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Ise Jingu - Honden at Naiku, the apex of Japanese Shinto Shrines
Shinto
Shinto
This article is part of a series on Shinto
Practices and Beliefs
Kami · Ritual purity · Polytheism · Animism · Japanese festivals · Mythology · Shinto shrines
Notable Kami
Amaterasu Omikami · Sarutahiko Okami · Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto · Inari Okami · Izanagi-no-Mikoto · Izanami-no-Mikoto · Susanoo-no-Mikoto · Tsukuyomi-no-Mikoto
Important Literature
Kojiki · Nihon Shoki · Fudoki · Rikkokushi · Shoku Nihongi · Jinnō Shōtōki · Kujiki
See also
Japan · Religion in Japan · Glossary of Shinto · List of Shinto divinities · List of Shinto shrines · Sacred objects · Japanese Buddhism · Mythical creatures

Shinto Portal
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Shinto (神道 Shintō?) or kami-no-michi is the natural spirituality of Japan and the Japanese people. The word Shinto ("Way of the Gods") was adopted from the written Chinese (神道),[1] combining two kanji: "shin" (?), meaning gods or spirits (originally from the Chinese word shen); and "" (?), or "do" meaning a philosophical path or study (originally from the Chinese word tao). [1][2]

Shinto incorporates spiritual practices derived from many local and regional prehistoric traditions, but did not emerge as a formal centralized religious institution until the arrival of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism, beginning in the 6th century.[3] Buddhism gradually adapted in Japan to the native spirituality. (See article on "syncretism".)

Shinto practices were first recorded and codified in the written historical records of the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki in the 7th and 8th century. Still, these earliest Japanese writings do not refer to a unified "Shinto religion", but practices associated with harvests and other seasonal clan events, along with a uniquely Japanese cosmogony and mythology, combining spiritual traditions of the ascendant clans of early Japan, mainly the Yamato and Izumo cultures.[2]

Shinto is a religion in which practice (actions) and ritual, rather than words, are of the utmost importance. Shinto is characterized by the worship of nature, ancestors, polytheism, and animism, with a strong focus on ritual purity, involving honoring and celebrating the existence of Kami (?). Kami are defined in English as "spirit", "essence" or "deities", that are associated with many understood formats; in some cases being human like, some animistic, others associated with more abstract "natural" forces in the world (mountains, rivers, lightning, wind, waves, trees, rocks). It may be best thought of as "sacred" elements and energies. Kami and people are not separate; they exist within the same world and share its interrelated complexity.[2]

Modern Shinto does have a central theological authority but no singular Theocracy. Shinto today is an inclusive association of local, regional, and national shrines of various rank and historical significance. Practitioners express their various beliefs through similar language and practice, adopting a similar style in dress and ritual, dating from around the time of the Nara and Heian Periods. [2]

Shinto currently has about 119 million known adherents in Japan,[4] although a person who practices any manner of Shinto rituals may be so counted. It is generally accepted that the vast majority of Japanese people take part in Shinto rituals, while most would also practice Buddhist ancestor worship. However, unlike many monotheistic religious practices, Shinto and Buddhism typically do not require professing faith to be a believer or a practitioner, and as such it is difficult to query for exact figures based on self-identification of belief within Japan. Due to the syncretic nature of Shinto and Buddhism, most "life" events are handled by Shinto and "death" or "afterlife" events are handled by Buddhism—for example, it is typical in Japan to register or celebrate a birth at a Shinto shrine, while funeral arrangements are generally dictated by Buddhist tradition—although the division is not exclusive.

Shinto has shrines in many other countries, including the United States, Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the Netherlands among others and is considered to be expanding to a global religion especially with the advent of international branches of Shinto shrines.

Contents

Creation narrative

Izanami-no-Mikoto and Izanagi-no-Mikoto Kobayashi rendition of the creation

The creation story of Japan is written in the Kojiki in 712; it is a depiction of the events leading up to and including the creation of the Japanese Islands. There are many translations of the story with variations of complexity.

