We are searching data for your request:
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.
Practiced by nearly 80% of the population, Shinto is the largest religion in Japan. This video explains the religious practices of Shinto and its ancient roots.
Shinto : The Ancient Religion of Japan
Origins.—The Japanese are in the main a continental race. Their language and physical characteristics show conclusively that they come from Northern Asia, and geographical considerations indicate that Korea must have been their point of embarkation. Indeed a desultory emigration from Korea to Japan continued into historical times. When we say Northern Asia we exclude China. The racial affinity of the Japanese to the Chinese, of which we hear so often, really amounts to very little. It is not closer than that which unites the most distantly related members of the Indo-European family of nations. The Japanese themselves have no traditions of their origin, and it is now impossible to say what form of religion was professed by the earliest immigrants. No inference can be drawn from the circumstance that Sun-worship is common to them with many North-Asiatic races. The Sun is, or has been, worshipped almost everywhere. There is distinct evidence of a Korean element in Shinto, but, with the little that we know of the old native religion of that country, anything like a complete comparison is impossible. Some have recognised a resemblance between Shinto and the old state religion of China, and it is true that both consist largely of Nature-worship. But the two cults differ widely. The Japanese do not recognise Tien (Heaven), the chief Nature-deity of the Chinese, nor have they anything to correspond to their Shangti—a more personal ruler of the universe. The Sun is masculine in China, feminine in Japan. The Sun-goddess takes precedence of the Earth-god in Japan, while in China Heaven and Earth rank above the Sun and Moon. Some Chinese traits are to be found in the old Shinto documents, but they are of later origin, and are readily distinguishable from the native element. A few similarities exist between Shinto and the religion of the Ainus of Yezo, a savage race which once occupied the main island of Japan. But it is reasonable to suppose that in this case the less civilised nation has borrowed from its more civilised neighbour and conqueror rather than vice versa. It is significant that the Ainu words for God, prayer, and offering, are taken from the Japanese. If the Malay or Polynesian element, which some have recognised in the Japanese race, has any existence, it has left no trace in religion. Such coincidences as may be noted between Shinto and oceanic religions, myths and practices are attributable to the like action of common causes rather than to inter-communication. The old Shinto owes little to any outside source. It is, on the whole, an independent development of Japanese thought.
Sources of Information.—The Japanese had no writing until the introduction of Chinese learning from Korea early in the fifth century of our era, and the first books which have come down to us date from the beginning of the eighth. One of these, called the Kojiki (712) is said to have been taken down from the lips of a man whose memory was well stored with the old myths and traditions of his country. He was perhaps one of the guild of ‘reciters,’ whose business it was to recite ‘ancient words’ at the ceremony which corresponds to our coronation. The Kojiki is a repertory of the old myths and legends, and, in the latter part, of the ancient history of Japan. The Nihongi, a work of similar scope, though based more on an existing written literature, was produced a few years later (720). It quotes numerous variants of the religious myths current at this time. There are voluminous and most learned commentaries on these two works written by Motoöri and Hirata in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. For the ritual of Shinto our chief source of information is the Yengishiki, a compilation made early in the tenth century.
At the heart of Shinto ideology is the concept of the Kami, commonly defined as, ‘gods’ or ‘deities’. Heavenly deities, most notably the sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami, are primarily treated as Kami, but the wider scope of the concept also recognises objects of reverence to be acknowledged as objects of worship such as illustrious ancestors, forces of nature, animals, and even rocks.  The Kami are seen as beings who exhibit qualities of harmony and cooperation and who assist people in accomplishing their objectives.  Thus, Shintoists seek and worship the respective Kami who are particular to their needs and wishes.
Shinto beliefs and rituals are founded mainly upon creation myths surrounding the birth and development of the sacred Japanese Islands. It is said that Izanagi and Izanami (Heaven and Earth) were a pair who gave birth to the Japanese Islands and various deities. The sun goddess Amaterasu was produced from the left eye of Izanagi and the moon god Tsuki Yomi from his right.  The principles of progress and a harmonious life were understood through the actions of such Kami and, having perceived the existence of a life-force, ancient ancestors of the Japanese developed a sense of the functioning and blessings of the Kami. As such, they were deemed individually endowed with divinity and the ability to respond to prayer.  Since these ancient times, offerings are presented to the Kami at Shinto shrines all throughout Japan and religious vows are taken in order to secure some natural benefit, or to give thanks for something already received. 
Ancient World History
Shinto is the religious structure that provides definition and a framework in which the practitioner can navigate the worship of specific kami. Shintoism is also believed to encompass the indigenous animistic beliefs of the Japanese and was an attempt to formalize different types of beliefs into a cohesive structure.
The word kami is the collective term used to describe the representation of what can be referred to as beings (or deities) found within such things as mountains and rivers. Deceased persons are sometimes able to become kami however, this is a rare occurrence.
