SHINTO (神道, _Shintō_), also called SHINTOISM, or
_KAMI-NO-MICHI_, is the ethnic religion of
Japan that focuses on
ritual practices to be carried out diligently, to establish a
connection between present-day
Japan and its ancient past.
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
Shinto religion", but rather to a collection of native
beliefs and mythology .
Shinto today is the religion of public
shrines devoted to the worship of a multitude of gods (_kami _),
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 (8th–12th
The word _Shinto_ ("way of the gods") was adopted, originally as
_Jindō_ or _Shindō_, 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 the Japanese
language does not 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
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 because "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 has 81,000
shrines and 85,000 priests in the country.
According to Inoue (2003): "In modern scholarship, the term is often
used with reference to kami worship and related theologies, rituals
and practices. In these contexts, "Shinto" takes on the meaning of
"Japan's traditional religion", as opposed to foreign religions such
as Christianity, Buddhism,
Islam and so forth".
* 1 Types
Theology and cosmology
* 2.1 _Kami_
* 2.2 _Kannagara_
* 2.3 _Amenominakanushi_
* 2.4 Creation of
* 3 Purity
* 3.1 Impurity
* 3.2 Purification
* 4 Afterlife
* 5 Shrines
* 5.1 Notable shrines
* 6 Practices
* 6.1 _Omairi_
* 6.2 _Harae_
* 6.3 _Misogi_
* 6.4 _Imi_
* 6.5 Amulets and talismans
* 6.6 _Kagura_
* 7.1 Historical records
* 7.2 Origins
* 7.6 Asuka Period
* 7.7 Hakuho Period
* 7.8 Nara Period
* 7.10 _Kokugaku_
* 7.12 Post-war
* 7.13 New sects
* 8 See also
* 9 Notes
* 10 References
* 11 Further reading
* 12 External links
_ Yutateshinji_ ceremony performed at the Miwa Shrine
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 of
taking part in worship practices and events at local shrines. Before
Meiji Restoration , shrines were disorganized institutions usually
Buddhist temples ; in the Meiji Restoration, they were
made independent systematised institutions. The current 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
Folk Shinto (民俗神道, _Minzoku-Shintō_) includes the
numerous folk beliefs in deities and spirits. Practices include
divination , spirit possession , and shamanic healing. Some of their
practices come from
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
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
Shinto sects (_
Shinto Taikyo_, _Shinrikyo_ and _Izumo
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 _
Koshintō (古神道, _Ko-shintō_), literally "Old Shinto", is a
Shinto from before the time of Buddhism", today based
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_ or _shin_ (神) is defined in English as "god", "spirit",
"spiritual essence", all these terms meaning 'the energy generating a
thing'. Since the
Japanese language does not 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 and people exist within the same world and share its
interrelated complexity .
Early anthropologists called
Shinto "animistic " in which animate and
inanimate things have spirits or souls that are worshipped. The
concept of animism in
Shinto is no longer current, however. 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 the 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 to
the divinity of such a phenomenon. It is comparable to what Rudolf
Otto described as the _mysterium tremendum et fascinans_, which
translates as "fearful and fascinating mystery".
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
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
According to the _
Kojiki _, _Amenominakanushi_ (天御中主
"All-Father of the Originating Hub", or 天之御中主神 "Heavenly
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 had been considered a concept developed under the
influence of Chinese thought , but now most scholars believe
otherwise. 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_
Meiji period , and worshiped by some
The god manifests in a duality, a male and a female function,
respectively _Takamimusubi_ (高御産巣日神) and _Kamimusubi_
(神産巣日神). In other mythical accounts the originating _kami_
is called _Umashiashikabihikoji_ (宇摩志阿斯訶備比古遅神
God of the _Ashi_ ") or _Kuninotokotachi_ (国之常立神 in Kojiki,
国常立尊 in Nihonshoki; _Kunitokotachi-no-Kami_ or
_Kuninotokotachi-no-Kami_; the "
God Founder of the Nation"), the
latter used in the _
Nihon Shoki _.
