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Shinto is the traditional, indigenous Japanese religion. Buddhism, also practiced by nearly all Japanese, did not arrive until around 650AD. Most Japanese participate in both religions, but today, Buddhism tends to be responsible for deaths and funerals, because it has more to say about the afterlife (and because Shinto views death and dead bodies as poluting - not appropriate for their priesthood to deal with). Very few Japanese are Christian (about 1%), but many Christian Japanese also participate in Shinto rites as well. Shinto is centered on `KAMI' (innumerable gods or spirits) of places, families, communities who interact with us. Kami are:
Mostly associated with some particular place - a grove of impressive trees, a waterfall, a town, village, valley, etc. The kami are believed to move among their shrines and to reside in a small house-shaped box built for them at the shrine (or jinja). Usually beneficent, but not always. Occassionally they may be vengeful. Many kami are the spirits of deceased ancestors, emperors, prominent military figures, important animals (tiger, fox, etc), waterfalls, forests, distinctive rocks, rivers, etc. No `allpowerful god' in Shinto - only lots of little ones. Each has limitations. But the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu, is dominant however. She gave birth to the first emperor. Her main shrine is called Jingu and is located in a forest at Ise in western Japan. No concrete visual representation. No paintings, sculptures, masks, etc of the kami themselves. Only Buddhist temples use physical representations (in painting and sculpture) of the Buddha and the Boddhisatvas. Religious ceremonies are attempts to please and entertain the kami. For example, sumo wrestling matches and the many local festivals, called matsuri, began as means of entertaining local kami.
`The Four Affirmations' of Shinto. 1. Tradition and family must be honored. 2. Love of nature plays a great role. Most shrines are built in groves on the edge of the village, near a waterfall, near a distinctive rock on the seashore, etc. 3. Physical cleanliness must be assured before prayers or approach to a shrine. Lots of washing, sprinkling with salt, etc. 4. Festivals and ceremonies must be honored. Japanese festivals (matsuri) are joyous occassions with lots of energetic activity: eg, the young men in bright jackets pushing around a huge wagon containing the sacred shrine during a parade, wrestling matches (that is, sumo). These events are intended as entertainment for the benefit of the kami as well as for the participants. Shrines organize MATSURI (community festivals) about life passages (births, marriages, age 3-5-7 ceremonies, etc) celebration of family ancestors, etc. (Not much about death,
along with Buddhism. etc. Starting about 500 BCE (or earlier) it was originally "an amorphous mix of nature worship. fertility cults. boats. Among them was a divine couple. Shinto beliefs: Shinto creation stories tell of the history and lives of the "Kami" (deities). Amaterasu Omikami (Sun Goddess) was one of their daughters.) Each local community has its own matsuri traditions featuring colorful costumes. Their children became the deities of the various Japanese clans. and only a very loosely-organized priesthood. The word "Kami" is generally translated "god" or "gods. There are no concepts which compare to the Christian beliefs in the wrath of God. Her brother. Susano came down from heaven and roamed throughout the earth. from "food to rivers to . wrestling contests. and shamanism. etc. special dances. divination techniques. Brief history of Shinto: Shinto is an ancient Japanese religion. maintained by a committee of prominent citizens of the community. The `sanctum sanctorum' is a small box designed like a house with small doors. or the separation of God from humanity due to sin. The Kami are the Shinto deities. She is the ancestress of the Imperial Family and is regarded as the chief deity. Shinto has no real founder. the Kami bear little resemblance to the gods of monotheistic religions. Unlike most other religions. bonfires. Her shrine is at Ise. Izanagi-no-mikoto and Izanami-no-mikoto. no written scriptures. The Emperor was forced by the American army to renounce his divinity at that time. hero worship. He is famous for killing a great evil serpent. no body of religious law. who gave birth to the Japanese islands. The complete separation of Japanese religion from politics did not occur until just after World War II. Shinto established itself as an official religion of Japan." However. Divine origins were ascribed to the imperial family.however." 4 Its name was derived from the Chinese words "shin tao" ("The Way of the Gods") in the 8th Century CE. Her descendants unified the country. There are numerous other deities who are conceptualized in many forms: Those related to natural objects and creatures. his omnipotence and omni-presence. floats rolled or dragged through the streets. Every small community has at least one or more `shrines' (jinja). At that time: The Yamato dynasty consolidated its rule over most of Japan.
and attitude. including all but the last of the emperors. It does not have its own moral code. wash their hands. They aspire to have "makoto". 12 Fewer than 1% of Japanese adults are Christians. Shinto does not have as fully developed a theology as do most other religions. The desire for peace. 3. to be in contact with nature is to be close to the Gods. funerals are performed by Buddhist priests. Meanwhile." Thus all human life and human nature is sacred. The two religions share a basic optimism about human nature. Most weddings are performed by Shinto priests. Believers revere "musuhi". As in much of Asia. and rinse out their mouth often. Their main celebrations relate to birth and marriage. Physical cleanliness: Followers of Shinto take baths.rocks. This is regarded as the way or will of Kami. sensibility. but give few details of the afterlife. Christianity is very much a minority religion. 2. Buddhism first arrived in Japan from Korea and China during the 6th through 8th centuries CE. Shinto practices: . Ancestors are deeply revered and worshipped. Morality is based upon that which is of benefit to the group. the Kamis' creative and harmonizing powers. which was suppressed during World War II. Natural objects are worshipped as sacred spirits. Their religious texts discuss the "High Plain of Heaven" and the "Dark Land" which is an unclean land of the dead. and for the world. "Shinto emphasizes right practice. the Buddha was viewed as another "Kami"." 2 Guardian Kami of particular areas and clans Exceptional people. sincerity or true heart. Shintoists generally follow the code of Confucianism. 9 About 84% of the population of Japan follow two religions: both Shinto and Buddhism. Love of nature: Nature is sacred. Abstract creative forces They are seen as generally benign. has been restored. "Matsuri": The worship and honor given to the Kami and ancestral spirits." 2 There are "Four Affirmations"in Shinto: 1. Tradition and the family: The family is seen as the main mechanism by which traditions are preserved. Within Shinto. All of humanity is regarded as "Kami's child. Buddhism in Japan regarded the Kami as being manifestations of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. 4. they sustain and protect the people.
