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Shinto , also kami-no-michi, is the indigenous religion of Japan and the people of Japan. It is defined as an action-centered religion,
focused on ritual practices to be carried out diligently, to establish a connection
between present-day Japan and its ancient past. Founded in 660 BC according to Japanese mythology,
Shinto practices were first recorded and codified in the written historical records of the Kojiki
and Nihon Shoki in the 8th century. Still, these earliest Japanese writings do
not refer to a unified “Shinto religion”, but rather to a collection of native beliefs
and mythology. Shinto today is a term that applies to the
religion of public shrines devoted to the worship of a multitude of gods , suited to
various purposes such as war memorials and harvest festivals, and applies as well to
various sectarian organizations. Practitioners express their diverse beliefs
through a standard language and practice, adopting a similar style in dress and ritual,
dating from around the time of the Nara and Heian periods. The word Shinto (“way of the gods”) was adopted,
originally as Shindo, from the written Chinese Shendao (神道, pinyin: shén dào), combining
two kanji: “shin” (神?), meaning “spirit” or kami; and “tō” (道?), meaning a philosophical
path or study (from the Chinese word dào). The oldest recorded usage of the word Shindo
is from the second half of the 6th century. Kami are defined in English as “spirits”,
“essences” or “gods”, referring to the energy generating the phenomena. Since Japanese language doesn’t distinguish
between singular and plural, kami refers to the divinity, or sacred essence, that manifests
in multiple forms: rocks, trees, rivers, animals, places, and even people can be said to possess
the nature of kami. Kami and people are not separate; they exist
within the same world and share its interrelated complexity. Shinto is the largest religion in Japan, practiced
by nearly 80% of the population, yet only a small percentage of these identify themselves
as “Shintoists” in surveys. This is due to the fact that “Shinto” has
different meanings in Japan: most of the Japanese attend Shinto shrines and beseech kami without
belonging to an institutional “Shinto” religion, and since there are no formal rituals to become
a member of folk “Shinto”, “Shinto membership” is often estimated counting those who join
organised Shinto sects. Shinto has 100,000 shrines and 20,000 priests
in the country. According to Inoue (2003):
Types of Shinto Shinto religious expressions have been distinguished
by scholars into a series of categories: Shrine Shinto (神社神道, Jinja-Shintō?),
the main tradition of Shinto, has always been a part of Japan’s history. It consists in taking part in worship practices
and events at local shrines. Before the Meiji Restoration, shrines were
disorganized institutions usually attached to Buddhist temples; in the Meiji Restoration
they were made independent systematised institutions. The successor to the imperial organization
system, the Association of Shinto Shrines, oversees about 80.000 shrines nationwide. Imperial Household Shinto (皇室神道, Kōshitsu-Shintō?)
are the religious rites performed exclusively by the imperial family at the three shrines
on the imperial grounds, including the Ancestral Spirits Sanctuary (Kōrei-den) and the Sanctuary
of the Kami (Shin-den). Folk Shinto (民俗神道, Minzoku-Shintō?)
includes the numerous but fragmented folk beliefs in deities and spirits. Practices include divination, spirit possession,
and shamanic healing. Some of their practices come from Buddhism,
Taoism or Confucianism, but most come from ancient local traditions. Sect Shinto (教派神道, Kyōha-Shintō?)
is a legal designation originally created in the 1890s to separate government-owned
shrines from local organised religious communities. These communities originated especially in
the Edo period. The basic difference between Shrine Shinto
and Sect Shinto is that sects are a later development and grew self-consciously, they
can identify a founder, a formal set of teachings and even sacred scriptures. Sect Shinto groups are thirteen, and usually
classified under five headings: pure Shinto sects (Shinto Taikyo, Shinrikyo and Izumo
Oyashirokyo), Confucian sects (Shinto Shusei-ha and Taiseikyo), mountain worship sects (Jikkokyo,
Fusokyo and Mitakekyo or Ontakekyo), purification sects (Shinshukyo and Misogikyo), and faith-healing
sects (Kurozumikyo, Konkokyo and its branching Omotokyo, and Tenrikyo). Koshintō (古神道, ko-shintō?), literally
“Old Shinto”, is a reconstructed “Shinto from before the time of Buddhism”, today based
on Ainu religion and Ryukyuan practices. It continues the restoration movement begun
by Hirata Atsutane. Many other sects and schools can be distinguished. Faction Shinto (宗派神道, Shūha-Shintō?)