The written characters that make the word Shinto consist of two kanji, the first being shin (meaning "god" but also translated as "kami") and the second being tao (meaning "path"). The literal translation means "way of the gods". It is believed that the Yamato imperial court systematically deployed kami worship as a religious system during the third century c.e.
Shinto is widely recognized as an essentially Japanese religious system, having come into existence during the animistic Jomon Period (12,000 to 400 b.c.e.) and practiced by rural rice-cultivating peoples from the Yayoi Period (400 b.c.e. to 300 c.e.).
Before the Meiji Restoration in 1868, which saw Shinto becoming the sanctioned religion, there were three distinct forms of Shinto, or more appropriately, kami worship: These were Rural, Shrine, and Imperial Shinto. Before the intervention of the imperial state kami worship was, at best, disorganized and highly individualistic. From the fifth century c.e. Shinto practices amalgamated with Mahayana Buddhist and Confucian theology.
Shinto’s amalgamation with Buddhism and the ritualistic nature of Buddhist practices contributed to its remarkable integration into all levels of society, from the imperial family to the rural population. It is believed that the naming of the religion occurred as a way of distinguishing it from Buddhism and Confucianism.
Rural kami worship was often referred to as folk Shinto. In order to ensure prosperous crops and a harmonious village life kami would be worshipped through rituals designed to appeal to or appease the deities.
Each region in Japan was thought to have different rituals concerning the kami in their area, and each ritual was defined by the type of kami worshipped (such as rice cultivation and fish farming), hence different regions in Japan would have had entirely different and diverse systems of worship.
As agricultural developments increased and society underwent social and political change, ritual was increasingly employed to ensure a balance between the deities (kami) and the people. As society modernized so did the need for a codified structure of religion and religious practices.
Shrine Shinto and imperial Shinto are similar in that they were dependent upon kami worship as ritual. During the beginnings of the imperial state an official network of shrines was established, and through imperial decrees and ritualized (and state-controlled) prayers (norito) the kami system was formalized.
Chinese influences and concepts of deities during the Yamato court, such as ama-tsu-kami (heavenly deities), also contributed to the continual construction of Shintoism. The majority of information obtained from primary sources concerning Shinto comes from those written during the Yamato court era.
The construction of ritsuryo law (Japanese imperial law) focused particularly on shrine rituals that meant that many indigenous rituals or practices had not been written down. Imperial Shinto practices are more likely to have survived in historical record, as imperial households commissioned such records.
One such practice is the continual use of clerical titles denoting Shinto priests and practitioners in relation to their duties at various shrines. The highest-ranking priest or priestess in Japan is referred to as Saishu and is affiliated with the Grand Shrine of Ise.
A member of the imperial family most often holds this position. The lowest-ranking Shinto priest is the Toya, a part-time layperson chosen from village members to enter the shine for a specific amount of time.
Women were originally allowed to hold ceremonial positions within Shinto however, as the religion underwent a metamorphosis from a rural-based practice to an imperial one they were increasingly relegated to positions that entailed less power, as assistants to the male members of the priesthood.
The oldest known texts in which Shinto practices appear is the 712 c.e. Kojiki (Record of ancient matters) and the 720 c.e. Nihongi (Chronicles of Japan). Both texts make mention of the belief that two kami (Izanami and Izanagi) created Japan.
Izanami gives birth to a kami of fire but dies in the process and resides in a place called Yomi no Kuni (Land of Darkness). Izanagi is shocked to witness Izanami in such a place and returns to the living, stopping on the way to wash himself of his visit to Yomi no Kuni.
The stories indicate an early belief in death as a pollution of the living and are thought to have guided the creation and formulation of other Shinto practices. The chronicles also legitimized the rule of Emperor Mimakiiri-hiko by ascribing him the name hatsu-kuni-shirasu sumera-mikoto (First Emperor to Rule the Realm).
The emperor initiated a state-sponsored adoption of kami worship that included all members of the royal family and the elite ruling members of society. Before this, kami worship lay in the hands of the local rulers and was based more upon shamanistic principles then ritualized worship.
Kami were, and still are, found in prominent and often strategic locations throughout Japan. The original underlying foundation of Shinto is the worship of kami to ensure prosperity, health, and an abundance of food and supplies.
The Yamato court focused on the Mount Miwa kami called Omononushi, which appeared in the form of a snake and was the subject of agricultural ritual. The area was fertile and consistently provided sustenance for the population, thus the kami was considered powerful.
Strategic sites such as the opening of a sea route also had important kami associated with them, such as Sumiyoshi, the kami of Naniwazu (Osaka). However, while kami tied to the environment were viewed as important, the Yamato court also worshipped kami spirits found in ritual objects and objects such as ceremonial weapons.
