Popular Japanese Religion

Japanese Culture Shintoism


The word Shintoism is said to have originated from the words "Shin" meaning spirit and "to" which means a philosophical path. Shintoism is popularly believed to be a Japanese religion. However according to another school of thought, "Shinto" means "The Way Of The Gods". And, Shintoism is the path that leads toward attainment of universal self. It is believed that when a man's life comes to an end, he becomes a Kami. Kami is regarded as a supernatural being who is equivalent to God. That is the time when he attains the universal self and becomes equal to God. But it would be wrong to assume that.

Shintoism believes in worshiping spirits. It believes in existence of God within all living creatures which become manifested after death and equalizes to the supreme God. The dead spirits are better known as Kamis. It is a belief that there is a Kami residing within all living and non living beings and again there are supreme Kamis residing over all the Kamis. It is said that the world consists of about eight million Kamis. This belief is popularly expressed by the expression "Yaoyorozu no Kami".

The most popularly worshiped of all Kamis happens to be the Sun Goddess "Amterasu". However the privilege of becoming a Kami is available to only those who abide by the ritual practices and customs in their life. And those who fail to do so would be degraded into the status of "Urami" meaning a grudge or a devil spirit. It believes, that there exists two forms of Universe. One is visible (Ken Kai) and the other is invisible (Yu Kai). And these two Universes are controlled by three deities.

The above theology very much corresponds to Hindu belief. However, it is reasonably argued that Shintoism has been inspired from religions like Buddhism and Confucianism. The migration of a section of Chinese and Japanese in the interiors of Japan happens to be the reason of this. But a significant distinction between Shintoism and Buddhism lies in their perception about rebirth. Buddhism lays emphasis on the cycles of rebirth. It believes that individuals are rewarded or punished according to the deeds of their past life.

But on the other hand Shintoism stresses on finding happiness and satisfaction in one's present life only. The religion is broadly divided into two classes. The Sectarian Shinto, which is again categorized into thirteen sects and the State Shinto religion. Like most religions, Shintoism believes in figurative representations of different principals. Mirrors, sword, and jewels are commons symbols of virtues like bravery, intelligence and benevolence. The Shinto shrine is represented by three big commas, known as "Mistu-tomo-e".

However the religion came to an abrupt end after the World War II. Most of the customs and practices of the religion has become extinct. But surprisingly, Shintoism has left an indelible impression in the Japanese culture. It is a common Japanese practice to sprinkle grains of salt before commencement of a wrestling match. This is done with the intention of purifying the wrestling arena. Such practices and traditions are inspired from Shintoism. Again, Ikebana, which is a Japanese tradition of flower arrangement, is inspired from Shintoism that recognizes the importance of the harmony of nature.

The religion does not believe in killing of other living beings for satisfaction of hunger and preaches to keep such practices to the minimum. Perhaps it is the reason why some Japanese people still utter the word "itidakimashu" which is an expression for offering thankfulness to the preparer of the food and also to those animals who lost their lives to provide him the meal. Throughout ages we have seen that religion of a country has always leaves an important impact in its culture and Shintoism is no exception. It is not the belief in a religion but an observance of its preachings that serves the purpose of it. One can not deny that Shintoism is the background behind Japanese culture. In today's world, Shintoism exists only in the pages of history but its impact in the lives of common Japanese people is still the impetus behind the progress of the nation an its citizens.

About the Author

Jessica Parker writes on friendships that are broken, relationships that are estranged, religions are extinct. She explores long lost aspects of life and wishes to express them. she finds, to be a nice way of expressing her long cherished thoughts.

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