is a grouping of Japanese new religions developed since the second half of the 20th century
that have significantly departed from traditional Shinto and are not always regarded as part
of it. Theology and cosmology
Kami Kami or shin (神) is defined in English as
“god”, “spirit”, “spiritual essence”, all these terms meaning the energy generating
a thing. Since Japanese language doesn’t distinguish
between singular and plural, kami refers to the divinity, or sacred essence, that manifests
in multiple forms: rocks, trees, rivers, animals, places, and even people can be said to possess
the nature of kami. Kami and people exist within the same world
and share its interrelated complexity. Shinto gods are collectively called yaoyorozu
no kami (八百万の神?), an expression literally meaning “eight million kami”, but
interpreted as meaning “myriad”, although it can be translated as “many Kami”. There is a phonetic variation, kamu, and a
similar word in Ainu language, kamui. An analogous word is mi-koto. Kami refers particularly to the power of phenomena
that inspire a sense of wonder and awe in the beholder (the sacred), testifying the
divinity of such a phenomenon. It is comparable to what Rudolf Otto described
as the mysterium tremendum and fascinans. The kami reside in all things, but certain
objects and places are designated for the interface of people and kami: yorishiro, shintai,
shrines, and kamidana. There are natural places considered to have
an unusually sacred spirit about them, and are objects of worship. They are frequently mountains, trees, unusual
rocks, rivers, waterfalls, and other natural things. In most cases they are on or near a shrine
grounds. The shrine is a building in which the kami
is enshrined (housed). It is a sacred space, creating a separation
from the “ordinary” world. The kamidana is a household shrine that acts
as a substitute for a large shrine on a daily basis. In each case the object of worship is considered
a sacred space inside which the kami spirit actually dwells, being treated with the utmost
respect. Kannagara
In Shinto kannagara, meaning “way of of the kami”, refers to the law of the natural order. It is the sense of the terms michi or to,
“way”, in the terms “kami-no-michi” or “Shinto”. Those who understand kannagara know the divine,
the human, and how people should live. From this knowledge stems the ethical dimension
of Shinto, focusing on sincerity (makoto), honesty (tadashii) and purity. Amenominakanushi
According to the Kojiki, Amenominakanushi (天御中主 “All-Father of the Originating
Hub”, or 天之御中主神 “Heavenly Ancestral God of the Originating Heart of the Universe”)
is the first kami, and the concept of the source of the universe according to theologies. In mythology he is described as a “god who
came into being alone” (hitorigami), the first of the zōka sanshin (“three kami of creation”),
and one of the five kotoamatsukami (“distinguished heavenly gods”). Amenominakanushi has been considered a concept
developed under the influence of Chinese thought. With the flourishing of kokugaku the concept
was studied by scholars. The theologian Hirata Atsutane identified
Amenominakanushi as the spirit of the North Star, master of the seven stars of the Big
Dipper. The god was emphasised by the Daikyōin in
the Meiji period, and worshiped by some Shinto sects. The god manifests in a duality, a male and
a female function, respectively Takamimusubi and Kamimusubi. In other mythical accounts the originating
kami is called Umashiashikabihikoji (“God of the Ashi “) or Kuninotokotachi (the “God
Founder of the Nation”), the latter used in the Nihon Shoki. Creation of Japan
The generation of the Japanese archipelago is expressed mythologically as the action
of two gods: Izanagi (“He-who-invites”) and Izanami (“She-who-is-invited”). The interaction of these two principles begets
the islands of Japan and a further group of kami. The events are described in the Kojiki as
follows: Izanagi-no-Mikoto (male) and Izanami-no-Mikoto
(female) were called by all the myriad gods and asked to help each other to create a new
land which was to become Japan. They were given a spear with which they stirred
the water, and when removed water dripped from the end, an island was created in the
great nothingness. They lived on this island, and created a palace
and within was large pole. When they wished to bear offspring, they performed
a ritual each rounding a pole, male to the left and female to the right, the female greeting
the male first. They had two children (islands) which turned
out badly and they cast them out. They decided that the ritual had been done
incorrectly the first time. They repeated the ritual but according to
the correct laws of nature, the male spoke first. They then gave birth to the eight perfect
islands of the Japanese archipelago. After the islands, they gave birth to the
other Kami, Izanami-no-Mikoto dies and Izanagi-no-Mikoto tries to revive her. His attempts to deny the laws of life and
death have bad consequences. In the myth, the birth of the god of fire
(Kagu-Tsuchi) causes the death of Izanami, who descends into Yomi-no-kuni, the netherworld. Izanagi chases her there, but runs away when
he finds the dead figure of his spouse. As he returns to the land of the living, Amaterasu
(the sun goddess) is born from his left eye, Tsukiyomi (the moon deity) from his right
eye, and Susanoo (the storm deity) is born from Izanagi’s nose. Purity
Impurity Shinto teaches that certain deeds create a
kind of ritual impurity that one should want cleansed for one’s own peace of mind and good
fortune rather than because impurity is wrong. Wrong deeds are called “impurity” (穢れ,
kegare?), which is opposed to “purity” (清め, kiyome?). Normal days are called “day” (ke), and festive
days are called “sunny” or, simply, “good” (hare). Those who are killed without being shown gratitude
for their sacrifice will hold a grudge (怨み, urami?) (grudge) and become powerful and evil
kami who seek revenge (aragami). Additionally, if anyone is injured on the
