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Shinto

Shinto


Shinto is a practice of religious rites based on the Japanese polytheistic idea of kami (deity). The word Shintō literally means "Way of Kami." Scholars of Shinto often maintain that it is the indigenous religion of Japan. Certainly Shinto has no obvious foreign origin, although there have been Korean and Chinese influences in the development of Shinto.


Institutional Shinto

Jinja Shinto (Shrine Shinto) is the institutional form of Shinto. Jinja Honchō (the Association of Shinto Shrines) in Tokyo is the administrating office for about eighty-thousand Shinto shrines in Japan. Ise Jingū (the Grand Shrine of Ise) in Ise, Mie Prefecture, which enshrines Amaterasu Ōmikami (the Sun Goddess), is considered to be the most sacred Shinto shrine. The emperor of Japan is considered to be the divine descendant of Amaterasu Ōmikami and the highest Shinto priest. The emperor's most important religious duty is to pray to the kami for the prosperity of Japan, the happiness of the Japanese people, and peace in the world.

Shinto has no holy scriptures in the strict sense, but the mythologies collected in Japanese classics such as Kojiki (the Record of Ancient Matters ), compiled in 712, and Nihonshoki (also known as Nihongi, the Chronicles of Japan ), compiled in 720, are regarded as important texts. In many cases, the mythologies have political implications to justify the rule of the emperor, but they also have cosmological implications.


General phenomenology of Shinto

Shinto is one of the most widely practiced religions in Japan; for centuries the Japanese people have been practicing Shinto alongside Buddhism. Although there are some cases of syncretism, mostly a clear distinction is made between Shinto and Buddhism. Generally, Shinto concerns happiness and prosperity in this world, whereas Buddhism, for the Japanese, relates to the peace of deceased souls.

The grounds of a Shinto shrine are usually marked by a grove of tall evergreen trees surrounding a gateway called a torii. In the main building of the shrine, a shintai (divine object), which is supposed to bear the spirit of a particular kami, is enshrined. Typically, a shintai is an ancient-style mirror, which is contained in a special case. No one is allowed to view the shintai directly. With few exception, there are no images or statues of kami.

Most Japanese go to a Shinto shrine on certain occasions, often on New Year's Day, to pray for the kami 's blessings. According to tradition, the prayer first washes his or her hands and mouth at a fountain located near the gateway. Then the prayer proceeds to the front of the main building, casts a few coins into an offertory box, rings the bells, bows twice, claps his or her hands twice, and bows one more time. The whole procedure takes only a few minutes.

A number of rites and one major festival are held annually at each Shinto shrine. In a Shinto festival, priests first solemnly offer prayers and foods such as rice and sake (rice wine) to the kami, thanking the kami and asking for the kami 's blessings. Dances and music are then performed for the kami and the people to enjoy together. The highlight of the festival is when portable shrines or floats are energetically paraded through the parish, usually carried by male parishioners. Many stalls that sell snacks or goods may be set up on or near the shrine grounds on the day of the festival.

A special ritual called jichinsai (Earth-pacifying ritual) is almost always performed by Shinto priests when construction begins on a new building or facility. It is believed that, without such a ritual, accidents may happen because the deities or spirits that dwell on the construction site become angry.


Characteristics of Shinto

Scholars of Shinto often point out that Shinto has no dogma, although some characteristics of Shinto have continued relatively unchanged during its long history. Muraoka Tsunetsugu (18841946) was one of the first scholars to outline the characteristics of Shinto thought. Stimulated and informed by Muraoka's studies, historian Delmer Brown reconsidered and reformulated the Japanese cultural paradigms. The following characteristics of Shinto are largely based on Brown, with a few revisions.

Vitalism. The scholar Motoori Norinaga (17301801) once defined kami as whatever seems strikingly impressive, possesses the quality of excellence, or inspires a feeling of awe. Certainly Shinto includes an animistic view of nature, but Shinto has a more distinctive characteristic. The kami enshrined in a Shinto shrine varies from a deity that appears in the mythologies in Kojiki or Nihonshoki to the spirit of a historical figure such as an outstanding emperor, feudal lord, or scholar. However, the kami is always believed to have mysterious power to create, enrich, prolong, or renew any form of life.

In other words, what the kami symbolizes is vitality, productivity, or fertility in this world. Shinto vitalism has roots in agricultural rites that may date back to the third or fourth centuries b.c.e. Even in modern times, people pray to kami for worldly happiness, prosperity, success, safety, or health.

Ritualism. In Shinto tradition, performing and participating in rituals has been given greater emphasis than believing and confessing a certain creed. Although theological treatises of Shinto were written as early as the thirteenth century, no established creed or orthodox dogma ever developed. It is more likely that the articulation of principles was intentionally eschewed than that Shinto failed to establish creed or dogma. Some rituals, such as the Niinamesai (Feast of New Rice Crops), which is performed by the emperor himself, are considered to be so sacred that the entire procedure and even the name of the kami involved are kept secret.

