Elacqua, Joseph, et. al. "Shinto Overview." Faithology.com. Faithology, 6 March 2013. Web. 19 June 2013.
Elacqua, J., et. al. (2013, Mar 6). Shinto Overview. Faithology.
Elacqua, Joseph, et. al. "Shinto Overview" Faithology, LLC. Last modified March 6, 2013.
Faithology, LLC, 2012. (Accessed Jun 19, 2013).. Shinto Overview.
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- Last Updated: March 6, 2013
- Originally Published: July 23, 2012
is the world's tenth largest religion. Unlike most Western religions, Shinto lacks a solid doctrinal system and thus practices vary from region to region. Shinto is intimately tied to the Japanese people and their common history. Influence from Shinto commonly appears in their social lives, personal motivations, value systems, thought processes, and actions. Shinto first developed in prehistoric Japan and the majority of its 2.7 million adherents still live there.
Adherents of Shinto kami that are believed to interact with the Japanese in a variety of ways, both favorably and unfavorably. They are thought to exist everywhere, whether they are recognized or not. Frequently, very old trees are thought to house .innumerable divine nature spirits called
The core tenets of Shinto form an ethical and moral philosophy, seeking to foster harmony between people, their community, and nature. Few sacred texts are common to every sect of Shinto. However, there is an organized clergy, largely composed of priests and shamans, staffed at the innumerable Shinto shrines throughout Japan.
Basic Shinto Beliefs
- Reality: The universe was created—and is inhabited and ruled—by numerous kami. Shinto adherents view all life as a gift of the kami, so all life and human nature is sacred.
Rituals: Children are brought to a shrine at 30-100 days of age and initiated as new adherents. At age five (boys) or seven (girls), children go to the shrine on November 15th for the Seven-Five-Three festival, specifically to thank the kami for protection and to ask for healthy growth. Similar rites exist for adults.
Numerous festivals are celebrated in Shinto during the year:
- The New Year’s festival involves a ritual purification of the home with prayers for a lucky year.
- The festival celebrates the departed ancestors.
- The Cherry Blossom festival celebrates the return of spring.
- Numerous festivals are celebrated in Shinto during the year:
- Pilgrimage: Travel to shrines or other holy places, such as Mount Fuji, became common during the 16th century. These pilgrimages were undertaken to obtain the favor of the kami and, under the strict government rules of earlier centuries, were the only way some Japanese could get permission to leave their villages.
- By the middle of the 4th century CE, several clans had formed a civil government. Each clan had a clan spirit. The people prayed to these spirits for good harvests, protection from disease, and good fortune. Later, the Japanese built shrines for these spirits as places of worship.
- By the 8th century, the sun deity became the most revered kami. Around this time, Amaterasu had been linked to the imperial family and was designated as its divine ancestress.
- Ongoing immigration from the Asian mainland brought elements of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism to Japan. Some aspects of each of these belief systems have since blended into Shinto.
- As part of a nationwide movement towards Japanese nationalism, Shintō was declared the state religion of Japan in 1868. This lasted until 1947.
- Now numbering more than 2.7 million, Shinto is world's tenth largest religion. The majority of Shinto adherents live in Japan.
As a whole, Shinto has little unifying dogma. Various beliefs and folk legends inform Shinto in different areas. Adherents rely on a system of ethical and moral concepts to guide their lives and relationships, including:
- Harmony: Japanese ethics, blended from native ideals and Chinese influences, encourage thoughts, emotions and behaviors that promote harmony among family and community and between humanity and nature.
- Facade: In essence, this refers to one's social reputation. Those who act outside accepted standards are publically shamed. Theoretically, this discourages misbehavior. In earlier times, the most serious public shame required self-disembowelment —ritual suicide—to restore family honor.
- Loyalty: Shinto views the needs of many as outweighing the needs of the one. Loyalty to clan or community—or, in the state religion period, the Emperor—was paramount.