grounds of a shrine, the area must be ritually purified. Purification
Purification rites called Harae are a vital part of Shinto. They are done on a daily, weekly, seasonal,
lunar, and annual basis. These rituals are the lifeblood of the practice
of Shinto. Such ceremonies have also been adapted to
modern life. New buildings made in Japan are frequently
blessed by a Shinto priest called kannushi (神主?) during the groundbreaking ceremony
(Jichinsai 地鎮祭), and many cars made in Japan have been blessed as part of the
assembly process. Moreover, many Japanese businesses built outside
Japan have had ceremonies performed by a Shinto priest, with occasionally an annual visitation
by the priest to re-purify. Afterlife
It is common for families to participate in ceremonies for children at a shrine, yet have
a Buddhist funeral at the time of death mostly due to the negative Japanese conception of
the afterlife and death as well as Buddhism’s historical monopoly on funeral rites. In old Japanese legends, it is often claimed
that the dead go to a place called yomi (黄泉), a gloomy underground realm with a river separating
the living from the dead mentioned in the legend of Izanami and Izanagi. This yomi is very close to the Greek Hades;
however, later myths include notions of resurrection and even Elysium-like descriptions such as
in the legend of Okuninushi and Susanoo. Shinto tends to hold negative views on death
and corpses as a source of pollution called kegare. However, death is also viewed as a path towards
apotheosis in Shintoism as can be evidenced by how legendary individuals become enshrined
after death. Perhaps the most famous would be Emperor Ojin
who was enshrined as Hachiman the God of War after his death. Unlike many religions, one does not need to
publicly profess belief in Shinto to be a believer. Whenever a child is born in Japan, a local
Shinto shrine adds the child’s name to a list kept at the shrine and declares him or her
a “family child” (氏子, ujiko?). After death an ujiko becomes a “family spirit”,
or “family kami” (氏神, ujigami?). One may choose to have one’s name added to
another list when moving and then be listed at both places. Names can be added to the list without consent
and regardless of the beliefs of the person added to the list. This is not considered an imposition of belief,
but a sign of being welcomed by the local kami, with the promise of addition to the
pantheon of kami after death. Shrines
The principal worship of kami is done at public shrines or worship at small home shrines called
kamidana (神棚, lit. “god-shelf”). The public shrine is a building or place that
functions as a conduit for kami. A fewer number of shrines are also natural
places called mori. The most common of the mori are sacred groves
of trees, or mountains, or waterfalls. All shrines are open to the public at some
times or throughout the year. While many of the public shrines are elaborate
structures, all are characteristic Japanese architectural styles of different periods
depending on their age. Shrines are fronted by a distinctive Japanese
gate (鳥居, torii) made of two uprights and two crossbars denoting the separation
between common space and sacred space. The torii have 20 styles and matching buildings
based on the enshrined kami and lineage. There are a number of symbolic and real barriers
that exist between the normal world and the shrine grounds including: statues of protection,
gates, fences, ropes, and other delineations of ordinary to sacred space. Usually there will be only one or sometimes
two approaches to the Shrine for the public and all will have the torii over the way. In shrine compounds, there are a haiden (拝殿)
or public hall of worship, heiden (幣殿) or hall of offerings and the honden (本殿)
or the main hall. The innermost precinct of the grounds is the
honden or worship hall, which is entered only by the high priest, or worshippers on certain
occasions. The honden houses the symbol of the enshrined
kami. The heart of the shrine is periodic rituals,
spiritual events in parishioners’ lives, and festivals. All of this is organized by priests who are
both spiritual conduits and administrators. Shrines are private institutions, and are
supported financially by the congregation and visitors. Some shrines may have festivals that attract
hundreds of thousands, especially in the New Year season. Notable shrines
Of the 80,000 Shinto shrines: Atsuta Shrine, Nagoya, shrine to the Imperial
sword Kusanagi Chichibu Shrine, Saitama Prefecture, dedicated
to Omoikane and Amenominakanushi Okami Heian Jingū, Kyoto, dedicated to Emperor
Kammu and Emperor Kōmei Hikawa Shrine, Ōmiya-ku, Saitama
Hokkaido Shrine, Sapporo, Hokkaido The Ise Jingu, Ise, Mie, dedicated to Amaterasu
Omikami, also called Jingu The Gassan Hongu, Yamagata, dedicated to Tsukuyomi
Okami Itsukushima Shrine, Hiroshima Prefecture,
a World Heritage Site and one of the National Treasures of Japan
Iwashimizu Shrine, Yawata, Kyoto Izumo Taisha, Izumo
Kasuga Shrine, Nara Katori Shrine, Chiba Prefecture, dedicated
to Futsunushi Kumano Shrines, Wakayama Prefecture
Meiji Shrine, Tokyo, the shrine of Emperor Meiji
Nikkō Tōshō-gū, Nikkō, Tochigi Prefecture Ōsaki Hachiman Shrine, Miyagi Prefecture
Sendai Tōshō-gū, Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture Shiogama Shrine, Miyagi Prefecture
Three Palace Sanctuaries, Kōkyo Imperial Palace, Tokyo
Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine, Kamakura, Kanagawa Usa Hachiman Shrine, Ōita Prefecture, dedicated
to Hachimanno-Mikoto Yasukuni Shrine (Tokyo), a shrine dedicated
to Japan’s war dead. Practices
Omairi Any person may visit a shrine and one need
not be Shinto to do this. Doing so is called Omairi. Typically there are a few basic steps to visiting
a shrine. At any entrance gate, bow respectfully before
passing through. If there is a hand washing basin provided,
perform Temizu: take the dipper in your right hand and scoop up water. Pour some onto your left hand, then transfer