According to surveys, only a small percentage of Japanese confess that they believe in Shinto, but the majority of them visit a Shinto shrine on New Year's Day. Such data provoke some scholars to maintain that Shinto is a cultural custom rather than a religion.

However, State Shinto is an exceptional case. From 1871 to 1945, Shinto was the Rite of State, also called State Shinto. Toward the end of World War II, the sacredness and invincibility of Japan as the nation of kami, was so strongly believed that State Shinto became fanatical, leading many Japanese soldiers to suicidal attacks. Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo enshrines the spirits of the soldiers who died for Japan and the emperor, not as souls of the dead but as kami (i.e., deities that have power to give vitality).

Particularism. Shinto is a national religion practiced only by the Japanese, including Japanese immigrants in other countries. With few exceptions, Shinto has had no interest in overseas missions or in universal principles or values that are considered valid for all human beings. Scholars of Shinto tend to emphasize the "uniqueness" of Shinto rather than its universality. Each kami enshrined in a local shrine is supposed to concern only the people in the local community. This particularism also originates in Shinto's development from agricultural rites focusing on the sacredness of the particular water source of each local community. Nonetheless, when Japan annexed Korea in the early twentieth century, the Japanese government built Shinto shrines in Korea and forced Korean people to worship Shinto kami.

Shinto and science

From ancient times, arts, sciences, and technologies, including philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, astrology, medicine, and alchemy, were continuously imported into Japan from China and Korea, and studied and developed in Japan in various ways. However, neither Shinto nor Japan gave birth to anything similar to modern science. In fact, the characteristics of Shinto discussed above, especially the animistic view of nature and the avoidance of establishing universal principles, may have stood in the way of the development of a modern scientific methodology or view of nature.

On the other hand, the Japanese studied and learned modern science earnestly and quickly once it was introduced. Some Japanese scholars started to study modern science when Shogun Tokugawa Yoshimune permitted the importation of nonreligious Western books in 1720. After the Meiji Restoration of 1868, the study of science was accelerated. Kōgakuryō (College of Science and Technology) was established in Tokyo in 1873 and was merged with Tokyo University in 1886. By the end of the twentieth century, Japan had become a world leader in science and technology. In that process, Shinto did not serve as an obstacle. Once science became associated with success and prosperity in this world, its study and application could be encouraged. Neither Copernican heliocentrism nor the Darwinian theory of evolution raised significant controversy in Japan, probably because the human being has no special status as the crown of creation in Shinto or Buddhism. In Shinto the human being is simply a harmonious part of nature.

The animistic element of Shinto that respects the vitality immanent in nature should certainly have the potential to make a positive contribution to human efforts to preserve the natural environment. Interdisciplinary conferences involving scholars of Shinto are occasionally held, although some feel that the politically conservative tendency of Shinto may work contrary to the efforts of environmentalism.


Bibliography

asquith, pamela j., and kalland, arne, eds. japanese images of nature: cultural perspectives. richmond, va.: curzon, 1997.

aston, william george, tr. nihongi, chronicles of japan from the earliest times to a. d. 697. rutland, vt. and tokyo: c. e. tuttle, 1972.

brown, delmer m., ed. the cambridge history of japan, volume i: ancient japan. cambridge, u.k.: cambridge university press, 1993.

hardacre, helen. shinto and the state, 1868-1988. princeton, n. j.: princeton university press, 1989.

kitagawa, joseph m. religion in japanese history. new york: columbia university press, 1966.

nakayama, shigeru; swain, david l.; yagi, eri, eds. science and society in modern japan: selected historical sources. tokyo: university of tokyo press, 1974.


nelson, john k. a year in the life of a shinto shrine. seattle and london: university of washington press, 1996.

ono, sokyo. shinto: the kami way. rutland, vt. and tokyo: c. e. tuttle, 1962.

philippi, donald l., tr. kojiki. princeton, n. j.: princeton university press, 1969.

philippi, donald l., tr. norito: a translation of the ancient japanese ritual prayers. princeton, n. j.: princeton university press, 1990.


masakazu hara

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Shinto

SHINTO.

Shinto, composed of two ideographs, literally means the "way of the kami. " Although kami can be translated as gods or deities, it also refers more generally to spirit-beings, the supernatural, or to a sacred quality in which an individual can even participate. Shinto refers to what has become a religious tradition indigenous to Japan that recognizes the existence of the kami governing various aspects of reality. There is no primary revelatory text from which doctrines emanate. Instead, doctrines have become established over time, with evidence showing conceptual interaction with Daoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism over the centuries.

The sacred as represented by the kami, in whom lie the constructive "way" of creation, harmony, and uprightness, plays a central role. These truths can be discerned through faith and ritual. While beneficial and malevolent forces are both recognized, they are not necessarily strictly separated, since good and evil are understood as closely related. In Shinto mythology, for example, it is not unusual for the effects of particular gods to change from one to the other depending on the kami 's circumstances.