  • 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, stirred the water and when removed water dripped from the end, created an island in the great nothingness.
  • They lived on this island, and created a palace and within was a 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 2 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 8 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.

The Japanese islands are to be considered a paradise as they were directly created by the gods for the Japanese people, and were ordained by the higher spirits to be created into the Japanese empire. Shinto is the fundamental connection between the power and beauty of nature (the land) and the Japanese people. It is the manifestation of a path to understanding the institution of divine power.

Kami

Shinto teaches that everything contains a kami ( "spiritual essence"?, commonly translated as god or spirit). Shinto's spirits 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 phoenetic variation kamu and a similar word among Ainu kamui. There is an analog "mi-koto".[5]

Kami are a difficult concept to translate as there is no direct similar construct in English. Kami is generally accepted to describe the innate supernatural force that is above the actions of man, the realm of the sacred, and is inclusive of gods, spirit figures, and human ancestors. All mythological creatures of the Japanese cultural tradition, of the Buddhistic tradition, Christian God, Hindu gods, Islamic Allah, various angels and demons of all faiths among others are considered Kami for the purpose of Shinto faith.

The kami reside in all things, but certain places are designated for the interface of people and kami (the common world and the sacred): sacred nature, 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 edifices. In most cases they are on or near a shrine grounds. The shrine is a building built in which to house the kami, with a separation from the "ordinary" world through sacred space with defined features based on the age and lineage of the shrine. The kamidana is a home shrine (placed on a wall in the home) that is a "kami residence" 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 that the kami spirit actually dwells, being treated with the utmost respect and deference.

Types of Shinto

To distinguish between these different focuses of emphasis within Shinto, many feel it is important to separate Shinto into different types of Shinto expression.

  • Shrine Shinto (神社神道 jinja-shintō?) is the most prevalent of the Shinto types. It has always been a part of Japan's history and constitutes the main current of Shinto tradition. Shrine Shinto is associated in the popular imagination with summer festivals, good luck charms, making wishes, holding groundbreaking ceremonies, and showing support for the nation of Japan. Before the Meiji Restoration, shrines were disorganized institutions usually attached to Buddhist temples, but they were claimed by the government during the imperial period for patriotic use and systematized. The successor to the imperial organization, the Association of Shinto Shrines, oversees about 80,000 shrines nationwide.
  • Imperial Shinto (Kyūchū-shintō) is 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).[1]
  • 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 Taoism, Buddhism, or Confucianism, but most come from ancient local traditions.
  • Sect Shinto (宗派神道 shūha-shintō?) is a legal designation originally created in the 1890s to separate government-owned shrines from local religious practices. They do not have shrines, but conduct religious activities in meeting halls. Shinto sects include the mountain-worship sects, who focus on worshipping mountains like Mount Fuji, faith-healing sects, purification sects, Confucian sects, and Revival Shinto sects. The remainder of Sectarian Shinto is New Sect Shinto. The current groups of Sect Shinto are Kurozumikyo, Shinto Shuseiha, Izumo Oyashirokyo, Fusokyo, Jikkokyo, Shinshukyo, Shinto Taiseikyo, Ontakekyo, Shinto Taikyo, Misogikyo, Shinrikyo and Konkokyo. An association of Sect Shintoists also exists.[6]
  • Koshintō (古神道 ko-shintō?), literally "Old Shinto", is a reconstructed "Shinto from before the time of Buddhism", today based on Ainu and Ryukyuan practices. It continues the Restoration movement begun by Hirata Atsutane.

All these main types of Shinto and some subtypes have given birth to many and diverse schools and sects since medieval times to the present days. A list of the most relevant can be found at the article Shinto sects and schools.

Shrines

Shinto Shrines of Japan
Ise Grand Shrine — Kugaraden, the apex of the 80000 Shinto Shrines
Izumo Taisha - haiden and Honden, one of the oldest shrines in Japan
Tsubaki Grand Shrine — Haiden, one of the oldest shrines in Japan
Fushimi Inari — Main Gate, one of the oldest shrines in Japan
Isonokami — Haiden, a historically siginificant Imperial National Treasure

The principal worship of kami is done at public shrines or worship at small home shrines called kamidana. 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 (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' or public hall of worship, heiden or hall of offerings and the honden. 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 paritioners 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. The more well known shrines may have festivals that attract hundreds of thousands, especially the New Years season.