the dipper to your left hand and pour some onto your right hand. Transfer the dipper to your right hand again,
cup your left palm, and pour water into it, from which you will take the water into your
mouth (never drink directly from the dipper), silently swish it around in your mouth (do
not drink), then quietly spit it out into your cupped left hand (not into the reservoir). Then, holding the handle of the dipper in
both hands, turn it vertically so that the remaining water washes over the handle. Then replace it where you found it. Approach the shrine; if there is a bell, you
may ring the bell first (or after depositing a donation); if there is a box for donations,
leave a modest one in relation to your means; then bow twice, clap twice, and hold the second
clap with your hands held together in front of your heart for a closing bow after your
prayers. There is variation in how this basic visitation
may go, and depending on the time of year and holidays there may also be other rituals
attached to visitations. Be sincere and respectful to the staff and
other visitors, and if at all possible, be quiet. Do be aware that there are places one should
not go on the shrine grounds. Do not wear shoes inside any buildings. Harae
The rite of ritual purification usually done daily at a shrine is a ceremony of offerings
and prayers of several forms. Shinsen (food offerings of fruit, fish, vegetables),
Tamagushi (sakaki tree branches), Shio (salt), Gohan (rice), Mochi (rice paste), and Sake
(rice wine) are all typical offerings. On holidays and other special occasions the
inner shrine doors may be opened and special offerings made. Misogi
Misogi harai or Misogi Shūhō (禊修法) is the term for water purification. The practice of purification by ritual use
of water while reciting prayers is typically done daily by regular practitioners, and when
possible by lay practitioners. There is a defined set of prayers and physical
activities that precede and occur during the ritual. This will usually be performed at a shrine,
in a natural setting, but can be done anywhere there is clean running water. The basic performance of this is the hand
and mouth washing (Temizu 手水) done at the entrance to a shrine. The more dedicated believer may purify him-
or herself by standing beneath a waterfall or performing ritual ablutions in a river. This practice comes from Shinto history, when
the kami Izanagi-no-Mikoto first performed misogi after returning from the land of Yomi,
where he was made impure by Izanami-no-Mikoto after her death. Imi
Another form of ritual cleanliness is avoidance, which means that a taboo is placed upon certain
persons or acts. To illustrate, one would not visit a shrine
if a close relative in the household had died recently. Killing is generally unclean and is to be
avoided. When one is performing acts that harm the
land or other living things, prayers and rituals are performed to placate the Kami of the area. This type of cleanliness is usually performed
to prevent ill outcomes. Amulets and talismans
Ema are small wooden plaques that wishes or desires are written upon and left at a place
in the shrine grounds so that one may get a wish or desire fulfilled. They have a picture on them and are frequently
associated with the larger Shrines. Ofuda are talismans—made of paper, wood,
or metal—that are issued at shrines. They are inscribed with the names of kamis
and are used for protection in the home. They are typically placed in the home at a
kamidana. Ofuda may be kept anywhere, as long as they
are in their protective pouches, but there are several rules about the proper placement
of kamidana. They are also renewed annually. Omamori are personal-protection amulets that
sold by shrines. They are frequently used to ward off bad luck
and to gain better health. More recently, there are also amulets to promote
good driving, good business, and success at school. Their history lies with Buddhist practice
of selling amulets. Omikuji are paper lots upon which personal
fortunes are written. A daruma is a round, paper doll of the Indian
monk, Bodhidharma. The recipient makes a wish and paints one
eye; when the goal is accomplished, the recipient paints the other eye. While this is a Buddhist practice, darumas
can be found at shrines, as well. These dolls are very common. Other protective items include dorei, which
are earthenware bells that are used to pray for good fortune. These bells are usually in the shapes of the
zodiacal animals: hamaya, which are symbolic arrows for the fight against evil and bad
luck; and Inuhariko, which are paper dogs that are used to induce and to bless good
births. Kagura
Kagura is the ancient Shinto ritual dance of shamanic origin. The word “kagura” is thought to be a contracted
form of kami no kura or “seat of the kami” or the “site where the kami is received.” There is a mythological tale of how kagura
dance came into existence. The sun goddess Amaterasu became very upset
at her brother so she hid in a cave. All of the other gods and goddesses were concerned
and wanted her to come outside. Ame-no-uzeme began to dance and create a noisy
commotion in order to entice Amaterasu to come out. The kami (gods) tricked Amaterasu by telling
her there was a better sun goddess in the heavens. Amaterasu came out and light returned to the
universe. Music plays a very important role in the kagura
performance. Everything from the setup of the instruments
to the most subtle sounds and the arrangement of the music is crucial to encouraging the
kami to come down and dance. The songs are used as magical devices to summon
the gods and as prayers for blessings. Rhythm patterns of five and seven are common,
possibly relating to the Shinto belief of the twelve generations of heavenly and earthly
deities. There is also vocal accompaniment called kami
uta in which the drummer sings sacred songs to the gods. Often the vocal accompaniment is overshadowed
by the drumming and instruments, reinforcing that the vocal aspect of the music is more