This type of worship became centralized in court life as it pointed toward the power of the court and enabled the transference of power through an object (for example, kami spirits embodied within a ceremonial sword) that was readily visible.
Shinto became a structured religious system by the systematic integration of kami worship into early imperial Japanese law and society. It is an indigenous religion that has also absorbed Buddhist and some Confucian rituals and philosophies.
Shintoism is notoriously difficult to define, especially in light of the fact that the rituals associated with the religion were often fluid in their approach and highly interchangeable depending on the circumstances of offering.
Shinto: Ancient Japanese Religion - History
This section has scriptures of the Shinto religion, as well as other texts that relate to the spirituality of Japan, which combines Shinto, Buddhism, Confucianism, Animism and other themes. There is also a collection of Ainu Texts.
Shinto ScriptureThe Kojiki
Basil Hall Chamberlain , tr. [ 1919 ]
The full annotated version of one of the two Japanese national epics.
Basil Hall Chamberlain , tr. [ 1919 ]
An abridged version of the Chamberlain translation.
The Nihongi (excerpts), translated by W.G. Ashton [ 1896 ]
Nihongi Part 1
Nihongi Part 2
Nihongi Part 3
Nihongi Part 4
Kogoshui: Gleanings from Ancient Stories
translated by Genchi Katō and Hikoshirō Hoshino [ 1926 ]. Legendary Shinto tales from a primary source
Japanese Culture, Spirituality and Folklore
The Shundai Zatsuwa (A Japanese Philosopher)
By Kyuso ( Muro Naokiyo ), translated by George William Knox [ 1892 ]
An account of Japanese Neo-Confucian thought.
Gleanings In Buddha-Fields
by Lafcadio Hearn [ 1897 ].
In Ghostly Japan
by Lafcadio Hearn [ 1899 ].
by Lafcadio Hearn [ 1904 ].
Japan, An Attempt At Interpretation
by Lafcadio Hearn [ 1904 ]
One of Hearn's last books, this substantial volume is a highly readable history of Shinto in Japan , and its interaction with Buddhism and Christianity highly recommended for outsiders who want to understand the Japanese sprit and culture.
/> The Ideals of the East
by Kakuzo Okakura [ 1904 ]
The evolution of Japanese art and its relationship to Buddhism.
/> The Book of Tea
by Kakuzo Okakura [ 1906 ]
The aesthetics of the Japanese Tea Ceremony, and its connection to the Japanese world-view as a whole.
by Lady Murasaki Shikibu tr. by Suematsu Kencho [ 1900 ]
The first English translation of the classic tale of 10th century Japanese courtly love.
Bushido, The Soul of Japan
by Inazo Nitobe [ 1905 ].
This short and very readable book describes the code of honor of the Samurai and Japanese feudalism , which is essential to understanding many aspects of Japanese society and history.
A Hundred Verses from Old Japan
(the Hyakunin-isshu ), translated by William N. Porter [ 1909 ]
A wonderful thousand-year-old collection of Tanka poetry.
Shinran and His Work: Studies in Shinshu Theology
by Arthur Lloyd [ 1910 ]
A Christian scholar explores Shinshu Buddhism. Includes text and translation of the Shoshinge of Shinran Shonen, with extended commentary.
The Creed of Half Japan
by Arthur Lloyd [ 1911 ]
A comprehensive history of Mahayana Buddhism, particularly in Japan, and possible ties to Gnosticism and early Christianity. Includes two translated texts from the Nichiren school.
by S. Yamabe and L. Adams Beck [ 1921 ]
A key Pure Land text, by the founder of the most popular form of Buddhism in Japan.
Japanese Fairy Tales
Second Series . By Teresa Peirce Williston , Illustrated by Sanchi Ogawa [ 1911 ]
Principal Teachings of the True Sect of Pure Land
by Yejitsu Okusa [ 1915 ]
The history and practice of Pure Land Buddhism in Japan.
Ancient Tales and Folk-lore of Japan
by Richard Gordon Smith [ 1918 ]
An anthology of Japanese 'Magical Realist' legends and folklore.
The Nō Plays of Japan
by Arthur Waley [ 1921 ].
Translations of a selection of Nō dramas , which have deep connections with Japanese Buddhism, Shinto, and Japanese folklore.
The Story of Gio
from the Heike Monogatari, retold by Ridgely Torrence [ 1935 ]
translated by Peter Beilenson [ 1955 ]
A collection of 220 Japanese Haiku.
Ainu resources at sacred-texts.
This is a quiet place in cyberspace
devoted to religious tolerance and scholarship
Non-public domain contents of this site
not otherwise copyrighted are © copyright 2010, John Bruno Hare, All Rights Reserved.
See Site copyrights, Terms of Service for more information.