CREATION OF JAPAN
Japanese creation myth
Japanese creation myth
Izanagi-no-Mikoto, by Kobayashi Eitaku, late 19th century.
The generation of the
Japanese archipelago is expressed
mythologically as the action of two gods:
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
* They lived on this island, and created a palace. Within the palace
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
* After the islands, they gave birth to the other Kami.
Izanami-no-Mikoto died in childbirth, however, and Izanagi-no-Mikoto
tried to revive her.
* His attempts to deny the laws of life and death have bad
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
Shinto purification ritual after a ceremonial children's sumo
tournament at the
Kamigamo Jinja in
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
Haraegushi (祓串) for purification
Jichinsai groundbreaking ceremony
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
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.
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It is common for families to participate in ceremonies for children
at a shrine, yet have a
Buddhist funeral at the time of death. 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_ very closely resembles the Greek Hades ;
however, later myths include notions of resurrection and even Elysium
-like descriptions such as in the legend of
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
God of War
after his death.
Unlike many religions, one does not need to publicly profess belief
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.
Shinto Funeral were established during the Tokugawa period. There are
at least twenty steps involved in burying the dead. Mourners wear
solid black in a day of mourning called Kichu-fuda and a
will perform various rituals. People will give monetary gifts to the
deceased's family called Koden, and Kotsuge is the gathering of the
deceased's ashes. Some of the ashes are taken by family members to put
in their home shrines at the step known as Bunkotsu.
Shinto Shrines of
Japan _ Ise Grand
Honden at Naiku. After 1871, it is 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-taisha —Main Gate,
one of the oldest shrines in Japan_ _ Haiden of
Isonokami Shrine ,
a historically significant Imperial National Treasure_
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.
List of Shinto shrines
Of the 80,000
Atsuta Shrine ,
Nagoya , shrine to the Imperial sword
Chichibu Shrine ,
Saitama Prefecture , dedicated to Omoikane and
Dazaifu Tenman-gū , dedicated to
Sugawara no Michizane
Heian Jingū ,
Kyoto , dedicated to
Emperor Kanmu and Emperor
* Hikawa Shrine ,
Hokkaido Shrine , Sapporo, Hokkaido
Ise Jingū ,
Ise, Mie , dedicated to
Amaterasu Omikami, also
Gassan Shrine , Yamagata , dedicated to
Isonokami Shrine ,
Itsukushima Shrine ,
Hiroshima Prefecture , a World Heritage Site
and one of the National Treasures of
Iwashimizu Shrine , Yawata,
Izumo Taisha , Izumo
Kasuga Shrine , Nara
Katori Shrine ,
Chiba Prefecture , dedicated to
* Kumano Shrines ,
Meiji Shrine ,
Tokyo , the shrine of
Nikkō Tōshō-gū , Nikkō ,
Hachiman Shrine ,
Ōmiwa Shrine ,
Sendai Tōshō-gū ,
Sendai , Miyagi Prefecture
Shiogama Shrine , Miyagi Prefecture
Three Palace Sanctuaries ,
Kōkyo Imperial Palace,
Hachiman Shrine ,
Ōita Prefecture , dedicated to Hachimanno
Yasukuni Shrine (Tokyo), a shrine dedicated to Japan's war dead.
_ Temizu Basin—Itsukushima Jinja_
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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
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, and vegetables),
Tamagushi (sakaki tree
branches), Shio (salt), Gohan (rice),
Mochi (rice cake), 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. Offerings to the _kami_ _
Tamagushi offering at Tsurugaoka
Hachiman-gū_ _ Offerings at
Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America_ _
Mochi _ offered at Meiji Jingū _ _ Sake offerings at Itsukushima
Shrine _ _
Tamagushi and food offerings (shinsen) offered at
Misogi means purification.
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 perform misogi by standing beneath a waterfall or performing the
ritual ablutions in a river. This practice comes from
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.
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
_ A woman tying her fortune written on a white piece of paper
(omikuji_) to a frame at
Kasuga Shrine Main article:
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 kami 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 are 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,
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.