for incantation rather than aesthetics. In both ancient Japanese collections, the
Nihongi and Kojiki, Ame-no-uzeme’s dance is described as asobi, which in old Japanese
language means a ceremony that is designed to appease the spirits of the departed, and
which was conducted at funeral ceremonies. Therefore, kagura is a rite of tama shizume,
of pacifying the spirits of the departed. In the Heian period (8th–12th centuries)
this was one of the important rites at the Imperial Court and had found its fixed place
in the tama shizume festival in the eleventh month. At this festival people sing as accompaniment
to the dance: “Depart! Depart! Be cleansed and go! Be purified and leave!” This rite of purification is also known as
chinkon. It was used for securing and strengthening
the soul of a dying person. It was closely related to the ritual of tama
furi (shaking the spirit), to call back the departed soul of the dead or to energize a
weakened spirit. Spirit pacification and rejuvenation were
usually achieved by songs and dances, also called asobi. The ritual of chinkon continued to be performed
on the emperors of Japan, thought to be descendents of Amaterasu. It is possible that this ritual is connected
with the ritual to revive the sun goddess during the low point of the winter solstice. There is a division between the kagura that
is performed at the Imperial palace and the shrines related to it, and the kagura that
is performed in the countryside. Folk kagura, or kagura from the countryside
is divided according to region. The following descriptions relate to sato
kagura, kagura that is from the countryside. The main types are: miko kagura, Ise kagura,
Izumo kagura, and shishi kagura. Miko kagura is the oldest type of kagura and
is danced by women in Shinto shrines and during folk festivals. The ancient miko were shamanesses, but are
now considered priestesses in the service of the Shinto Shrines. Miko kagura originally was a shamanic trance
dance, but later, it became an art and was interpreted as a prayer dance. It is performed in many of the larger Shinto
shrines and is characterized by slow, elegant, circular movements, by emphasis on the four
directions and by the central use of torimono (objects dancers carry in their hands), especially
the fan and bells. Ise kagura is a collective name for rituals
that are based upon the yudate (boiling water rites of Shugendō origin) ritual. It includes miko dances as well as dancing
of the torimono type. The kami are believed to be present in the
pot of boiling water, so the dancers dip their torimono in the water and sprinkle it in the
four directions and on the observers for purification and blessing. Izumo kagura is centered in the Sada shrine
of Izumo, Shimane prefecture. It has two types: torimono ma, unmasked dances
that include held objects, and shinno (sacred No), dramatic masked dances based on myths. Izumo kagura appears to be the most popular
type of kagura. Shishi kagura also known as the Shugen-No
tradition, uses the dance of a shishi (lion or mountain animal) mask as the image and
presence of the deity. It includes the Ise daikagura group and the
yamabushi kagura and bangaku groups of the Tohoku area (Northeastern Japan). Ise daikagura employs a large red Chinese
type of lion head which can move its ears. The lion head of the yamabushi kagura schools
is black and can click its teeth. Unlike other kagura types in which the kami
appear only temporarily, during the shishi kagura the kami is constantly present in the
shishi head mask. During the Edo period, the lion dances became
showy and acrobatic losing its touch with spirituality. However, the yamabushi kagura tradition has
retained its ritualistic and religious nature. Originally, the practice of kagura involved
authentic possession by the kami invoked. In modern day Japan it appears to be difficult
to find authentic ritual possession, called kamigakari, in kagura dance. However, it is common to see choreographed
possession in the dances. Actual possession is not taking place but
elements of possession such as losing control and high jumps are applied in the dance. History
Historical records There is no core sacred text in Shinto, as
the Bible is in Christianity or Qur’an is in Islam. Instead there are books of lore and history
which provide stories and background to many Shinto beliefs. The Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters) The
foundation to written Shinto history. The Shoku Nihongi and its Nihon Shoki (Continuing
Chronicles of Japan) The Rikkokushi (Six National Histories) which
includes the Shoku Nihongi and Nihon Shoki The Jinnō Shōtōki (a study of Shinto and
Japanese politics and history) written in the 14th century
Origins Shinto has very ancient roots in the Japanese
islands. The recorded history dates to the Kojiki (712)
and Nihon Shoki (720), but archeological records date back significantly further. Both are compilations of prior oral traditions. The Kojiki establishes the Japanese imperial
family as the foundation of Japanese culture, being the descendants of Amaterasu Omikami. There is also a creation myth and a genealogy
of the gods. The Nihonshoki was more interested in creating
a structural system of government, foreign policy, religious hierarchy, and domestic
social order. There is an internal system of historical
Shinto development that configures the relationships between Shinto and other religious practices
over its long history; the inside and outside Kami (spirits). The inside or ujigami (uji meaning clan) Kami
roles that supports cohesion and continuation of established roles and patterns; and the
hitogami or outside Kami, bringing innovation, new beliefs, new messages, and some instability. Jomon peoples of Japan used natural housing,
predated rice farming, and frequently were hunter-gatherers, the physical evidence for
ritual practices are difficult to document. There are many locations of stone ritual structures,
