The native religious beliefs and practices of Japan are referred to as Shinto (or Shintoism), which has no founder or official sacred scriptures. It is a religion with no fixed articles of faith for adherents to follow, but yet in still , it has managed to keep alive the initial beliefs and rituals for many centuries. In this article, you will learn significant facts concerning this Japanese belief system.
The term Shinto was developed as a way to set the religion separate native Japanese beliefs from Buddhism, which came into existence in Japan during the 6th century AD. As the religion progressed amongst inhabitants, Shintoism thrived alongside other belief systems in harmony. Those that follow the faith believe in the maintenance of their own characteristics and inner deepness, while they take the time to work on establishing a serene coexistence of human beings.
One may question how Shinto came to be if there was no founder. It is said that when the Japanese people and Japanese culture became aware of their existence, Shinto was already there. By studying the Yayoi culture, you can learn more about Shinto, as those who originated from the northern region of an island called Kyushu possesses a direct connection to later Japanese culture and Shinto. The initial practices of the Yayoi religious culture centered on agriculture and shamanism. At the time, early shamans (known as miko) performed ceremonial rites. As time passed, another tribe began to perform rites for other groups and history states that the Yamato tribe assumed the responsibility of leading the Shinto state.
Today, it is estimated that the religion caters to 3 to 4 million adherents. Texts associated with Shinto include Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters), and Nihongi or Nihon shoki (Chronicles of Japan). However, these sorts of texts are in no way comparable to the Bible or the Qur’an in relation to their respective religions.
Basically, the Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters) and the Nihongi or Nihon shoki (Chronicles of Japan), are viewed as the sacred books of Shinto. Written in 712 and 720 AD (respectively), they are comprised of the oral traditions that have taken place throughout the years. The books also illustrate mythology and ceremonies associated with ancient Shinto. Supplementary texts include books written about the history of ancient Japan, noting topics, such as topography and literature.
Shinto is a polytheistic religion, meaning followers believe in more than one ancient god, goddess or spirit. The belief system was also built upon the kami, which is viewed as forces of nature filled with mystery. People pay special attention to landscape features that appear unique. It could be an unusual presentation of a mountain range, rocky cliff, cave, stone, or tree trunk. A great deal of folk tales has emerged regarding these kinds of holy places. Stories may incorporate animal possession with popular creatures, like foxes, dogs, and cats playing an important role.
To learn more about Shinto, read “Shinto Holidays” and “The Practices of Shintoism” for additional information.