Central to Shinto is the concept of purity and purification of one's inner and outer selves. Purification of the inner self involves living before the kami in reverence and worship. Shinto recognizes that life lived with such reverence shapes attitudes of heart and mind, leading to magokoro ("heart of sincerity"). This, in turn, influences all of man's relationships to himself, to others, and to the world leading to harmony and peace. In this way, man also partakes in the divine as he lives in accordance to the way of the kami. The purification of the outer self involves the observance of various ritesamong which are included rites for different stages in an individual's life, and festivals (matsuri ) at various times of the year.

Contrary to common perceptions, for most of its past, Shinto did not exist as an independent religion. In this sense, presenting a summary of the "history of Shinto" may misleadingly reify its existence when it was not truly there as a distinctive religious tradition. The term as it is understood today did not become common parlance until the twentieth century. Still, since modern Shinto reflects the broader tendencies of folk religion in Japan's history, and since the tradition claims historicity, the history of Shinto as it is often presented remains significant.

It is standard to present the origins of Shinto as being historically discernible as far back as the Yayoi period (roughly 300 b.c.e. to 300 c.e.) in which uji, or clans, worshipped the ujigami, its tutelary deity. While these kami were often ancestral, others represented various aspects of nature or ideas. As the Yamato clan, from which the imperial line is said to come, gradually grew powerful, the authority of its tutelary deity also expanded. During the seventh and eighth centuries, Daoist, Confucian, and Buddhist traditions deeply influenced Japanese folk belief. Efforts in the eighth century made Buddhist and Shinto philosophies compatible in a process called shimbutsu shûgô (unifying of gods and buddhas). Shinto kami became protectors of Buddhism, making it possible to have Shinto shrines within Buddhist temples. Such Buddhist-Shinto accommodation became more explicit during the Kamakura period (11921333): Ryobu (Dual) Shinto taught that the two realms of the universe in Shingon Buddhism corresponded with the two kami (Amaterasu and Toyouke) of the Ise Shrine; and, Sannô Shinto taught that the fundamental truth of the universe was equivalent to Amaterasu, the sun goddess, who was the source of the universe. Buddhism, however, generally remained more politically powerful and much of what is referred to as Shinto during this time may, in fact, be more Buddhist.

Shinto as a more distinct religious tradition is said to become more recognizable in reactions to Buddhist dominance that occurred in the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries. In the thirteenth century, Watarai (or Ise) Shinto taught that kami were the basis of all beings including buddhas and bodhisattvas. In actuality, however, the Watarai tradition continued to assume compatibility with Buddhism. In the fifteenth century, hints of Shinto as a distinctive religion appear. Yoshida Shinto, established by Yoshida Kanetomo (14351511), taught that Buddhism and Confucianism were second-hand versions of Shinto, and that indigenous knowledge of truths had been handed down through generations through his lineage. Although Yoshida Shinto's influence would be subdued during the Tokugawa period (16031867) when Neo-Confucian philosophy legitimized the state, it continued to inform Shinto beliefs leading to the development of Nativist Studies (Kokugaku) and the thinking of Motoori Norinaga (17301801). This would eventually coalesce in Fukko (Restoration) Shinto that called for the restoration of imperial rule, resulting in the Meiji Restoration and the start of Japan's modern history.

Following the Meiji Restoration until the end of World War II, Shinto was made a state religion that taught the national ethic of reverence for and submission to the emperor. Kokka (State) Shinto, as this form is called, was very much a modern creation and was used aggressively by the state to nurture a loyal and nationalistic population. In the postwar period, though some traditionalist conservatives are known to seek revivals of this in some form, due to its disestablishment in the postwar constitution, Shinto no longer has such close connection with the state and is substantially weaker.

Still, Shinto belief and practice continue and exert their shaping influence upon attitudes and values of many Japanese. Shinto weddings, or festivals marking the calendar such as obon in the summer, the November festival for children, or New Year's Day, all remain popular and have become deeply embedded in national life. This has invited a new generation of scholars to move beyond viewing Shinto only in its statist form, to seeing it as a rich and lively tradition that continues to flourish in modern Japanese society. Although its close association in both beliefs and practice with the people and politics of Japan has given Shinto a parochial sensibility not conducive to spreading overseas, its continuing vitality has raised questions regarding the place of folk religion in the modern era and has won scholarly interest.

See also Japanese Philosophy, Japanese Thought ; Religion: East and Southeast Asia ; Sacred Places .

bibliography

Breen, John, and Mark Teeuwen, eds., Shinto in History: Ways of the Kami. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2000. Provides a general overview covering various topics.

Grapard, Allan G. "The Shinto of Yoshida Kanetomo." Monumenta Nipponica 47, no. 1 (spring 1992).

Hardacre, Helen. Shinto and the State, 18681988. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1988. A classic work explicating the construction and consequences of State Shinto in the modern era.

