others Samadhi: Concentration. The Buddha’s Eightfold Path The Buddha’s Eightfold Path consists of: Panna: Discernment. condemning. conquer evil thoughts 7. television. The Buddha did not discuss consensual premarital sex within a committed relationship. Samma vayama – Right effort. The main concern here is that intoxicants cloud the mind. They are somewhat analogous to the second half of the Ten Commandments in Judaism and Christianity — that part of the Decalogue which describes behaviors to avoid. morality: 3. meditate to achieve a higher state of consciousness . become aware of your body. Samma sati – Right mindfulness. Samma Samadhi – Right concentration. this means any departure from complete celibacy. gossip. meditation: 6. Do not misuse sex. 2. Samma vaca – Right speech: no lying. 3. movies.g. Do not steal. Do not consume alcohol or other drugs. Samma ajiva – Right livelihood. Some have included as a drug other methods of divorcing ourselves from reality — e. adultery is forbidden. etc. including that within marriage. Do not lie. Buddhist traditions differ on this. This is sometimes interpreted as including name calling. 4.

" The young priest will need patience and optimism. 2006) Tokyo. almost three-quarters of the country's population. offers theological seminars in English for foreigners. an economics professor at Tokyo's Keio Japan .Buddhism "Religion today" by Hiroko Tabuchi (AP. discos and meditation .. Instead. Matsumoto's Komyoji temple offers weekly yoga classes. for instance. The Tsukiji Honganji temple in central Tokyo.000 temples to the verge of bankruptcy. and has fitted its main hall with a pipe organ and conducts Western-style weddings to attract young couples who prefer a white dress and tuxedo to a traditional Buddhist ceremony. About 94 million Japanese were registered as Buddhist in 2005. "Their congregations are so small the priests take second jobs and still barely manage to scrape by. homemade dessert. while Higashi Honganji temple aired games from the World Cup in Germany to attract local soccer fans. the monks — all volunteers from nearby temples — suggest patrons put their hands together in prayer at the temple's grand altar before they leave. visitors don't pay with money. Zenshoan temple in central Tokyo streams Buddhist sermons on the Internet." So young Buddhists like Matsumoto are trying to turn that around by reaching out to new groups — and employing some clever entrepreneurship. "I want Kamiyacho Open Terrace to be a place people can drop in casually . "Some priests can't even put food on the table from their temple-related work. All the coffee. the only time they enter a temple is to attend a funeral — driving many of the country's 75. one of many across Japan offering new services — concerts. discos. October 26." said Takanobu Nakajima.. but with prayer. tea and sweets served by robe-clad monks in the open terrace are free. More than a millennium after it first arrived from mainland Asia in the sixth century. At Matsumoto's cafe.Appendix 4 Asia/Pacific . an airy terrace. He also spearheads higan. Keisuke Matsumoto. In addition to his cafe. But what makes the cafe truly interesting is its setting: inside the Buddhist Komyoji temple. yoga classes — in a struggle to stay relevant despite an increasingly secular society. Some temples are branching out in other ways. which overlooks a garden dotted with gravestones. and monk. temples were once a part of daily life. "For Japanese. and perhaps become a little curious about Buddhism. But for many.The Kamiyacho Open Terrace cafe in central Tokyo has all the trappings of a trendy establishment — good coffee." said 24-year-old owner.Japan . a Web-based movement of young monks who organize festivals. Buddhism is in crisis.

the departed now typically have fewer descendants to share the bill.wwrn." said Sayaka Miura. An office worker who often eats her packed lunch at the cafe said while she was now more interested in the religion. Awash with cash as Japan's postwar economy boomed. But the good times ended when Japan's economic bubble burst in the early 1990s. And Matsumoto's cafe.. temples once extracted huge donations from their congregations and charged exorbitant sums for lavish funerals — often over 2 million yen. a Buddhist monthly journal.. which opened in 2004. an editor at Gekkan Butsuji.000 twenty. Hideo Usui. "Now. . and write daily blog entries on everything from Buddhist cuisine to music. And while Japan's aging population has meant more funerals.sessions. Few Japanese strictly stick to one religion. It's just a matter of what temples are going to do about it. more than $17." Indeed. a marketing assistant at a broadcasting company. "There's a lot Buddhism can offer modern society. "I hadn't even thought of it. that's for example. the money troubles are a major comedown for a Buddhist clergy that in the 1980s was known for its flashy lifestyle." From WorldWide Religious News http://www. putting a premium on discount services. hasn't led to many recruits so far." "Priests got so used to easy money.and thirty-somethings who went wild to the beats of the Zazen Boys before settling down for a Buddhist sermon. Matsumoto is undaunted. making elaborate funerals and other extravagances a thing of the past." Usui said. she didn't have immediate plans to join the temple's congregation. For priests who are stumped for ideas. Buddhist leaders also face some cultural roadblocks.000 at today's exchange rate. help is increasingly at hand. instead picking and choosing as they please from many." Matsumoto said. He recently put on a free rock concert at Tsukiji Honganji temple for 1. "I want temples to become a part of everyday life again. has launched a Web site offering advice for priests trying to modernize their practices. Recent entries include "Buddhist rites for the modern lifestyle" and "Using the Internet to take funeral orders.php?idd=23165&sec=52&con=20 . Buddhists have specialized in funerals — which hasn't helped their image. A family might celebrate births at a shrine of the native Shinto religion and weddings at a Christian church. so they didn't make an effort to innovate or to recruit new parish members.

easia.php?no=139&era=&grade=&geo= Buddhism: http://www.askasia.pdf 5 Works Cited and Teacher Resources Shinto: http://ncta.osu.htm Japan: http://japan.pdf Others: .org/teachers/essays/essay.

