Shinto in Japan

By Jacqueline J

At a Glance

Shinto means the "way of the spirits." It is the worship of spirits called kami through shrines and rituals. It has no founder or any scriptures, and it is mainly focused in Japan.


  • The emperors and all of the Japanese people are descendants of the kami.
  • Ultimate reality includes the chaos from which the kami emerged, but the focus of it in relationship to humanity is earth.
  • Everything is part of this world. There is no transcendental other world.
  • However, there is an invisible world that acts as an extension to the everyday world.
  • Kami reside in trees, rivers, streams, and mountains. They can also reside in sacred areas and, sometimes, humans.
  • Kami are not divine, perfect, nor omnipotent. Kami are just a higher manifestation of the life energy.
  • Human beings are basically good.
  • Pollution and sin, known as tsumi, taint. This includes disease, disaster, death, and error.
  • A person's purpose is to maintain the pure and natural state of existence.
  • Suffering is not a form of punishment for human behavior; instead it is a natural element of human experience.
  • The kami were both equally gentle and loving, and awesome and terrifying.

Important Kami:

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  • January 1: New Year (time to give thanks and ask for good fortune in the coming year)
  • January 15: Adults' day (coming of age festival for everyone over 20)
  • February 3: Rissun (bean-throwing festival to celebrate the beginning of spring)
  • November 15: Shichigosan (7-5-3 festival to celebrate the children's healthy lives)
  • November 23: Niinamesai (harvest festival to give thanks to a good crop yield)