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Facts About Shinto 3

By Yona Williams    5/27/10

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Shinto is a religion that is tolerant and respectful of other religions and does not disregard the existence of other belief systems. Some Shintoists will even pay their respects to other religions, their items of worship, and their practices. In this article, you will learn more about Shinto, including rituals and key practices.

Skilled and trained dancers will perform ritual dances called 'kagura,' which involves the playing of ancient musical instruments. A single man may give a performance or the dances may incorporate movement from a group of men or at times, young virgin females.

Celebrations are held on a seasonal basis to rejoice in the planting that takes place in the spring, the fall harvest, and special anniversaries of the history of a shrine or to pay homage to a local patron spirit. For example, a commemoration of the founding of Japan takes place in February and is a countrywide holiday known as National Founding Day. February 11 is the traditional date that marks the ascension of the first (mythical) emperor Jinmu to the throne in 660 BCE.

When an individual enters one of the significant milestones in life, they are expected to visit Shinto shrines. On November 5, girls aged three and seven and boy aged five receive a blessing from the shrine priest in an event referred to as the 'Shichigosan Matsuri.'

It is commonplace for followers of Shinto to participate in the 'offer a meal movement,' where a person will skip a breakfast (or another meal) one time per month, and donate the money that was saved to their religious organization or other charity.  

Shintoists follow the Japanese tradition of origami (known as 'paper of the spirits'), which consists of paper that is folded to create beautiful shapes. This form of art typically appears around Shinto shrines. To pay respect to the tree spirit that gave its life to make the paper possible, the origami paper is never cut. Animals are popular subjects of origami pieces, including birds, such as cranes.

Many of the religious texts associated with Shinto trace back to the 8th century CE. They include the Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters), Rokkokushi (Six National Histories), Shoku Nihongi and its Nihon Shoki (Continuing Chronicles of Japan, and Jinno Shotoki (a study of Shinto and Japanese politics and history), which was penned in the 14th century. The religious texts mention subjects, such as the 'High Plain of Heaven' and the 'Dark Land' – an unclean place of the dead that offers a few details on the afterlife.

The majority of celebrations in Shinto pertain to birth and marriage.

In an effort to heal and protect, charms called 'mamori' are worn. They come in many different forms and have their own specific uses.

In many homes of Shintoists, an altar called a 'kami-dana' (also known as Shelf of Gods) is positioned at a key location.

Popular festivals held in connection to Shinto is Shogatsu (a New Year celebration from Jan 1 to 3); Hinamatsuri (Girls' Festival held on March 3); Tango no Sekku (Boys' Festival held on May 5); Hoshi Matsuri (Star Festival held on July 7).

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