Kuroda, Toshio. "Shinto in the History of Japanese Religion." Journal of Japanese Studies 7, no. 1 (winter 1981): 121. An important critique of the normal historical genealogy presented for the ancient existence of Shinto.

Littleton, C. Scott. Shinto: Origins, Ritual, Festivals, Spirits, Sacred Places Oxford, U.K., and New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Picken, Stuart D. B. Essentials of Shinto: An Analytical Guide to Principal Teachings. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994.

. Historical Dictionary of Shinto. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2002.

. Shinto: Japan's Spiritual Roots. Tokyo and New York: Kodansha International, 1980. An accessible and beautiful visual introduction to various aspects of Shinto as practiced in Japan.

Schnell, Scott. The Rousing Drum: Ritual Practice in Japanese Culture. Honolulu: University of Hawaii, 1999.

Smyers, Karen A. The Fox and the Jewel: Shared and Private Meanings in Contemporary Japanese Inari Worship. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1999.

Teeuwen, Mark. "Attaining Union with the Gods." Monumenta Nipponica 48, no. 2 (summer 1993).

Teeuwen, Mark, and Fabio Rambelli, eds. Buddhas and Kami in Japan: Honj Suijaku as a Combinatory Paradigm. New York: Routledge, 2003.

Genzo Yamamoto

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Shinto

Shinto

ORIGINS AND HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT

CORE BELIEFS AND PRACTICES

IMPORTANCE TODAY

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Shinto is the indigenous religion of Japan. Although its origins extend back into Japans prehistory, Shinto has undergone significant periods of development throughout the countrys history, and it continues to be an important part of Japanese culture.

ORIGINS AND HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT

Although Shinto can be traced back to Japans Jomon period (c. 11,000-400 BCE), it was during the Yayoi period (c. 400 BCE250 CE) that the key elements associated with its developmentwet rice agriculture, fertility rituals, and stable, long-term communitiesappeared. During this time, local shrines were established and many of the beliefs and practices seen in Shinto today came into existence. During the Kofun period (c. 250-592 CE), Shinto became associated with a large-scale process of political consolidation. Although there remained small shrines in local communities, large Shinto shrines were built at Ise and Izumo on the eastern and western sides of the central Japanese island of Honshu, reflecting the more centralized political structure that was emerging. By the early Nara period (early eighth century), the first written histories of Japanthe Kojiki (712) and the Nihon shoki (720)included myths associated with Shinto that served to legitimize the imperial line and the leadership of the Japanese state. Primary among these was the mythic descent of the first Japanese emperor, Jimmu, from the sun goddess, Amaterasu.

The introduction of Buddhism into Japan from China around the middle of the sixth century also brought a new dimension to the development of Shinto. Buddhism, which had a much more extensive theology and culture (art, architecture, and literature) associated with it, came over time to coexist peacefully with Shinto, rather than to compete with it. The two religionsShinto, with its connections to fertility and life, and Buddhism, with its theology reaching beyond the present worldgrew to support one another. Beginning in the eighth century, Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines were often located together on the same site. In 743 the Shinto deity Amaterasu and the cosmic buddha Vairocana were officially declared to be two dimensions of the same reality. In the centuries that followed, the syncretistic relationship between Shinto and Buddhism continued to develop.

During the Tokugawa period (1600-1868), a shift away from Buddhism occurred, and a stronger connection to Confucian thought (introduced into Japan during earlier contact with China) developed. During this time, Shinto came to be used as a mechanism of support for political and social unity. This role of Shinto reached its peak during the Meiji period (1868-1912) and the preWorld War II and wartime portions of the Showa period (1926-1989), when Shinto branched off into Sect Shinto (retaining its local characteristics and Buddhist connections) and State Shinto (which became an official state religion and was used to instill a sense of loyalty to the country). Under State Shinto an Office of Shinto Worship (Jingikan) was established, and a system of national shrines was given official support and patronage. Reverence for the emperor, who was now considered to be a Shinto deitysacred and inviolable in the words of the Meiji Constitution (1889)and support for the Shinto concept of kokutai (body politic or national essence) was required in Japanese schools. Following Japans defeat in World War II (1939-1945), State Shinto was banned, the emperor was forced to renounce his divine status, and Shinto in large degree returned to its earlier pattern of local shrines and its connections with Buddhism. With key modifications, the religion continues in modern times to play a significant role in Japanese culture.

CORE BELIEFS AND PRACTICES

A central feature of Shinto lies in a belief in the existence of spirits or deities in nature known as kami. These spirits are usually associated with natural phenomena, such as a mountain, a waterfall, a large tree, or an unusual rock.

The surrounding area then comes to be considered sacred, and a shrine (jinja ) is erected there. Various rituals are performed at the shrine, among the most important being food offerings and rites of purification. In the beginning, the shrines were strictly local in character, and agricultural fertility was a central purpose of the rituals performed there. Annual shrine festivals (matsuri ) were events of great importance in the local community. Over time, certain shrines came to be thought of as connected with particular needs and serve as places to pray for human fertility, success in business, or even (in modern times) success in passing college entrance exams. Some shrines assumed regional significance. Other shrinesas mentioned in the preceding sectionreflected a larger, national purpose.