Watarai Shinto based at the outer shrine of Ise dedicated to the kami Toyouke incorporated Buddhist and Confucian ideas and focused popular devotion towards the shrine of the sun goddess Amaterasu at Ise. In the early 1900's about half of the then 200. By the time the military took control of . millions of people spontaneously left their homes and work and set out for Ise on mass pilgrimages known as okage-mairi (blessings visits). also known as State Shinto. From the beginnings of Japanese recorded history up to 1868.Appendix 6 General Essay on Shinto 'Shinto' is a broad term with no agreed meaning. meaning that adherence to emperor-worshipping Shinto was the sacred constitutional duty of every citizen. shrine-based religious activities in Japan which might be termed 'Shinto' were more or less thoroughly intermingled with Buddhism. such as Buddhism. From this matrix emerged several sectarian lineages within Japanese religion which involved Shinto shrine priests who were often simultaneously Buddhist monks. The chart shows how the non-Japanese sources of Shinto (mainly influences from China. From 1868 to 1945 the idea that emperor-worshipping Shinto was the unique . In the 1890's Shinto was declared non-religious. This mingling of traditions was symbolised by the building of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines dedicated to local spirits. Suika Shinto. sometimes ancestors. In the Edo or Tokugawa period (1600-1868) popular movements and scholarly trends emerged focusing respectively on shrines and ancient mythological texts. hoping for 'world-renewal' and relief from oppression. Meanwhile Kokugaku ('national learning') scholars were rediscovering ancient Japanese texts which emphasized the divine descent of the imperial family from Amaterasu. At approximately 60-year intervals.religion of Japan was successfully promoted through the national education system. Their efforts provided an intellectual basis for the development of Japanese nationalism and the 'restoration' of the emperor in the 19th century. Sanno-ichijitsu Shinto. The power of traditional Buddhism was broken by reforms known as shinbutsu bunri (separation of kami and Buddhas) and a new kind of Shinto was created in the Taikyo (great teaching) movement of 1870-1884 which emphasized civic duty and devotion to the emperor as a divinity. Confucianism and Taoism) mingled with indigenous Japanese traditions.and ancient . Examples of such developments are Ryobu Shinto. The 'Emperor System'. This19th-century image of Shinto as an ancient national religion is. as a result. often through the integration of neighbouring temples and shrines. Watarai Shinto and Yui-itsu Shinto. not an optional 'religion'. headed by the emperor. Buddhism and local traditions became thoroughly assimilated. In 1868 a new form of constitutional government. Japanese religion underwent radical changes after the country was opened to Western technology and ideas and began to industrialize rapidly in the mid-19th century. replaced the feudal rule of the shoguns.000 shrines in Japan were closed in government-imposed 'shrine mergers'. united the Japanese people behind the emperor in the country's drive towards modernization and acquisition of an overseas empire. to the extent that a separate Shinto tradition cannot easily be identified. widespread even today.

marriage etc. Kurozumikyo and others.) and Buddhist temples (for funerals and memorial rites) as appropriate. 'Shinto' today broadly refers to 'shrine shinto' (jinja shinto) which means customary religious activities such as shrine St. From the Division of Religion and The institutional 'separation' of Shinto and Buddhism is still evident in Japan.ucsm. in which religion and state are strictly separated. Despite the institutional reforms of the 19th century Buddhas and kami are not separated in the mind of the ordinary worshipper. promulgated during the Occupation (1946-1951) provides for religious freedom USA-style. most people attend both Shinto shrines (for purification. while other Shinto-style movements have arisen. Some Shinto leaders seek to preserve the notion that Shinto has a special relationship to national life through its enshrinement of the war dead. including Shinto Taikyo. These included Tenrikyo. and most people are unaware that until 1868 Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples were more or less fully integrated with each other.html . purification rites and numerous festivals focusing on a loose nationwide network of local and regional shrines dedicated to divinities known as kami. without any sense of contradiction. Christian churches and numerous new religious movements in the 'marketplace' of religions in contemporary Japan. Konkokyo. However.government in the 1930's Shinto-based nationalism permeated every aspect of Japanese life and was influencing the teachings and practices of all other religions in Japan. There is no longer official government support for Shinto. Martin’s College http://philtar. In the post-war period some have repudiated their earlier Shinto identity. Shinto shrines compete and occasionally cooperate with Buddhist temples. Japan's post-war constitution. Some 19th century new religious movements and shrine-supporters' associations were for various reasons designated 'Shinto sects'.

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