Japanese History: Shinto Religion

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  • Topic: Religion, Japan, Japanese people
  • Pages : 4 (1509 words )
  • Download(s) : 486
  • Published : May 21, 2006
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Studies of Japanese culture and history have always pointed to Shinto as the defining element of Japanese religion, having continually existed from prehistoric to modern times. There are those who go so far as to say that Shinto is even more than a religion, that it is and has always been the very nature and spirit of the Japanese people. Shinto is argued to be the unifying force among the Japanese people, bringing together the heterogeneity of rituals and practices and thus defining Japanese religion and culture. However, Kuroda Toshio, in his article "Shinto in the History of Japanese Religion," refutes the claim that Shinto is a native Japanese religion that has existed throughout history. He asserts that Shinto did not emerge as an independent religion until the end of the fifteenth century, and argues instead that kenmitsu Buddhism, which does include Shinto as one of its components, is the true native religion of the Japanese. He then questions the legitimacy of accepting Shinto as the dominant primitive religion simply because historic sampling has made it appear so, and casts doubt on what may be accepted as a "true picture of history" (Kuroda, 20). In this essay, I will be arguing for the validity of this question, while nonetheless asserting the importance of the pursuit of history. History cannot be accepted as an absolutely accurate representation of the past, but rather as a reformation of the past in light of today's concepts. At the same time, efforts to understand history accurately are essential because, as Robert Bellah shows, historical concepts may have important applications in today's world.

The word Shinto as it is understood today is different from its original meaning, argues Toshio. This implies that history undergoes constant change, and shows the difficulty of pinpointing a single stage in time and accurately describing that point in today's language. Today Shinto is accepted as a word that has always meant Japan's...
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