Well-known shrines

Of the 80,000 Shinto shrines:

Beliefs

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, not because impurity is wrong in and of itself. Wrong deeds are called "impurity" (穢れ kegare?), opposed to "purity" (清め kiyome?). Normal days are called "day" (ke), and festive days are called "sunny" or simply "good" (hare).[7] Killing living beings should be done with reverence for taking a life to continue one's own and should be kept to a minimum.

Modern Japanese continue to place great emphasis on the importance of ritual phrases and greetings (挨拶 aisatsu?). Before eating, many (though not all) Japanese say, "I will humbly receive" (戴きます itadakimasu?), to show proper thankfulness to the preparer of the meal in particular and more generally to all those living things that lost their lives to make the meal. Failure to show proper respect can be seen as a lack of concern for others, looked down on because it is believed to create problems for all. Those who fail to take into account the feelings of other people and kami will only bring ruin on themselves.

The worst expression of such an attitude is the taking of another's life for personal advancement or enjoyment. Those killed without being shown gratitude for their sacrifice will hold a grudge (怨み urami?) and become a powerful and evil kami that seeks revenge (aragami). This same emphasis on the need for cooperation and collaboration can be seen throughout Japanese culture today. Additionally, if anyone is injured on the grounds of a shrine, the area affected must be ritually purified.

Haraegushi(祓串) for purification

Purification — Harai or Oharai

Purification rites are a vital part of Shinto. They are done on a daily, weekly, seasonal, lunar, and annual basis. In many ways these purification 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, almost every Japanese factory or international business built outside Japan has had a groundbreaking ceremony performed by a Shinto priest, with occasionally an annual visitation by the priest to re-purify.

Afterlife

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. However, 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. Those children who die before addition to the list, including miscarried or aborted children, are called "water children" (水子 mizuko?), and are believed to cause troubles and plagues. Mizuko are often worshipped in a Shinto shrine dedicated to stilling their anger and sadness, called mizuko kuyō (水子供養).

Because Shinto has co-existed with Buddhism for well over a millennium, it is very difficult to untangle Shinto and Buddhist beliefs about the world. Though Buddhism and Shinto have very different perspectives on the world, most Japanese do not see any challenge in reconciling these two very different religions, and practice both. Thus it is common for people to practice Shinto in life yet have a Buddhist funeral. Their different perspectives on the afterlife are seen as complementing each other, and frequently the ritual practice of one will have an origin in the other.

Practices

Omairi — Visiting a Shrine

Temizu Basin - Isukushima Jinja

Any person may visit a shrine and one need not be "Shinto" to do this.

Typically there are a few basic steps to visiting a shrine.

  • Approach the entrance and bow respectfully before entering.
  • If there is a hand washing basin provided, perform Temizu; wash your left hand first, then your right, then rinse your mouth, (do not spit back into the water supply or drink), and sometimes your feet as well if needed. Tip the ladle backwards to wash the ladle handle with the remaining water and place opening down on the rack where you found it.
  • Approach the shrine; if there is a bell, you may ring the bell prior to prayers; if there is a box for donations, leave a modest one in relation to your means; normally there will be a sequence of bows, (commonly 2) and then claps (commonly 2), hold the second and put your hands 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.

Harai (or Harae)

The rite of ritual purification, usually done daily at a shrine and is an 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.

Harae — Offerings to Kami
Tamagushi Offering at Hachman Jinja
Shinsen Offerings at Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America
Mochi Shinsen offerend at Meiji Jingu
Sake Offerings at Itsukushima Jinja
Tamagushi and Shinsen offered at Katori-jingu

Misogi Harai — Water Purification

Also known as: Misogi Shūhō 禊修法

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 themselves by standing beneath a waterfall or performing ritual ablutions in a river or other running water. 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, that is, the taboo placed on certain persons or acts. To illustrate, one would not visit a shrine if a close relative in the household had died recently. Killing in general is considered unclean and to be generally avoided. When one is performing acts that harm the land or other living things, prayers and rituals are performed to help placate the Kami of the area. This type of cleanliness is usually performed proactively so as to prevent ill outcomes.

