Japanese culture is unique in the way it combines art, religion, and nature into a cohesive unit. Daoism and Confucianism are present in Japan, but the two most prevalent religions are Shinto and Buddhism. Elements of all of these religions are found in the lives of most Japanese people. The native religion in Japan is Shinto. One of the central themes in Shinto is reverence and respect for nature. Many parts of nature are viewed as representations of sacred divine power. The aesthetic beauty of nature is recognized through artwork and poetry among other things. Buddhism was introduced to Japan in 552 C.E. Originally, there were conflicting views from different clans who either supported the new religion or did not want it to infiltrate Japanese culture. Over time Buddhism has been assimilated into the landscape of Japanese religion, however, it has had varying degrees of power, influence, and acceptance depending on time period. Whether examining monastic forms such as Zen Buddhism or popular forms such as Pure Land Buddhism, one will find an appreciation of aesthetic beauty and all types of art.
In Shinto, nature is regarded as the sacred creation of the gods. Any being or object in the natural world that is particularly vivid or impressive is believed to be the manifestation of divine power, otherwise known as kami. This concept stems from the ancient story of the creation of the Japanese islands. It is told that in ancient times two heavenly kami, named Izanagi and Izanami, dipped their spears into the primal waters. As they pulled their spears out of the water mud dripped off them and created the islands of Japan. Every part of the islands was created by the kami in the image of heaven. This implies that there are limitless numbers of kami present throughout the world. With nature being viewed as sacred it is not surprising to discover that many Shinto shrines are located in natural settings. This allows religious ceremonies and rituals...
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