refined burial practices and early Torii that lend to the continuity of primal Shinto. The Jomon had a clan-based tribal system developed
similar to much of the worlds indigenous people. In the context of this clan based system,
local beliefs developed naturally and when assimilation between clans occurred, they
also took on some beliefs of the neighboring tribes. At some point there was a recognition that
the ancestors created the current generations and the reverence of ancestors (tama) took
shape. There was some trade amongst the indigenous
peoples within Japanese islands and the mainland, as well as some varying migrations. The trade and interchange of people helped
the growth and complexity of the peoples spirituality by exposure to new beliefs. The natural spirituality of the people appeared
to be based on the worship of nature forces or mono, and the natural elements to which
they all depended. The gradual introduction of methodical religious
and government organizations from mainland Asia starting around 300 BCE seeded the reactive
changes in primal Shinto over the next 700 years to a more formalized system. These changes were directed internally by
the various clans frequently as a syncratic cultural event to outside influences. Eventually as the Yamato gained power a formalization
process began. The genesis of the Imperial household and
subsequent creation of the Kojiki helped facilitate the continuity needed for this long term development
through modern history. There is today a balance between outside influences
of Buddhist, Confucian, Taoist, Abrahamic, Hindu and secular beliefs. In more modern times Shinto has developed
new branches and forms on a regular basis, including leaving Japan. Jomon Period
By the end of the Jōmon period, a dramatic shift had taken place according to archaeological
studies. New arrivals from the continent seem to have
invaded Japan from the West, bringing with them new technologies such as rice farming
and metallurgy. The settlements of the new arrivals seem to
have coexisted with those of the Jōmon for some time. Under these influences, the incipient cultivation
of the Jōmon evolved into sophisticated rice-paddy farming and government control. Many other elements of Japanese culture also
may date from this period and reflect a mingled migration from the northern Asian continent
and the southern Pacific areas. Among these elements are Shinto mythology,
marriage customs, architectural styles, and technological developments such as lacquerware,
textiles, laminated bows, metalworking, and glass making. The Jōmon is succeeded by the Yayoi period. Yayoi Period
Japanese culture begins to develop in no small part due to influences from mainland trade
and immigration from China. During this time in the pre-writing historical
period, objects from the mainland start appearing in large amounts, specifically mirrors, swords,
and jewels. All three of these have a direct connection
to the imperial divine status as they are the symbols of imperial divinity and are Shinto
honorary objects. Also the rice culture begins to blossom throughout
Japan and this leads to the settlement of society, and seasonal reliance of crops. Both of these changes are highly influential
on the Japanese people’s relationship to the natural world, and likely development of a
more complex system of religion. This is also the period that is referenced
as the beginning of the divine imperial family. The Yayoi culture was a clan based culture
that lived in compounds with a defined leader who was the chief and head priest. They were responsible for the relationship
with their “gods” Kami and if one clan conquered another, their “god” would be assimilated. The earliest records of Japanese culture were
written by Chinese traders who described this land as “Wa”. This time period led to the creation of the
Yamato culture and development of formal Shinto practices. The development of niiname or the (now) Shinto
harvest festival is attributed to this period as offerings for good harvests of similar
format (typically rice) become common. Kofun Period
The great bells and drums, Kofun burial mounds, and the founding of the imperial family are
important to this period. This is the period of the development of the
feudal state, and the Yamato and Izumo cultures. Both of these dominant cultures have a large
and central shrine which still exists today, Ise Shrine in the South West and Izumo Taisha
in the North East. This time period is defined by the increase
of central power in Naniwa, now Osaka, of the feudal lord system. Also there was an increasing influence of
Chinese culture which profoundly changed the practices of government structure, social
structure, burial practices, and warfare. The Japanese also held close alliance and
trade with the Gaya confederacy which was in the south of the peninsula. The Paekche in the Three Kingdoms of Korea
had political alliances with Yamato, and in the 5th century imported the Chinese writing
system to record Japanese names and events for trade and political records. In 513 they sent a Confucian scholar to the
court to assist in the teachings of Confucian thought. In 552 or 538 a Buddha image was given to
the Yamato leader which profoundly changed the course of Japanese religious history,
especially in relation to the undeveloped native religious conglomeration that was Shinto. In the latter 6th century, there was a breakdown
of the alliances between Japan and Paekche but the influence led to the codification
of Shinto as the native religion in opposition to the extreme outside influences of the mainland. Up to this time Shinto had been largely a
clan (‘uji’) based religious practice, exclusive to each clan. Asuka Period
The Theory of Five Elements in Yin and Yang philosophy of Taoism and the esoteric Buddhism
had a profound impact on the development of a unified system of Shinto beliefs. In the early Nara period, the Kojiki and the
Nihon Shoki were written by compiling existing myths and legends into a unified account of