Amulets and protective items

A woman tying her fortune (omikuji) at Kasuga Shrine

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.[8]

Ofuda are a talisman issued by a Shinto shrine, made of paper, wood, or metal, inscribed with the name of a kami and used for protection in the home. The are typically placed in the home at a kamidana. They are also renewed annually.[8]

Omamori are personal protection amulets, issued by a shrine and sold to individuals with a specific intent in mind. Frequently for warding off bad luck and for better health, more recently there are also ones for good driving, good business, and school success. Their history lies with Buddhist practices of selling amulets.[8]

Omikuji are a paper lot on which a personal fortune is written.[8]

Daruma a round paper doll depicting the Indian monk Bodi-dharma. A wish for success is made and one eye is painted on, when the goal is accomplished, the other eye is added. This is a Buddhist practice but very frequently you will also find them at Shrines as well. These dolls are very common. [8]

Less popular protective items include: Dorei are earthenware bells used to pray for good fortune, frequently in the shape of the animal representative of the astrological calendar.[8] Hamaya a symbolic arrow for the fight against evil and bad luck.[8] Inuhariko a paper doll of a dog used to bless and provide a good birth.[8]

Amulets and Protection
Kamidana (home shrine) with kagamimochi and Ofuda
Daruma of various sizes
Hamaya at Ikuta Shrine
Various Omamori from Shrines in Japan and Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America
Ema dedicated at Sewa Jinja

Kagura

Kagura traditional dance, Katori Jingu, Katori City

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."[9] 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.[10]

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!”[11] 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.[12]

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.[13]

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.[14]

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.[14]

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.[14]

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)
  • 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) historical records, but archeological records date back significantly further than this. Both are compilations of existing mythology and oral tradition. The Kojiki establishes the Imperial family as the foundation of Japanese culture, being the descendants of Amaterasu Omikami. There is also a geanology of the creation and appearance of the gods in accordance with a creation myth. 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 amnd 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 that although has had conflicts, today appears very natural and inexclusive. In more modern times Shinto has developed new branches and forms on a regular basis, including leaving Japan and becoming a global religion.

Shinto and 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 famously 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.

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. 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 Chinese doctrines. For example, the co-creator deities Izanami and Izanagi are explicitly compared to the Chinese concepts of 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

Following the Meiji Restoration, Shinto was made the state religion of the Empire of Japan, and in 1868 its combination with Buddhism was outlawed, in an attempt to purify Shinto by abolishing many Buddhist and Confucian ideals. During this period, numerous scholars of kokugaku believed that State 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 Divinities 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). This was a major reversal from the Edo period, in which families were registered with Buddhist temples, rather than Shinto shrines. 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.

As time went on, Shinto was increasingly used in the advertising of nationalist popular sentiments. 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. The practice of Emperor worship was further spread by distributing imperial portraits for esoteric veneration. All of these practices were used to fortify national solidarity through patriotic observance at shrines. This use of Shinto gave Japanese patriotism a special tint of mysticism and cultural introversion, which became more pronounced as time went on.

Such processes continued to deepen throughout the early Shōwa period, when State Shinto became a main force of militarism, finally 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

As the era of State Shinto came to a close with the end of World War II, most Japanese came to believe that the hubris of Empire had led to their downfall. 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 has, for the most part, persisted with less importance placed on mythology or the divine mandate of the Imperial family. Instead, shrines tend to focus on helping ordinary people gain better fortunes for themselves through maintaining good relations with their ancestors and other kami. Shinto has largely reverted to its pre-imperial family state. Post-war, 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, which is still very popular), 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 primary 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, however, several Shinto shrines in America, which has a large number of people of Japanese descent. Outside the US, there are also Shinto shrines in Brazil, Canada and the Netherlands. Shrines were also established in Taiwan and Korea during the Japanese occupation of those areas, but following the war, they were either repurposed or destroyed.