Over time also, shrine architecture came to follow certain basic styles or types. The earliest shrines (exemplified today by the great Ise Shrine dedicated to Amaterasu) were constructed of unpainted wood, but after the introduction of Buddhism, many shrines were painted a brilliant vermillion red, displaying the Chinese Buddhist influence. Large gateways (torii )also of varying stylesmark the entrance or approach to a shrine. Other important shrine features include stone dogs (komainu ) guarding the shrine entrance, a place of purification (chozuyu ) where worshippers stop to wash their hands and rinse their mouths prior to approaching the main shrine building, the main sanctuary (honden ) where the kami is believed to reside, the collection box (saisen-bako ) where money is thrown to express gratitude to the kami, and a special bell (suzu ) connected to a rope, which worshippers ring to announce their arrival.

In addition to participation in the annual shrine festival, people also visit shrines on national holidays such as New Years (shogatsu ) or the summer Bon festival (obon ). Most Japanese are married in a Shinto wedding ceremony, and there are other shrine ceremonies celebrating various life passages, such as the first shrine visit for a newborn child (hatsu-miyamairi ) or national Coming-of-Age Day (seijin-no-hi ) for twenty-year-olds, which takes place on January 15. Finally, many traditional Japanese sports (sumo, for example), as well as other forms of traditional culture, have their roots in Shinto.

IMPORTANCE TODAY

Since the end of World War II and the banning of Shinto as an official state religion, Shinto practice has focused primarily on its role as an aspect of traditional culture. More than 100,000 shrines existed in the country in 2003, ranging from small neighborhood shrines to large shrines of national significance. Japanese tourists flock to the famous shrines in historic cities like Kyoto and Nara. National holidays and family rites of passage, as well as matsuri, are celebrated at local or neighborhood shrines. It remains common for people to have a small Shinto family altar (kamidana, god shelf) located above the entrance to their homes. Although occasional controversies surface regarding holdovers from Shintos earlier role as a state religionthe periodic controversy, for example, surrounding the Yasukuni Shrine commemorating the war dead in TokyoShinto, for the most part, is a colorful and happy form of religious expression, the darker side of human existence being left to Buddhism with its funeral rituals and ideas concerning the next life. Most Japanese consider themselves, at some level at least, adherents of both religious traditions.

SEE ALSO Buddhism; Imperialism; Meiji Restoration; Nationalism and Nationality; Religion; Rituals; Symbols; World War II

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Inoue, Nobutaka, ed. 2003. Shinto: A Short History. Trans. Mark Teeuwen and John Breen. London: Routledge Curzon.

Kodansha. 1983. Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan. 9 vols. Tokyo: Author.

Littleton, C. Scott. 2002. Shinto: Origins, Rituals, Festivals, Spirits, Sacred Places. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Nelson, John K. 2000. Enduring Identities: The Guise of Shinto in Contemporary Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Scott Wright

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Shinto

Shinto Dictionaries, both English and Japanese, commonly present ‘Shintoism’ or ‘Shinto’ (the more common term), as a system of ancestor and nature worship native to Japan. Shinto as a systematic, unified religion is as much a creation of modern Japan's Meiji state (1867–1912) as it is something that has existed throughout Japan's history. The basic meaning of the word ‘Shinto’ until the nineteenth century was local religion in general, and although Shinto usually referred to Japanese religion, it did not necessarily have to (e.g. the 1605 anthropological work Ryūkyū shintō-ki, or Account of Local Religion [Shinto] in Ryukyu, the Kingdom of Ryukyu then being a separate country from Japan). Viewed historically, we may identify three related yet distinct varieties of ‘Shinto’: (i) local religious practices and beliefs that originated before Buddhist influence; (ii) certain of these local practices and beliefs that Buddhism later subsumed, systematized, and modified, from the ninth to the eighteenth centuries; and (iii) Japan's ‘national religion’, with varying degrees of connection to the state, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Shinto never articulated an overall theory of the body, but the first variety of Shinto closely linked the sexual body with agriculture and the forces of nature.

Important artifacts from the middle Jōmon period (c.3500–2400 bce) and later, include phallic stones (sekibō), ranging in height from 2 m to 50 cm, and clay female figures with prominent breasts and hips (dogū), sometimes appearing pregnant, most approximately 30 cm in height. Although there is disagreement over the details, most scholars agree that ancient inhabitants of Japan connected these objects with magico-religious rites to promote bountiful harvests. Prehistoric residents of the Japanese islands probably connected the mystery of human reproduction with agricultural productivity, and the female figures symbolized both mother and earth as locus of mysterious power.

