The Shinto religion is an extremely important aspect of the Japanese culture and for many, a way of life. Shinto is the indigenous faith of the Japanese people and is Japan’s oldest religion. It incorporates the ways of ancient Japan with the practices of modern Japanese society. The values and customs of the Shinto religion are connected to those from the Japanese culture. Because ritual rather than belief is the main focus of Shinto, Japanese people do not usually think of Shinto as just a religion, it is more of an aspect of Japanese life.
The origin of the Shinto religion dates back to the beginning of Japanese history. Shinto was first used in the 6th century C.E., even though the roots of the religion date back to at least the 6th century B.C.E. Shinto does not have a founder and does not have any sacred scriptures that correlate directly with the religion. Shinto bases the majority of its principles on ancient books. Two of the most important books of the Shinto religion are the Kojiki and the Nihongi. While preaching is a usual practice in Christianity, it is uncommon in Shinto. This is due to the fact that Shinto is already deeply rooted into the Japanese people and traditions. Shinto is a local religion and the percentage of people who practice Shinto quite small. The word Shinto originated from the Chinese characters “Shin” meaning “divine being” and Tao meaning “way of the spirits”. All together this translates into “Way of the Spirits”.
The focus of Shinto is devotion to invisible spiritual beings known as kami. Shinto is a form of animism, which is the view that non-human entities, such as animals and plants posses a spiritual essence. Kami is commonly translated as a god or spirit and includes a wide spread of supernatural beings. For example, Amaterasu, Shinto’s most important kami, represents the sun goddess. She is thought to be the ancestor to the emperors of Japan. There are many other kami that are honored as aspects of nature rather than individuals. Various kami such as animals, plants, lakes, wind, trees, mountains, rivers, and fertility are important sacred spirits in Shinto. Humans also have their own kami that lives on after their death. Families generally revere the kami of their ancestors and of their family members who have passed away. The kami of extremely important people are honored as well.
To worship and honor the kami or to pray for good fortune, people visit Shinto shrines. Shinto shrines are described as places of intense peace with various beautiful gardens. Every shrine is surrounded by tress, despite being in a crowded cities. All of the villages and districts in Japan will have its own Shinto shrine, dedicated to the local kami. Although the shrines are dedicated to particular kami, it is rare that there will be any statues of kami at the shrine. Visiting shrines and participating in festivals is important in binding together local communities. Shinto shrines are the homes of kami and places of...