What is Shintoism? A traditional Japanese religion that exhibits the Japanese mentality!

Japan is known as one of the Buddhist countries, and Buddhism arrived in japan around the 6th Century. Before that, Japan had its original indigenous faith called “Shintoism”, which is rooted in Japanese people’s lives. Today, I’d like to show you how it’s influencing Japanese culture.

2016-07-15   Culture,

Torii in the woods


【CONTENTS】
The difference between temples and shrines
The reason why they don’t have a Shinto bible
What are the rocks and trees with tied ropes?
The Japanese lifestyle and the way people perceive nature
Shintoism harmonizes with foreign gods.

Torii
Torii

The difference between temples and shrines

Do you know the difference between temples and shrines? The difference is that shrines have large Torii gates at the entrance, while temples do not. Temples have a monk as a priest and shrines have a priest and a Miko. Monks chant sutra at temples and priests at shrines do not. A Miko is female assistant who assists the priest. Priests at shrines pray at festivals and events at their shrine, but they normally don’t chant, because there is no written bible in Shintoism.

A priest in a shrine
A priest in a shrine
miko-san
Miko

The reason why they don’t have a Shinto bible

Shintoism is polytheism based on animism, and gods that appear in Japanese mythology. The highest god is a deva called Amaterasu Omikami. In Shintoism, it is believed that a spirit dwells in everything, but only things that have big impacts on our lives are worshipped as super powers. In Shintoism, one omnipotent being doesn’t just, rule the world. The idea is how to borrow different powers from different gods. The practice of Shintoism is based on how to improve your quality of life on a daily basis.

What are the rocks and trees with tied ropes?

Have you ever seen large rocks and trees that are tied up with rope?
In Japan, we have a custom called “shimenawa”, or rope tying.

A rock
A rock
A Sacred tree
A Sacred tree

In animism, it’s believed that spirits that come from the sun, forests, and sea dwell in rocks and trees. The place where a spirit dwells is called a “yorishiro”. It is said that shrines are built in and around these “yorishiro”. Visiting shrines is meant to be a way of cleansing your spirit.

Some of the older shrines are actually just “yorishiro”, and shrines are not built. They use the mountains and large rocks as the shrine itself.

The Japanese lifestyle and the way people perceive nature

For ancient Japanese people, nature is god, and the ‘being’ to pray to. Ancient Japanese people tried to live with nature by building their houses with paper and wood. Contrary to this, Western people perceived nature as something to conquer. They built their houses with bricks to protect themselves from the threat of nature. In Shintoism, nature is something to respect and live with.

Japanese garden
Japanese garden

We have a gardening style called shakkei, or literally, “borrowing scenery”. Please take a look at the picture. The mountains and wooded areas are considered a part of the design, which creates the dynamic scenery. It also shows the spirit of the Japanese people.

Shintoism harmonizes with foreign gods.

Not only Buddhism, but Christianity and other religions also came to Japan.
The reason why there is no conflict between the different religions, is because Shintoism is centered in Japan. Shintoism’s polytheism allows it to harmonize with other religions.

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AUTHOR

kyoami

kyoami

Writer/ Translator

I love Japanese folkcraft article, traditional handicrafts and antiques. I’m seeking the Japanese people’s religious outlooks and its origins that are behind Japanese people’s unique sense and techniques rooted in the ordinary life.