The notion of mysterious power gradually developed into the Shinto concept of kami, often translated as ‘deity’. The most basic meaning of the term is: that which is above other things like it — in other words, that which is distinctive. An unusually large tree, an outcropping of rock, a waterfall, certain animals, and even certain people are examples of things that have qualified as kami owing to some distinctive attribute the local people regarded as significant. Though part of a world of spirits, kami were not transcendent. They linked the visible world with the realms beyond direct sensory apprehension.

According to ancient mythology, the Japanese islands themselves were created by the sexual activities of anthropomorphic kami. For example, in Chronicles of Japan, two creation deities, lzanagi and Izanami, stand on the Floating Bridge of Heaven and say ‘Is there no country beneath?’ They then thrust down a heavenly jewelled spear, repeatedly, until they found the vast ocean beneath. Brine dripped from the point of the spear, coagulated, and became an island on which the two deities dwelt. They continued the creation process after the female deity explained that her body has a place that is the source of femininity and the male deity explained that his had a place that is the source of masculinity. They united these two places to form numerous other islands. In these myths the deities' sexuality was the creative power of nature.

Shinto typically associated disease and death with pollution and, accordingly, developed purification rites. It celebrated health, prosperity, and life, which it associated with the creative forces of nature. A common metaphor for nature's generative forces was the sexual body. Phallic stones, poles, and etchings along roadsides, for example, functioned to protect against nature's polluting forces. Ancient agricultural deities often existed as a male and female pair, sometimes depicted embracing each other. Wooden or stone representations of male or female genitalia, or a pair of such objects, became the kami-body in shrines throughout many parts of the Japanese islands (the kami-body is an object in which the spirit of a deity was thought to reside). Even today, representations of sexual organs occasionally serve as the kami in Japanese shrines and can be seen in public festivals celebrating the shrine's kami.

During the late nineteenth century, Japan's Meiji state sought to revamp Shinto to enhance the process of nation-building (i.e. of Japanese thinking of themselves as Japanese). As part of a general policy of policing morality, the leaders of modern Japan sought to suppress the overtly sexual symbolism of Shinto. Instead of the sexual body, modern Japan's state Shinto stressed kokutai, the ‘national body’ (often translated ‘national polity’) — a vague but potent concept of Japanese essence embodied in an allegedly unbroken lineage of emperors descending from the solar deity (Amaterasu). What began in ancient Japan as worship of the sexual body, ended in modern Japan (until 1946) as worship of the national body. Neither ‘body’ plays a major role in today's Shinto, but vestiges of each remain.

G. Smits


See also creation myths.

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Shinto

Shinto (Jap., ‘the way of the kami’). The indigenous Japanese religious tradition. The term Shinto was coined in the 6th cent. CE, using the Chin. characters shen (‘divine being’) and tao (‘way’); in the native Japanese reading it is kami no michi or kannagara no michi. The origins of Shinto are clouded in the mists of the prehistory of Japan, and it has no founder, no official sacred scriptures, and no fixed system of doctrine. As the imperial (Tennō) clan gained supremacy, its myths also gained ascendancy, providing the dominant motifs into which the myths of the other clans were integrated to some extent. These myths were collected in the two 8th-cent. collections of mythology and early history, the Kojiki of 712 (Records of Ancient Matters) and the Nihongi/Nihonshoki of 720 (Chronicles of Japan), and they established the basic themes of Shinto, such as the cosmological outlook consisting of a three-level universe, the Plain of High Heaven (takama-no-hara), the Manifested World (utsushi-yo), and the Nether World (yomotsu-kuni); the creation of the world by Izanagi and Izanami; the forces of life and fertility, as also of pollution and purification; the dominance of the sun kami Amaterasu Ōmikami; and the descent of the imperial line from Amaterasu. The mythology also established the basic Shinto worship practices, dances, and chanting of norito.

In the history of Japan, Shinto has gone through many transformations: the imperial edicts prescribing the national rituals in the 7th cent.; the stratification of the Shinto priesthood; the Institutes of the Engi Era (Engi-shiki) regulating Shinto in the 10th cent.; Buddhist influence which resulted in the Shinto-Buddhist amalgamation (Ryōbu-shintō and Sannōichijitsu); the influence of neo-Confucianism on Shinto; and finally the resurgence of Shinto stimulated by the ‘National Learning’ (kokugaku) movement in the 18th and 19th cents. which returned Shinto to its former position as the guiding principle of Japan and provided a theoretical framework for Shinto thought. There still exist in modern Japan several different types of Shinto. The Shinto of the Imperial Household (kōshitsu shintō) focuses on rites for the spirits of imperial ancestors performed by the emperor. Shrine Shinto (jinja shintō) is presently the form of Shinto which embraces the vast majority of Shinto shrines and adherents in Japan, administered by the Association of Shinto Shrines (jinja honchō), State Shinto (kokka shintō) was created by the Meiji government and continued until the end of the Second World War to control most Shinto shrines and rituals in accordance with the ideological aims of the government. New Shinto movements were designated by the government as Sect Shinto (kyōha shintō). Sect Shinto groups continue today, joined by a group of ‘New Sect Shinto’ (shin kyōha shintō) movements which have developed in the post-war period. Folk Shinto (minkan shintō) is a designation for the extremely wide-ranging group of superstitious, magico-religious rites and practices of the common people. The typical setting for the practice of Shinto is the shrine (jinja) precinct, which is an enclosed sacred area with a gate (torii), ablution area, and sacred buildings including the main sanctuary (honden) which houses the symbol of the kami (shintai) and a worship area (haiden). The natural surroundings are also regarded as permeated with the kami presence; in fact, occasionally a mountain or sacred forest may take the place of the sanctuary. At special times through the year, shrines become the focal point for community festivals (matsuri), held according to the tradition of each shrine at stated times in honour of its own kami, although there are many common festivals. For the devout Shintoist, daily life itself is matsuri or service to the kami, and one worships before the home altar (kamidana). Mortuary rites are usually conducted by Buddhist priests, even though Shinto lays great emphasis on veneration of the ancestral spirits.

