In Japan, nearly 85% of the entire population follows one of two religions: Buddhism and Shinto. In this article, you will encounter more facts about Shinto, including an ancient creation story and certain practices.
An ancient creation story related to Shinto involves a divine couple that consisted of Izanagi-no-mikoto and Izanami-no-mikoto, who are said to have given birth to the Japanese islands. Their offspring later became the deities that represented various Japanese clans. One of their daughters was Amaterasu Omikami (also known as the Sun Goddess). Because she is known as the ancestress of the Imperial Family, she is looked upon as being the chief deity. The country became unified through her descendants. She also had a brother named Susano, who traveled from the heavens and wandered about the earth. He is respected because he killed a well-known evil serpent.
Out of the two dominant religions in Japan, the majority of weddings that take place in the country are performed by Shinto priests. Interestingly, Buddhist priests are typically called upon to perform funerals.
There is no specific moral code associated with Shinto. Followers usually adhere to the code of Confucianism.
Shinto teaches followers to intensely respect and worship their ancestors.
Since all of humanity is seen as ‘Kami’s child,’ all human life and human nature is viewed as sacred in Shinto.
Shintoists follow ‘Four Affirmations.’ The first centers on tradition and the family, as this unit is viewed as the main avenue by which traditions are preserved. The second is a love of nature, as nature is sacred and means that you are closer to the Gods. Natural objects, such as mountains and bodies of water are worshipped as sacred spirits. The third focuses on personal hygiene and keeping oneself physically clean. Shintoists constantly rinse out their mouth, wash their hands, and take baths. The fourth affirmation is called “Matsuri” and represents worshipping and honoring the Kami and ancestral spirits.
Shrines are established and dedicated to a specific Kami that possesses a personality and is known for responding to the genuine prayers of faithful worshippers. Upon entering a shrine, an individual is said to pass through a distinct ‘gateway for the Gods.’ This is called a ‘Tori,’ which symbolizes the line between the “finite world and the infinite world of the Gods.”
In the past, Shintoists would wash their bodies in a river close to the shrine. This practice was referred to as ‘misogi.’ In recent times, followers would use a basin on the shrine grounds for the washing of their hands and mouths.
Animals are seen as messengers of the Gods and within the temple grounds, it is not uncommon to see a pair of statues that face one another on the premises.
Ceremonies that take place at shrines include dancing, prayers, offerings, and cleansing , all of which are directed to the Kami.