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.

Historical chronology

Jomon Period (Late and Final 2000 BCE - 400 BCE)

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.[2]

Yayoi Period (400 BCE - 250)

Japanese culture begins to develop in no small part due to influences from mainland trade and immigration from north east 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 "Wu". This time period led to the creation of the Yamato culture and development of formal Shinto practices. [2]

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 (250-552)

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 Korean trade and culture which profoundly changed the practices of government structure, social structure, burial practices, and warfare. The Japanese also held land and sway in Korea as well.[citation needed] The Paekche kingdom in 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 Korea 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.[2]

Asuka Period (552-645)

The introductions of writing in the 5th century from China and Buddhism in the 6th century via Korea 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. [2]

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 the famous 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.[2]

Hakuho Period (645-710)

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.[2] This marks the rise of Ise Diajingu 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 The Nihon Shoki (720). [2]

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.[2]

Nara Period (710-794)

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.[2] 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. [2]

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.[2]

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.[2] 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. [15]

Cultural heritage

Shinto has been called "the religion of Japan", and the customs and values of Shinto are inseparable from those of Japanese culture. Many famously Japanese practices have origins either directly or indirectly rooted in Shinto. For example, it is clear that the Shinto ideal of harmony with nature underlies such typically Japanese arts as flower-arranging (生け花ikebana), traditional Japanese architecture, and garden design. A more explicit link to Shinto is seen in sumo wrestling, where, even in the modern version of the sport, many Shinto-inspired ceremonies must be performed before a bout, such as purifying the wrestling arena by sprinkling it with salt. The Japanese emphasis on proper greetings and respectful phrasings can be seen as a continuation of the ancient Shinto belief in kotodama (words with a magical effect on the world). A number of other Japanese religions have originated from or been influenced by Shinto. Also, much of Japanese pop culture, especially anime and manga, draws from Shinto for inspiration and stories (e.g. Spirited Away, Amatsuki, InuYasha, Higurashi no naku koro ni, Hell Girl, Kamichu!, and Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidens).

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c Sokyo, Ono (1962). Shinto: The Kami Way (1st ed.). Rutland, VT: Charles E Tuttle Co. pp. 2. ISBN 0-8048-1960-2. OCLC 40672426. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Richard Pilgrim, Robert Ellwood (1985 pages). Japanese Religion (1st ed.). Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall Inc. ISBN 0135092825. 
  3. ^ ">Bocking, Brian (1997). A Popular Dictionary of Shinto (1st ed.). Lincolnwood, Illinois: NTC Contemporary Publishing Company. pp. vii. ISBN 0-8442-0425-0. 
  4. ^ Library of Congress Country Studies
  5. ^ Hoffman, Michael, "In the land of the kami, Japan Times, March 14, 2010.
  6. ^ http://books.google.de/books?id=Q_K81HQFoyoC&pg=PA278&lpg=PA278&dq=%22New+Sect%22+Shinto&source=bl&ots=gKScrJ4QO_&sig=Fc474ZSVN7TwgA0Gnkzlqz0pp1s&hl=de&ei=eiNKS-uXM4Xc-QaEh9FL&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6&ved=0CBsQ6AEwBTgK#v=onepage&q=%22New%20Sect%22%20Shinto&f=false
  7. ^ Sugimoto, Yoshio (1997). An Introduction to Japanese Society. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press. pp. 230–231. ISBN 0521416922. OCLC 35008178. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Handy Bilingual Reference For Kami and Jinja. Tokyo: International Cultural Workshop Inc.. 2006. pp. 39–41. 
  9. ^ Kobayashi, Kazushige; Knecht, Peter, "On the Meaning of Masked Dances in Kagura", Asian Folklore Studies 40 (1): 1, 1981, p.3.
  10. ^ Averbuch, Irit, The Gods Come Dancing: A Study of the Japanese Ritual Dance of Yamabushi Kagura, Ithaca, NY: East Asia Program, Cornell University, 1995, pp.83-87.
  11. ^ Kobayashi, Kazushige; Knecht, Peter, "On the Meaning of Masked Dances in Kagura", Asian Folklore Studies 40 (1): 1, 1981, pp.4-5.
  12. ^ Averbuch, Irit, The Gods Come Dancing: A Study of the Japanese Ritual Dance of Yamabushi Kagura, Ithaca, NY: East Asia Program, Cornell University, 1995, p. 12.
  13. ^ Averbuch, Irit, The Gods Come Dancing: A Study of the Japanese Ritual Dance of Yamabushi Kagura, Ithaca, NY: East Asia Program, Cornell University, 1995, p. 15.
  14. ^ a b c Averbuch, Irit, The Gods Come Dancing: A Study of the Japanese Ritual Dance of Yamabushi Kagura, Ithaca, NY: East Asia Program, Cornell University, 1995, p. 16.
  15. ^ Yusen, Kashiwahara (1994 pages). The Shapers Of Japanese Buddhism (1st ed.). Tokyo, Japan: Kosei Publishing Co.. ISBN 4-333-01630-4. 