Shinto is a ‘this-worldly’ religion, in the sense that it is interested in tangible benefits which will promote life in this human world.

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"Shinto." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Shinto

Shinto (shĬn´tō), ancient native religion of Japan still practiced in a form modified by the influence of Buddhism and Confucianism. In its present form Shinto is characterized less by religious doctrine or belief than by the observance of popular festivals and traditional ceremonies and customs, many involving pilgrimages to shrines. Shinto, a term created to distinguish the indigenous religion from Buddhism, is the equivalent of the Japanese kami-no-michi, "the way of the gods" or "the way of those above." The word kami, meaning "above" or "superior," is the name used to designate a great host of supernatural beings or deities.

History and Development

Shinto cannot be traced to its beginnings, because until the 5th cent. (when Chinese writing was introduced into Japan) the myths and rituals were transmitted orally. The written record of the ancient beliefs and customs first appeared in the Kojiki [records of ancient matters], prepared under imperial order and completed in AD 712. From those first Japanese accounts of the religion of times then already far past, it can be seen that a worship of the forces and forms of nature had grown into a certain stage of polytheism in which spiritual conceptions had only a small place. Nor was there any clear realization of a personal character in the beings held to be divine, and there were practically no images of the deities.

There was no one deity supreme over all, but some gods were raised to higher ranks, and the one who held the most exalted position was the sun goddess, known as the Ruler of Heaven. The emperors of Japan are said to be descended from the sun goddess Amaterasu-o-mi-kami, in unbroken line beginning with the first, Jimmu, who ascended his throne in 660 BC Thus the emperor was looked upon as divine, even while living; by divine right he was the chief priest, and as such he presided over ceremonies of foremost importance. Aside from this his religious responsibilities were delegated to others.

A Shinto shrine, unaffected by other religious influences, is a simple unpainted wooden building, having some object within it that is believed to be the dwelling place of the kami. After Buddhism entered Japan in the 6th cent. AD, it had some influence on Shinto. In many shrines Buddhist priests serve, and worship under their direction is more elaborate than pure Shinto.

Beginning in the 17th cent. a vigorous effort was made to revive the old ways and ideas. After the Meiji restoration in 1868, the ancient department of Shinto rites was reestablished, giving Shinto much of its structure and identity as a religion. In 1882 all Shinto organizations were divided into two groups, state shrines (supervised and partially supported by the government) and sectarian churches. The ancient mythology was used to glorify the emperor and the state, and state Shinto became a powerful instrument in the hands of the militarists, who used it to glorify their policy of aggression.

Modern Shinto

Japan's defeat in World War II brought about the disestablishment of state Shinto. In 1946 in a New Year's rescript, Emperor Hirohito destroyed its chief foundation by disavowing his divinity; in the same year Gen. Douglas MacArthur forbade the use of public funds to support Shinto. In present-day Shinto there is no dogmatic system and no formulated code of morals. Shinto practices can be found abroad wherever large Japanese communities exist, as in the United States and South America. Some of the newer sects stress world peace and brotherhood as part of their philosophy.

Bibliography

See W. G. Aston, Shinto (1905, repr. 1968); D. C. Holtom, Modern Japan and Shinto Nationalism (rev. ed. 1947, repr. 1963); A. Akiyama, Shinto and Its Architecture (2d ed. 1956); S. Ono, Shinto: The Kami Way (1962); F. H. Ross, Shinto (1965); J. Herbert, Shinto (1966); S. D. Picken, Shinto: Japan's Spiritual Roots (1980).

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Shinto

Shinto

The term Shinto, which is translated as "the way of the gods," was not coined until the nineteenth century. Because Shinto, unlike Buddhism, has never been an organized religion or tradition and has no official doctrines or creed, its ideas concerning death can vary widely from one individual to the next. This entry makes references to kami, or native Japanese deities, as representative of the Shinto tradition and focuses on these deities as core to Shinto thought.