Japanese mythology. These accounts were written with two purposes
in mind: the introduction of Taoist, Confucian, and Buddhist themes into Japanese religion;
and garnering support for the legitimacy of the Imperial house, based on its lineage from
the sun goddess, Amaterasu. Much of modern Japan was under only fragmentary
control by the Imperial family, and rival ethnic groups. The mythological anthologies, along with other
poetry anthologies like the Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves (Man’yōshū) and others,
were intended to impress others with the worthiness of the Imperial family and their divine mandate
to rule. In particular the Asuka rulers of 552–645
saw disputes between the more major families of the clan Shinto families. There were disputes about who would ascend
to power and support the imperial family between the Soga and Mononobe/Nakatomi Shinto families. The Soga family eventually prevailed and supported
Empress Suiko and Prince Shotoku, who helped impress Buddhist faith into Japan. However, it was not until the Hakuho ruling
period of 645–710 was Shinto installed at the imperial faith along with the Fujiwara
Clan and reforms that followed. Hakuho Period
Beginning with Emperor Temmu (672–686), continuing through Empress Jito (686–697)
and Emperor Mommu (697–707) Court Shinto rites are strengthened and made parallel to
Buddhist beliefs in court life. Prior to this time clan Shinto had dominated
and a codification of “Imperial Shinto” did not exist as such. The Nakatomi family are made the chief court
Shinto chaplains and chief priests at Ise Daijingu which held until 1892. Also the practice of sending imperial princesses
to the Ise shrine begins. This marks the rise of Ise Daijingu as the
main imperial shrine historically. Due to increasing influence from Buddhism
and mainland Asian thought, codification of the “Japanese” way of religion and laws begins
in earnest. This culminates in three major outcomes: Taiho
Code (701 but started earlier), The Kojiki (712),and The Nihon Shoki (720). The Taiho Code also called Ritsuryō (律令?)
was an attempt to create a bulwark to dynamic external influences and stabilize the society
through imperial power. It was a liturgy of rules and codifications,
primarily focused on regulation of religion, government structure, land codes, criminal
and civil law. All priests, monks, and nuns were required
to be registered, as were temples. The Shinto rites of the imperial line were
codified, especially seasonal cycles, lunar calendar rituals, harvest festivals, and purification
rites. The creation of the imperial Jingi-kan or
Shinto Shrine office was completed. Nara Period
This period hosted many changes to the country, government, and religion. The capital is moved again to Heijō-kyō,
or Nara, in AD 710 by Empress Gemmei due to the death of the Emperor. This practice was necessary due to the Shinto
belief in the impurity of death and the need to avoid this pollution. However, this practice of moving the capital
due to “death impurity” is then abolished by the Taihō Code and rise in Buddhist influence. The establishment of the imperial city in
partnership with Taihō Code is important to Shinto as the office of the Shinto rites
becomes more powerful in assimilating local clan shrines into the imperial fold. New shrines are built and assimilated each
time the city is moved. All of the grand shrines are regulated under
Taihō and are required to account for incomes, priests, and practices due to their national
contributions. During this time, Buddhism becomes structurally
established within Japan by Emperor Shōmu (reign 724–749), and several large building
projects are undertaken. The Emperor lays out plans for the Buddha
Dainichi (Great Sun Buddha), at Tōdai-ji assisted by the Priest Gyogi (or Gyoki) Bosatsu. The priest Gyogi went to Ise Daijingu Shrine
for blessings to build the Buddha Dainichi. They identified the statue of Viarocana with
Amatarasu (the sun goddess) as the manifestation of the supreme expression of universality. The priest Gyogi is known for his belief in
assimilation of Shinto Kami and Buddhas. Shinto kami are commonly being seen by Buddhist
clergy as guardians of manifestation, guardians, or pupils of Buddhas and bodhisattvas. The priest Gyogi conferred boddhisattva precepts
on the Emperor in 749 effectively making the Imperial line the head of state and divine
to Shinto while beholden to Buddhism. Syncretism with Buddhism
With the introduction of Buddhism and its rapid adoption by the court in the 6th century,
it was necessary to explain the apparent differences between native Japanese beliefs and Buddhist
teachings. One Buddhist explanation saw the kami as supernatural
beings still caught in the cycle of birth and rebirth (reincarnation). The kami are born, live, die, and are reborn
like all other beings in the karmic cycle. However, the kami played a special role in
protecting Buddhism and allowing its teachings of compassion to flourish. This explanation was later challenged by Kūkai
(空海, 774–835), who saw the kami as different embodiments of the Buddhas themselves (honji
suijaku theory). For example, he linked Amaterasu (the sun
goddess and ancestor of the Imperial family) with Dainichi Nyorai, a central manifestation
of the Buddhists, whose name means literally “Great Sun Buddha”. In his view, the kami were just Buddhas by
another name. Kokugaku
Buddhism and Shinto coexisted and were amalgamated in the shinbutsu shūgō and Kūkai’s syncretic
view held wide sway up until the end of the Edo period. There was no theological study that could
be called “Shinto” during medieval and early modern Japanese history, and a mixture of
Buddhist and popular beliefs proliferated. At that time, there was a renewed interest
in “Japanese studies” (kokugaku), perhaps as a result of the closed country policy. In the 18th century, various Japanese scholars,
in particular Motoori Norinaga (本居 宣長, 1730–1801), tried to tear apart the “real”
