Shinto religion of Japan is considered, along with Buddhism
as the official religion of Japan.
Over 80% of the population of Japan is either
Buddhist or Shintoist.
It is interesting to note that while most weddings
are performed by Shinto priests most funerals are conducted
by Buddhist priests!
believe that Shinto was the earliest Japanese religion. Experts do not have much information about the beginning of
the Shinto traditions, but we do know that Shintoism started
around the middle of the first millennium BC.
As the Yamato dynasty consolidated its rule over
Japan around the 6th century AD, the adoption of
the Shinto religion seems to have accelerated. The
name, "Shinto" means "The Way of the
Gods" in Chinese - 'shin tao'.
Shinto religion is unusual when compared to other ancient
spiritual traditions in several key aspects.
For one thing, the Shinto religion is not based on
any body of religious law.
Most religions can trace their concepts back to one
or more ancient texts that define what laws are to be
followed, at the very least.
Some religions, for example Buddhism have centuries
of writings that are rich in philosophy and interpretation
of the original teachings of the founder.
experts have described the Shinto religion as "an
amorphous mix of nature worship, fertility cults, divination
techniques, hero worship, and shamanism."
The closest thing that Shintoists have to a code is
the Chinese doctrine of Confucianism.
The Shinto religion also does not have a strong
tradition of training leaders to administer the religion.
There is a Shinto priesthood, but the organization
does not involve the complex system of training and
hierarchy that you would find in Buddhism, for example.
the time in history when the Shinto religion gained
popularity in Japan, the Japanese Imperial family was looked
upon as the origin of anything divine.
The Yamato dynasty ruled Japan at the time.
However, despite the association of the Imperial
family with the divine, the Shinto religion does not have an
identifiable founder also unusual for ancient religions.
One interesting fact to note is that this association
of the Imperial family with the divine continued in Japan
until the end of World War II.
The Japanese emperor was required to give up his
divine status as part of the treaty with the United States
belief revolves around "Kami" or deities. Kami can be related to natural forces, elements or animals.
The term Kami can also be applied to abstract
Kami can be applied to highly skilled or good, compassionate
the Imperial family was still considered divine, the Emperor
had this designation. There are "Four Affirmations" in Shinto that
revolve around the family, love of nature, physical
cleanliness and ancestral worship called "matsuri"
in Japanese. These
are considered the most important elements of a personís
places, such as mountains or rivers are recognized as
shrines, and followers of the Shinto religion are expected
to visit certain shrines to mark important life events, such
as reaching a certain age or stage of life.
Shrines are dedicated to a specific Kami.
This is similar to the Hindu religion where there are
many gods and goddesses and worshippers follow and pray to
those with whom they feel the most affinity.
are respected as messengers of gods.
If you visit a Shinto temple, you will find a pair of
'Koma-inu' or guardian dog statues at the entrance.
The Shinto religion also involves are seasonal
celebrations and has close ties of Shinto practice to
final note on the Shinto religion is that one characteristic
of this set of traditions is that the beliefs are firmly
rooted in optimism. That is a good basis for any set of spiritual practices!