No moral notion of sin exists in Shinto. Death is not the "wages of sin," that is, the outcome of evil-doing. Rather, because purity is valued above all else, evil is defined as that which is "pollution." The primary pollutions are sickness, blood, and death. When kami are offended because of exposure to pollution, they can create disasters such as plagues and famines. Consequently, Shinto shrines usually do not conduct funerals. This tradition is evidenced in the familiar adage, "Shinto for weddings, Buddhism for funerals."

Nevertheless, historically, Shinto ideas have dealt with death. Practitioners believe that the spirits of the dead go to the mountains, above the sky, below the earth, or beyond the horizon. Kami and other supernatural beings also dwell in these places. Living beings from this world may visit those from the other worlds in border lands, which include cliffs, caves, and coastlines. The Japanese welcome these souls back to their homes in August at the Obon festival. Usually, however, after thirty-three years deceased ancestors are no longer considered. There is no concept of an eternal soul in Shinto.

Two of Japan's oldest texts, the Kojiki (Record of ancient matters, 712) and the Nihongi (Chronicles of Japan, 720), tell the story of Izanami and Izanagi, the two kami who created Japan. After Izanami dies giving birth to the kami of fire, she goes to a place called the Land of Darkness (known as Yomi no Kuni ). Her husband misses her so badly that he follows her, only to be shocked by Izanami's advanced state of decay. He flees the Land of Darkness, stopping at a river to cleanse himself on his way back to the land of the living. This early story emphasizes the Shinto understanding of death as pollution.

Occasionally deceased people have become kami, when the deceased were thought to be angry with the living or because of the circumstances surrounding their deaths. The most famous example of such a kami is Sugawara Michizane (845903), who was exiled to Kyushu, a southern island of Japan, in 901 because he was viewed as a political threat by the scheming regent. Shortly after Michizane's death a number of disasters struck Japan, which were thought to be caused by his angry spirit. To pacify him, he was recognized as a kami and enshrined in Kitano Tenmangu Shrine in Kyoto in the middle of the tenth century.

In Japan's Meiji period (18681912), a time of extreme nationalism, leaders adapted Shinto ideas to fit their political agenda. Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, established in 1869, enshrines the spirits of all the Japanese war dead since that time. Nevertheless, most deceased persons in Japan are not regarded as kami, and most Japanese turn to Buddhism for answers to problems concerning death.

See also: Buddhism; Confucius; Taoism

Bibliography

Aston, W. G., trans. Nihongi: Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to A.D. 67. 1924. Reprint, New York: Paragon Press, 1956.

Ono, Sokyo. Shinto: The Kami Way. Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle, 1962.

SARAH J. HORTON

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Shinto

Shinto (Jap. ‘way to the gods’) Indigenous religion of Japan. Originating as a primitive cult of nature worship, it was shaped by the influence of Confucius and, from the 5th century, Buddhism. A revival of the ancient Shinto rites began in the 17th century, and contributed to the rise of Japanese nationalism in the late 19th century. Shinto has many deities in the form of spirits, souls, and forces of nature.

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Shinto

Shin·to / ˈshinˌtō/ • n. a Japanese religion dating from the early 8th century and incorporating the worship of ancestors and nature spirits and a belief in sacred power ( kami) in both animate and inanimate things. It was the state religion of Japan until 1945. See also Amaterasu. DERIVATIVES: Shin·to·ism / -izəm/ n. Shin·to·ist / -ist/ n.

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Shinto

Shinto a Japanese religion dating from the early 8th century and incorporating the worship of ancestors and nature spirits and a belief in sacred power (kami) in both animate and inanimate things. It was the state religion of Japan until 1945. The word is Japanese, and comes from Chinese shen dao ‘way of the gods’.

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Shinto

Shinto native religion of Japan. XVIII. — Jap. shintō — Chinese shin tao way of the gods.

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Shinto

Shintobateau, chateau, gateau, gelato, mulatto, plateau •de facto, ipso facto •alto •canto, Esperanto, manteau, panto, portmanteau •antipasto, impasto - •agitato, Ambato, castrato, esparto, inamorato, legato, moderato, obbligato (US obligato), ostinato, pizzicato, rubato, staccato, tomato, vibrato, Waikato •contralto •allegretto, amaretto, amoretto, Canaletto, cornetto, falsetto, ghetto, larghetto, libretto, Loreto, Orvieto, Soweto, stiletto, Tintoretto, vaporetto, zucchetto •perfecto, recto •cento, cinquecento, divertimento, lento, memento, pimiento, portamento, Risorgimento, Sacramento, Sorrento, Trento •manifesto, pesto, presto •concerto •Cato, Plato, potato •Benito, bonito, burrito, coquito, graffito, Hirohito, incognito, Ito, magneto, Miskito, mosquito, Quito, Tito, veto •ditto • in flagrante delicto • mistletoe •pinto, Shinto •tiptoe •Callisto, fritto misto •cogito • Felixstowe • Sillitoe

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