Out of respect for the tree spirit that gave its life to make the paper. Mamori are charms worn as an aid in healing and protection. and dances are directed to the Kami. It marks the demarcation between the finite world and the infinite world of the Gods. prayers. which include cleansing. Each shrine is dedicated to a specific Kami who has a divine personality and responds to sincere prayers of the faithful. The dances are performed by skilled and trained dancers. A pair of statues of "Koma-inu" (guard dogs) face each other within the temple grounds. this is the traditional date on which the first (mythical) emperor Jinmu ascended the throne in 660 BCE. A secular. offerings. In the past. origami paper is never cut. the Shichigosan Matsuri involves a blessing by the shrine Priest of girls aged three and seven and boys aged five. They consist of young virgin girls. a group of men. Many followers are involved in the "offer a meal movement. and special anniversaries of the history of a shrine or of a local patron spirit. MAY-5 Tango no Sekku (Boys' festival). Shrine ceremonies. It is held on NOV-15. For example. Some shrines are believed to hold festivities on that day. Seasonal celebrations are held at spring planting. Forms of Shinto: Shinto exists in four main forms or traditions: . Followers are expected to visit Shinto shrines at the times of various life passages. etc.Shinto recognizes many sacred places: mountains. An altar. Believers respect animals as messengers of the Gods. MAR-3 Hinamatsuri (Girls' festival). Origami ("Paper of the spirits"): This is a Japanese folk art in which paper is folded into beautiful shapes. They are often seen around Shinto shrines." in which each individual bypasses a breakfast (or another meal) once per month and donates the money saved to their religious organization for international relief and similar activity. JUL-7 Hoshi Matsuri (Star festival). When entering a shrine. the washing of their bodies in a river near the shrine. country-wide National Founding Day is held on FEB-11 to commemorate the founding of Japan. believers practiced "misogi. Other festivals include: JAN 1-3 Shogatsu (New Year). is given a central place in many homes. one passes through a Tori a special gateway for the Gods. springs.". fall harvest. or a single man. They come in many different forms for various purposes. In recent years they only wash their hands and wash out their mouths in a wash basin provided within the shrine grounds. the "Kami-dana" (Shelf of Gods). Kagura are ritual dances accompanied by ancient musical instruments.
who will be responsible for worshiping the local deity. It is common for a believer to pay respects to other religions. Until the end of World War II. "To be helpful to others and in the world at large through deeds of service without thought of rewards. The association urges followers of Shinto 1. and purity of heart. it has no formal central organization or creed. Minzoku (Folk) Shinto This is not a separate Shinto group. some follow a near-monotheistic religion. which makes an offering to the deities of the first fruits of each year's grain harvest. brightness. Most emphasize worship of their own central deity. Shinto is a tolerant religion which accepts the validity of other religions. Most date from the 8th century CE: The Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters) The Rokkokushi (Six National Histories) . It currently includes about 80. Each sect has its own beliefs and doctrines. and to be diligent in the observance of the Shinto rites. e." 2. praying that the country may flourish and that other peoples too may live in peace and prosperity." 3. Male and female clergy (Shoten and Nai-Shoten) assist the emperor in the performance of these rites." 5 Kyoha (Sectarian) Shinto (aka Shuha Shinto): This consists of 13 sects which were founded by individuals since the start of the 19th century. A rural community will often select a layman annually. agriculture rituals practiced by individual families. etc. and to seek the advancement of the world as one whose life mediates the will of Kami. it was closely aligned with State Shinto. who the Japanese Constitution defines to be the "symbol of the state and of the unity of the people." The most important ritual is Niinamesai. Shinto texts: Many texts are valued in the Shinto religion. Jinja (Shrine) Shinto: This is the largest Shinto group. small images by the side of the road. It is seen in local rural practices and rituals. their practices and objects of worship. the Association of Shinto Shrines. It was the original form of the religion. "To be grateful for the blessings of Kami and the benefits of the ancestors. "To bind oneself with others in harmonious acknowledgment of the will of the emperor. its roots date back into pre-history. applying oneself to them with sincerity.g.000 shrines as members.Koshitsu Shinto (The Shinto of the Imperial House): This involves rituals performed by the emperor. These four forms are closely linked. Almost all shrines in Japan are members of Jinja Honcho. The Emperor of Japan was worshipped as a living God.
The Shoku Nihongi and its Nihon Shoki (Continuing Chronicles of Japan) The Jinno Shotoki (a study of Shinto and Japanese politics and history) written in the 14th century .