Further reading

  • Herbert, Jean (1967). Shinto The Fountainhead of Japan. New York: Stein and Day. 
  • D.B. Picken, Stuart (2002). Historical Dictionary of Shinto. Lanham, Maryland, and London: The Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-4016-2. 
  • John Breen and Mark Teeuwen, ed (2000). Shintō in History: Ways of the Kami. Honolulu, Hi: Hawaii University Press. ISBN 0-8248-2362-1. 
  • Littleton, C Scott (2002). Shinto: Origins, Rituals, Festivals, Spirits, Sacred Places. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-521886-8. OCLC 49664424. 
  • Bowker, John W (2002). The Cambridge Illustrated History of Religions. New York City: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 052181037X. OCLC 47297614. 
  • Yamakage, Motohisa (2007). The Essence of Shinto, Japan's Spiritual Heart. Tokyo, New York, London: Kodansha International. ISBN 4770030444. 
  • Ueda, Kenji (1999). "The Concept of Kami". in John Ross Carter (ed.). The Religious Heritage of Japan: Foundations for Cross-Cultural Understanding in a Religiously Plural World. Portland, OR: Book East. pp. 65–72. ISBN 0964704048. OCLC 44454607. 
  • Averbuch, Irit (1995). The Gods Come Dancing: A Study of the Japanese Ritual Dance of Yamabushi Kagura. Ithaca, NY: East Asia Program, Cornell University. ISBN 1-885445-67-9. OCLC 34612865. 
  • Averbuch, Irit (1998). "Shamanic Dance in Japan: The Choreography of Possession in Kagura Performance". Asian Folklore Studies 57 (2): 293. doi:10.2307/1178756. 
  • Kobayashi, Kazushige; Knecht, Peter (1981). "On the Meaning of Masked Dances in Kagura". Asian Folklore Studies 40 (1): 1. doi:10.2307/1178138. 
  • Kuroda, Toshio (1981). "Shinto in the History of Japanese Religion". Journal of Japanese Studies 7 (1). http://www.jstor.org/stable/132163. 
  • Blacker, Dr. Carmen (2003). "Shinto and the Sacred Dimension of Nature". Shinto.org. http://www.shinto.org/isri/eng/dr.carmen-e.html. Retrieved 2008-01-21. 
  • Endress, Gerhild (1979). "On the Dramatic Tradition in Kagura: A Study of the Medieval Kehi Songs as Recorded in the Jotokubon". Asian Folklore Studies 38 (1): 1. doi:10.2307/1177463. 

External links



Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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See also Shintō

Contents

English

Alternative spellings

Etymology

From Japanese 神道 (shintō)

Pronunciation

Proper noun

Singular
Shinto

Plural
-

Shinto

  1. Formerly the state religion of Japan, a type of animism involving the worship of ancestors and nature spirits.

Translations

Derived terms

Adjective

Shinto (not comparable)

Positive
Shinto

Comparative
not comparable

Superlative
none (absolute)

  1. Of, or pertaining to, Shintoism.

Anagrams








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