Facts About Shinto 1

Shinto is an ancient religion in Japan, which has a history that traces back to 500 BCE (or earlier). At the start of the belief system, Shinto represented a blend of fertility cults, the worship of nature, hero worship, and shamanism. The name of the religion came from a Chinese phrase that meant ‘The Way of the Gods.’ In this article, you will learn more details about the religion, such as common practices and historical information.

The four primary forms or traditions of Shinto possess different rituals and typical practices and include the following:

·    Koshitsu Shinto (also known as the Shinto of the Imperial House) sees the emperor play an important role in the execution of rituals. One of the most significant of the rituals is called Niiinamesai, where an offering to the deities is made consisting of the first fruits of each year’s grain harvest. When performing the rites, the emperor receives help from male and female clergy (called Shoten and Nai-Shoten).

·    Jinja (Shrine) Shinto represents the largest group within the religion and was also the primary form of the belief system. The start of the religion has been traced back to pre-history. An association was even established to accommodate all of the shrines , Jinja Honcho, the Association of Shinto Shrines. Nearly all shrines in Japan belonged to this association, which included around 80,000 members.

·    Kyoha (Sectarian) Shinto (also known as Shuha Shinto) consists of 13 sects that were founded since the beginning of the 19th century. With their own set of beliefs and doctrines, the sects may focus on worshipping their own main deity or stay in line with the practices of a monotheistic religion.

·    Minzoku (Folk) Shinto reflects the rural practices and rituals of the locals, such as agriculture rituals that a family may follow. It’s not a separate Shinto group, and does not possess any centralized organization.

Shinto became an official religion of Japan , a feat shared with Buddhism.

Japanese religion did not become a separate entity from politics until shortly after World War II. Around that time, the American army forced the Emperor to renounce his divinity. However, Shinto differed from most other religions because there was no real founder. There were no written scriptures to follow. The religious laws often associated with a belief system did not exist and only a priesthood that was barely organized represented the religious.

When followers of Shinto spoke of their history, many tales made mention of the “Kami,” which is what the Shinto deities were called. The word Kami actually translates into ‘god’ or ‘gods.’ In comparison to the gods of monotheistic religions, the Kami are different. For example, there is no one god in Shinto that is present everywhere or is separated from humanity because of sin. It is the deities that take on many different forms. The Kami are typically seen as benevolent, and serve as protection for the people.