Amulets and Protection _
Kamidana (home shrine) with kagamimochi and
Ofuda_ _ Daruma of various sizes_ _ Hamaya at
Ikuta Shrine _ _
Omamori from Shrines in
Tsubaki Grand Shrine of
America_ _ Ema dedicated at Sewa Jinja_
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." There is
a mythological tale of how _kagura_ dance came into existence. The sun
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)
Amaterasu by telling her there was a better sun goddess in the
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
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
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_. A miko (woman consecrated to a
Shinto deity) at
Miko kagura_ is the oldest type of _kagura_ and is danced by women
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
_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
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
Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters) The oldest book of Japanese
history, it describes the origin myths of
Japan and the Imperial
Family beginning from 628.
Shoku Nihongi and its
Nihon Shoki (Continuing Chronicles of
Japan) describes events up to 697. Some of the stories in the Nihongi
are more detailed, but contradictory, to the stories of the Kojiki.
Rikkokushi (Six National Histories) includes the Shoku Nihongi
and Nihon Shoki.
Jinnō Shōtōki (a study of
Shinto and Japanese politics and
history) written in the 14th century
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)
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 world's 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
Hindu and secular beliefs. In more modern times
developed new branches and forms on a regular basis, including leaving
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
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
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"
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
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.
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 North East and
Izumo Taisha in the South West. 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
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.
The Theory of Five Elements in
Yin and Yang
Yin and Yang philosophy of
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
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
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
at the imperial faith along with the Fujiwara Clan and reforms that
Emperor Tenmu (672–686), continuing through Empress
Jitō (686–697) and
Emperor Monmu (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 Daijingū
which held until 1892. Also the practice of sending imperial
princesses to the Ise shrine begins. This marks the rise of Ise
Daijingū as the main imperial shrine historically. Due to increasing
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
of the imperial line were codified, especially seasonal cycles, lunar
calendar rituals, harvest festivals, and purification rites. The
creation of the imperial
Shinto Shrine office was
This period hosted many changes to the country, government, and
religion. The capital is moved again to
Heijō-kyō , or Nara , in AD
Empress Genmei 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
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 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
(_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
Shinto coexisted and were amalgamated in the _shinbutsu
shūgō _ and Kūkai's syncretic view held wide sway up until the end
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
Izanagi are explicitly compared to
yin and yang . However, the attempt did set the stage for the arrival
Shinto , following the
Meiji Restoration (c.1868), when
Buddhism were separated (_shinbutsu bunri _).
Chōsen Jingū in
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
Tenpō Reforms . Moreover, according to the scholar Jason Ānanda
Josephson, It is inaccurate to describe shrines as constituting a
"state religion" or a "theocracy" during this period since they had
neither organization, nor doctrine, and were uninterested in
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
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
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 _ (a deity in human form).
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
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
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,
its values continue to be a fundamental component of the Japanese
Shinto has also spread abroad to a limited extent, and a few
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
during the period of Japanese imperial rule , but following the war,
they were either destroyed or converted into some other use.
Within Shinto, there are a variety of new sects outside Shrine Shinto
and the officially defunct
State Shinto .
Sect Shinto , like Tenrikyo
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 .
* Culture of
Dol hareubang (Korean spirit)
Dryad (Greek mythology)
Hyang (Indonesian mythology)
Iwakura (Shinto) – rock formation where a kami is invited to
Religion in Japan
Shinto in Taiwan
Women in Shinto
Shinto in popular culture
* ^ Both mean the "way of the divine" or "of the gods".
Other names are:
* _kannagara-no-michi_, "way of the divine transmitted from time
* _Kodo_, the "ancient way";
* _Daido_, the "great way";
* _Teido_, the "imperial way".
* ^ During the history of China , at the time of the spread of
Buddhism to the country, the name _Shendao_ was used to identify what
is currently known as "
Shenism ", the Chinese indigenous religion,
distinguishing it from the new
Buddhist religion. (Brian Bocking. _A
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