Shinto

"The Way Of The Gods"

What is Shinto?

Shinto, meaning "the way of the gods", is the indigenous faith of the Japanese people and is practically as old as Japan itself, and is also Japan's major religion alongside Buddhism.

Shinto Beliefs

  • Shinto is a polytheistic faith, meaning there are many Gods.
  • Shinto Gods are called Kami, Kami are sacred spirits that take the form of things and concepts important to life, such as wind, rain, trees , mountains, and love.
  • Humans become Kami after they die and are revered by their families as ancestral Kami.
  • Often the Kami of extraordinary people are enshrined in a Shinto shrine.
  • Most shrines celebrate festivals, the purpose being to show the Kami, the outside world.
  • Unlike most monotheistic religions, there are no absolutes in Shinto. There is no absolute right and wrong, and no one is perfect. Shinto is an optimistic faith, believing that humans are fundamentally good and evil is caused by evil spirits.
  • The purpose of most Shinto rituals is to ward off evil spirits by purification, prayers, and offerings to the Kami.

What is a Shinto shrine?

A Shinto shrine is a structure that's purpose is to house one or more Kami, and the most important building in the shrine is used for the storage and safeguarding of sacred objects, not in fact for worship. Shinto shrines are usually characterized by the presence of a honden(sanctuary), where the Kami is enshrined. The honden may however be completely absent, as for example when the shrine stands on a sacred mountain to which it is dedicated, and which is worshiped directly. Honden may also not be present if there are nearby alter-like objects or objects believed to attract spirits that could serve as a direct bond to a Kami. Shinto shrines can be anywhere such as on mountains, in forests, or beside highways but are not actually located in many major cities.

Shinto Priests and Rituals

Shinto priests perform Shinto rituals, and often live on the shrine grounds. Both Men and Women can become priests, and they are allowed to marry and have children. Priests are aided by younger women (miko) during rituals and shrine tasks. Miko wear white kimono, must be unmarried, and are often the priests' daughters.

Original Location

The original location of Shinto is Japan for Japan itself is believed to have been created by the Kami.

Founder

There is no known founder of Shinto mainly because of it having been around as long as Japan itself.

Holy Book

Shinto has no holy book or scripture, because the history and ways of Shinto were taught orally throughout the generations, however whenever Confucianism and Buddhism started becoming popular in Japan the history and traditions of Shinto were written down into two main books: The Kojiki and The Nihongi (also known as Nihon Shoki)

This was done to keep Shinto alive and keep its history from being forgotten or mixed with the history of other religions.

Impact On Society and Daily Life

  • People seek support by praying at a home altar or by visiting shrines, plus a whole bunch of talismans are available at shrines for things such as traffic safety, good health, success in business, safe childbirth, good exam performance, etc. .
  • A large number of wedding ceremonies are held in Shinto style.
  • Shinto is a very recurring theme in Japanese pop culture, in things such as film, sports, manga, anime, and video games; these references often have significant relevance to modern life in Japan amongst the newer generations.
  • Shinto does not usually cause any conflicts because it is a very accepting religion, it doesn't require that you only follow the Shinto faith; as such it makes it possible for Shintoists to practice other religions like Buddhism, and Buddhists to practice Shintoism.
  • Shinto being a very open religion does not require its followers to practice every part of the religion if they do not wish to, allowing people to practice what they want to.
  • Shinto also has always adapted to be easier to practice in peoples every day lives, so as to fit better into society.
  • Also the majority of the Japanese people do not see Shintoism as a religion but as a way of life, which is backed up by the fact that around 70% of Japans population says they are not religious or have no religion.

The Beginning Of All Kami

  • The first gods Kunitokotachi and Amenominakanushi summoned two divine beings into existence, the male Izanagi (meaning "male who invites" and is a God of creation and death) and the female Izanami (meaning "she who invites" and is a Goddess of creation and death).
  • They had two children, Hiruko (leech-child) and Awashima (faint island), but they were born deformed and were not considered deities, but devils.
  • They then begot the many islands of Japan, and numerous deities of Shintoism. But Izanami died after giving birth to the fire-god Kagu-tsuchi. Izanagi executed the fire god with the "ten-span(grasp) sword". Afterwards, he paid his wife a visit in Yomi-no-kuni (the Underworld) in the hopes of retrieving her. But she had partaken of food cooked in the furnace of the Underworld, rendering her return impossible. Izanagi betrayed his promise not to look at her, and lit up a fire, only to behold in her monstrous and horrid state. To avenge her shame, she dispatched the horrible hag Yakusa no ikazuchi no kami and Yomotsu-shikome to chase after him. Izanagi escaped, but Izanami promised to kill a thousand of his people every day. Izanagi retorted that a thousand and five hundred will be born every day.
  • In the cleansing rite after his return, he begot Amaterasu (the sun goddess) from his left eye, Tsukuyomi (the moon god) from his right eye and Susanoo (tempest or storm god) from his nose.