The Religion of Shinto
Shinto or “the way of the gods,” is the oldest religion in the history of Japan. Many of the Shino beliefs deal with natural disasters, animals, and plants. Over the years Shinto has become more modern adapting to the changing world, but the core of beliefs still remain the same as they were in 6 bce. Over time due to the different emperors and world events Shinto has had to change in order for it to remain in practice. A lot of Japanese culture such as dance, literature, and music stem from the religion, and even today in the 21st century you can see Shinto’s affect on Japanese culture. (Historyteacher, OMF International)
The beginnings of the Shinto faith are not concrete since there were no official recordings of the beginning of the religion. Shinto was said to date back as early as 6 bce. Many local Japanese cults during that time are now grouped under the Shinto religion, but were seen as separate religions prior to the joining of all their beliefs. The first official recordings of Shinto were dated around 8th century AD. Like many religions, Shinto was believed to have begun with animist living in modern day Japan. They praised different spirits such as the sun, moon, and rain to help them in their life. This developed into the idea of Kami the spirit found in plants, animals, etc. The early Japanese created stories and rituals that allowed them to understand the universe and give them a grasp on the idea of life and their existence in their strange and scary world. Other influences on Shinto came from the Korean tribes, which invaded Japan during prehistoric times. All these different cults weren’t seen as a faith they viewed themselves as just trying to understand the natural world. (BBC, OMF International).
After many centuries Shinto became more and more concrete, and now like all religions there are seven dimensions to Shinto: experimental, mythical, doctrinal, ethical, ritual, social, and material. These dimensions are specific only to Shinto and cannot be applied to any other religion. The ritual aspect of Shinto and initiation into the religion is to worship at the kamidana and shrines. When visiting a Shinto shrine it is called Omairi. Upon entering one must respectfully bow before they fully entering the shrine and if there is a place to wash your hands you do it to show a sign of respect this action is called Temizu. Some Shinto rituals that are performed daily are called Harae, and Misogi harai. Harae is the rite of ritual purification. Every day at the shrine they lay out offering such as food, tree branches, salt, and rice are the usual offerings. Misogi harai can be translated to water purification. This ritual is done daily by a regular practitioner at a shrine, but it can be performed in any setting that has clean running water. This ritual originates Shinto history, when Izanagi-no-OKami returned from he visit to Yomi (world of death). When he returned he performed the first Misogi harai to wash away the defilement he acquired on his journey. (BBC, tsubakishrine, Stephen Gray).
The experiential aspect of Shinto has a lot to do with unity with the kami. Kami or “gods” are the spirits that are worshiped in the Shinto religion. Unlike Christianity, that has saints and prophets, the gods in Shinto are usually elements of nature. Animals, plants, rocs, water are all considered gods in Shinto. Any one can become kami if they “embody the values and virtues of Kami life.” Many emperors or great leaders can become kami; similar to how great and virtuous leaders can become saints in the Christian faith. Kami and nature are not separate but Musubi, an energy that connects the universe, which humans should strive towards, connects them. Kami is special since it is believed that kami created human life. With Kami there are three sects amatsu-kami, kunitsu-kmai, and ya-o-yorozu no kami but because the nature of Kami is always shifting these guidelines are not strictly held....
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