Shinto from various foreign influences. The attempt was largely unsuccessful, since
as early as the Nihon Shoki parts of the mythology were explicitly borrowed from Taoism doctrines. For example, the co-creator deities Izanami
and Izanagi are explicitly compared to yin and yang. However, the attempt did set the stage for
the arrival of state Shinto, following the Meiji Restoration (c.1868), when Shinto and
Buddhism were separated (shinbutsu bunri). State Shinto
Fridell argues that scholars call the period 1868-1945 the “State Shinto period” because,
“during these decades, Shinto elements came under a great deal of overt state influence
and control as the Japanese government systematically utilized shrine worship as a major force for
mobilizing imperial loyalties on behalf of modern nation-building.” However, the government had already been treating
shrines as an extension of government before Meiji; see for example the Tenpō Reforms. The Meiji Restoration reasserted the importance
of the emperor and the ancient chronicles to establish the Empire of Japan, and in 1868
the government attempted to recreate the ancient imperial Shinto by separating shrines from
the temples that housed them. During this period, numerous scholars of kokugaku
believed that this national Shinto could be the unifying agent of the country around the
Emperor while the process of modernization was undertaken with all possible speed. The psychological shock of the Western “Black
Ships” and the subsequent collapse of the shogunate convinced many that the nation needed
to unify in order to resist being colonized by outside forces. In 1871, a Ministry of Rites was formed and
Shinto shrines were divided into twelve levels with the Ise Shrine (dedicated to Amaterasu,
and thus symbolic of the legitimacy of the Imperial family) at the peak and small sanctuaries
of humble towns at the base. The following year, the ministry was replaced
with a new Ministry of Religion, charged with leading instruction in “shushin” (moral courses). Priests were officially nominated and organized
by the state, and they instructed the youth in a form of Shinto theology based on the
official dogma of the divinity of Japan’s national origins and its Emperor. However, this propaganda did not take, and
the unpopular Ministry of Rites was dissolved in the mid-1870s. Although the government sponsorship of shrines
declined, Japanese nationalism remained closely linked to the legends of foundation and emperors,
as developed by the kokugaku scholars. In 1890, the Imperial Rescript on Education
was issued, and students were required to ritually recite its oath to “offer yourselves
courageously to the State” as well as to protect the Imperial family. Such processes continued to deepen throughout
the early Shōwa period, coming to an abrupt end in August 1945 when Japan lost the war
in the Pacific. On 1 January 1946, Emperor Shōwa issued the
Ningen-sengen, in which he quoted the Five Charter Oath of Emperor Meiji and declared
that he was not an akitsumikami. Post-war
The imperial era came to an abrupt close with the end of World War II, when Americans declared
that Japanese nationalism had been informed by something called “State Shinto”, which
they attempted to define with the Shinto Directive. The meaning of “State Shinto” has been a matter
of debate ever since. In the post-war period, numerous “New Religions”
cropped up, many of them ostensibly based on Shinto, but on the whole, Japanese religiosity
may have decreased. However, the concept of religion in Japan
is a complex one. A survey conducted in the mid-1970s indicated
that of those participants who claimed not to believe in religion, one-third had a Buddhist
or Shinto altar in their home, and about one quarter carried an omamori (an amulet to gain
protection by kami) on their person. Following the war, Shinto shrines tended to
focus on helping ordinary people gain better fortunes for themselves through maintaining
good relations with their ancestors and other kami. The number of Japanese citizens identifying
their religious beliefs as Shinto has declined a great deal, yet the general practice of
Shinto rituals has not decreased in proportion, and many practices have persisted as general
cultural beliefs (such as ancestor worship), and community festivals (matsuri)—focusing
more on religious practices. The explanation generally given for this anomaly
is that, following the demise of State Shinto, modern Shinto has reverted to its more traditional
position as a traditional religion which is culturally ingrained, rather than enforced. In any case, Shinto and its values continue
to be a fundamental component of the Japanese cultural mindset. Shinto has also spread abroad to a limited
extent, and a few non-Japanese Shinto priests have been ordained. A relatively small number of people practice
Shinto in America. There are several Shinto shrines in America. Shrines were also established in Taiwan and
Korea of those areas in Empire of Japan times, but following the war, they were either destroyed
or converted into some other use. New sects
Within Shinto, there are a variety of new sects outside Shrine Shinto and the officially
defunct State Shinto. Sect Shinto, like Tenrikyo and Konkokyo, have
a unique dogma or leader, with some exhibiting the influence of Messianic Christianity and
cult of personality, in the 19th and 20th century, particularly the “New Religions”
like (Shinshūkyō) that proliferated in the post-war era.

2 comments on “Shinto

  1. Please Japan revive your shintoism get help from Advaita vedanta and Sanatan dharma get back to your Roots be Gods on earth & guide world how to be in nature in the spirits of Gods and Goddess. middle east was in dark ages because of Abrahamic religions whilst east was in Golden Age 

  2. I'm sure the text is interesting but I'd rather kill myself than listening to a robot voice for 52 minutes…

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