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Shinto

Land of Origins

Shinto is one of Japan's most prestigious ancient religions, tracing back to around 500 BCE. It encompasses the methods of ancient Japan with the practices of today's modern Japanese society. The word Shinto is derived from the Chinese word "shin tao" meaning "The Way of Gods." The Shinto religion is unlike any other as it has no real founder. Like Buddhism Shinto established itself. It then became an official religion of Japan with 84% of Japanese people following both Shinto and Buddhism as they are very similar in their basic concepts of happiness in human nature.

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This map highlights (in purple) the areas which the Shinto religion is followed in relation to other religions in the world
The map above shows the Shinto religion is located in the far eastern part of the world, this includes all of Japan and parts of Cambodia.

Origins of the Universe

The Kami are known to have created the universe, this is told in the Kojiki. Kami means 'god's although they are not like the traditional concepts Gods as in many monotheistic religions. The Kojiki tells of the Kami beginning as the centre of heaven, then giving birth and growth to all other Kami through the kami brother and sister. The Kami include, Amaterasu (the Sun Goddess), Tsuki-yomi (The Moon God), Leech-child and Susano-o (Storm God). They also gave birth to Japan's Eight Great Islands. Amaterasu is considered to be the chief diety as she comes from the Imperial Family, her shrine is located in Ise. Susano-o, after descending from heaven and roaming the earth was heroic in killing a great evil serpent. Th Kami are believed to protect all their people and sustain their happiness in spirituality.




Principal beliefs

Although Shinto's theology has not yet been as fully developed as most other religions within the laws of its moral code, they usual follow Confucianism. This is considered a world religion of great ethical and moral beliefs which take high consideration to philosophy.
All of humanity is regarded as "Kami's child" therefore all life involved with human nature is considered to be sacred. The way and will of the Kami is believed to have truth of heart or 'musuhi' to gain the creative powers of the Kami.

The Shinto religion has Four Affiermations used to preach the right practices, attitudes and spirituality for its followers. These include:
Tradition and family- which preserve tradtions through celebration (mainly of birth and marriage.)
Love of nature- the sacredness of natural life as spirits to be worshipped in order to become further in contact with the Gods.
Physical cleanliness- bathing, washing hands and mouth often to cleanse yourself.
"Matsuri"- which is given to the Kami and ancestors to show worship, honor and obedience. Sometimes this is shown in a festival of the same name.

Although during World War II the desire for peace was demolished due to the world wide battle it has now been restored and the Shinto community are now devoted to finding peace within themselves and the world.




The Afterlife

Shinto beliefs in accordance with the afterlife believe that the human spirit is to remain forever as like the spirit of Kami. The spirits live in another world, this is mentioned in the Kojiki (Ancient Matters) and the Nihonshoki (Chronicles of Japan). It tells that the Kami si present in both worlds. The most known other world is named 'the other world of Heaven' in which the most respected and admired dieties dwell. Contrasting this world is 'the other world of Yomi' which is believed to be connected to the burial of the dead, although there is no academic evidence to prove this matter. The third world is called 'Tokoyo' which is believed to be located beyond the sea. Another world which is known through folk faith is 'the other world in the mountains' which connects to the way in which graves are located on a hill looking over the village. These other worlds are not seen as a utopia or as a hell. Instead it relfects the belief that the spirits of the dead can visit and connect with this present world and time if called on through a ritual or a festival. By holding these festivals it also fulfills the belief that Kami and ancestral spirits will protect their descendants. Shinto is not focused on life after death but life in this world.






Ethics








Supernatural powers and deities





Rituals and Festivals

Taisai is the major festival of the Shinto religion. It can go for an unknown amount of days depending on the people involved. The festival not only involves the shrine but the surrounding area. Everything becomes entranced by the joy and happy atmosphere. Taisai reaches all, this is done by a mobile shrine called Mikoshi which comes to any house if Shime (a sacred rope) is hanging on the front door. This enables all to feel a bigger connection to Kami. Mikoshi is also part of the highlight of the festival, a parade which travels to the centre of the community. The community follow the Mikoshi which is held up by many carriers, then followed by the cheif priest on horseback. This is followed by treasured items, children in tradtional dress and more worshippers. As they travel there are many stops so different areas of the community have a chance to worship the Mikoshi and recieve the blessing of Kami. These festivals are of a very large scale. The festival reaches its climax at night. This involves all houses and buildings being covered in laterns, as well as the Dashi which can sometimes be two or three storeys high and is a festival float. At this time dancers, musicians and performers gather and celebrate in the street along with the rest of the community. This causes many to rejoice, but can somtimes result in fights and disturbances as there is alot of emotions which come out at this stage. After the festival peace units the community. Every household shares in a great feast of celebration and worship. This could be compared to the American Thanksgiving.

These pictures show some rituals and festivals of the Shinto people
These pictures show some rituals and festivals of the Shinto people




Religion and society

The Shinto priesthood has six different grades. These include the Superior, the First, the Second, the Semi-Second, the Third and the Fourth grade. All of these grades requires different qualifications in order to obtain them. For example the Semi-Second grade refers to those who have served in the shrines for over twenty years. Shinto priesthood also has five ranks, called Johkai, Seikai, Meikai, Gon-Seikai, Chokkai. The highest rank is Guji which refers to the cheif priest, in order to become Guji of certain prestigous shrines priests must reach the rank of Meikai. To serve in ordinary shrines priests must reach the ranking of Gon-Seikai.
In order to become a priest in the Shinto religion people must go through the proper educations, which can be found in the many instituations around Japan. Shinto contrasts some religions in that women are allowed to be priests, this started after World War II, although today their are only 2,000 women priests in a total of 20,000 priests in total. The population of women in the Shinto community is helped by the Kaguramai, the sacred dance offered to the Kami. This dance is always performed in the shrines and by women, a tradtion which was developed from the mythological times.
At many festivals, especially in argicultural areas, rites are performed by a religious member of the community, not necessarily being an educated priest, instead sharing the job in order to fulfil the religious obligations.




Search for meaning


Forms of Shinto

Within the Shinto religion are form closely linked forms, including:
Koshitsu Shinto-
Jinja Shinto-
Kyoha/Shuha (Sectarian) Shinto-
Minzoku (Folk) Shinto-

The Shinto religion is very accepting of other religions

Bibliography

http://library.thinkquest.org/09jan-oracle-n-001/00432/page_465119525.html
www.wadsworth.com
http://www.religioustolerance.org/shinto.htm
http://jinja.jp/english/s-0.html

http://school.phippy.com/shinto/what.html