Index | FAQ | Contact | Search | Buy Disk
Open Source for the Human Soul
- Atsuta Shrine, Nagoya, a shrine to the Imperial sword Kusanagi
- Chichibu Shrine, Saitama Prefecture, dedicated to Omoikane and Amenominakanushi Okami
- Heian Jingū, Kyoto, dedicated to Emperor Kammu and Emperor Kōmei
- Hikawa Shrine, Ōmiya-ku, Saitama
- Hokkaido Shrine, Sapporo, Hokkaido
- The Ise Jingu, Ise, Mie, dedicated to Amaterasu Omikami, also called Jingu
- The Gassan Hongu, Yamagata, dedicated to Tsukuyomi Okami
- Itsukushima Shrine, Hiroshima Prefecture, a World Heritage Site and one of the National Treasures of Japan
- Iwashimizu Shrine, Yawata, Kyoto
- Izumo Taisha, Izumo
- Kasuga Shrine, Nara
- Katori Shrine, Chiba Prefecture, dedicated to Futsunushi
- Kumano Shrines, Wakayama Prefecture
- Meiji Shrine, Tokyo, the shrine of Emperor Meiji
- Nikkō Tōshō-gū, Nikkō, Tochigi Prefecture
- Ōsaki Hachiman Shrine, Miyagi Prefecture
- Sendai Tōshō-gū, Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture
- Shiogama Shrine, Miyagi Prefecture
- Three Palace Sanctuaries, Kōkyo Imperial Palace, Tokyo
- Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine, Kamakura, Kanagawa
- Usa Hachiman Shrine, Ōita Prefecture, dedicated to Hachimanno-Mikoto
- Yasukuni Shrine (Tokyo), a shrine dedicated to Japan's war dead.
Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine in Kyoto (JREF Media Gallery)
Shinto ceremony at Atsuta Shrine in Nagoya (JREF Media Gallery)
Atsuta Shrine (熱田神宮) in Nagoya Shinto ceremony on the National Foundation Day.
At the end of the 19th century, Shinto was reconstructed under Emperor Meiji. Meiji was declared a direct descendant of the gods therefore all subsequent emperors were also considered manifest gods. The Japanese believed this gave them the inherent power to rule not only Japan but all the world. With the rise of the Japanese empire in the 19th century, state Shinto came into effect, making Shinto the official religion of Japan, and making the emperor commander-in-chief of the military, with the power to appoint generals, admirals and prime ministers. Schoolchildren bowed every morning before a photograph of the emperor, and were taught that he and all emperors were descended from the gods. In the 1930s, the Japanese believed Emperor Hirohito to be a god, superior to all others and worthy of unquestioning obedience -- a toxic combination with World War II looming.
After the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan surrendered officially in September 1945. In the wake of Japan’s defeat, three documents would change the course of history, dismantling Shinto as state religion: The Directive for the Disestablishment of State Shinto (1945), The Imperial Rescript Renouncing Divinity (1946) and the Post-War Constitution (1947). The Directive for the Disestablishment of State Shinto vowed to “prevent recurrence of the perversion of Shinto theory and beliefs into militaristic and ultra-nationalistic propaganda designed to delude the Japanese people and lead them into wars of aggression.” The Post-War Constitution’s Article 9 states "the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes." After World War II, religion and state would be separate, and Japan would have no military power.
Shinto: Ancient Japanese Religion - History
Hemp has an important function in the mythology of Shinto, the "Way of the Gods", as the ancient indigenous religion of Japan is known. Hemp was used to purify, to drive out evil (exorcism). Hemp seeds were used in Shinto marriage ceremonies. In some ceremonies hemp leaves were burnt as an "invitation to the spirits". (Moore) Even today there are shinto ceremonies at major shrines such as Ise Jingu in Mie prefecture and other shrines that involve the burning of taima (marijuana).
Hempen bell rope
Hempen rope, fibre and paper in oldest shrine in Saitama
Hempen paper and raw fibre
Hemp fibre attached to a wooden stick called a gohei is used in Shinto cleansing ceremonies, such as Shichigosan. Hemp ropes and hemp paper are often seen as decorations in shrines as they are believed to keep away evil.
At Japanese weddings so called Shishimai dragon dances are sometimes performed. The thick white "hair" of these dragons is hemp fibre, and so is the "hair" of fox masks and other costumes worn at o-matsuri (festivals). The heavy carts pulled trough villages in o-matsuri are pulled on hemp ropes.
Believers in Shinto sought the protection of a certain group of gods, the Sahe no Kami: "Travellers prayed to them before setting out on a journey and made a little offering of hemp leaves and rice to each one they passed." (Moore) We are not surprised that rice was a standard travel fare, but this passage tells us that medieval Japanese used to travel carrying hemp leaves, nowadays called marijuana. If travellers were to practice their religion this way today they could face as much as 5 years in prison.
Five times a year so called "taima" (marijuana) ceremonies are conducted at the shrine: