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The Shinto religion was started in the Tokugawa period

(1600-1868) of Japanese history. The Tokugawa Enlightenment

inspired a group of people who studied kokugaku, which roughly

translated means nativism, Japanese Studies, or Native

Studies. Kokugakus intent was to recover Japanese character

to what it was before the early influences of foreigners, especially

the Chinese. Some of these influences include Confucianism

(Chinese), Taoism (Chinese), Buddhism (Indian and Chinese), and

Christianity (Western European). The kokugakushu (nativist)

focused most of their efforts on recovering the Shinto religion, the

native Japanese religion, from fragments of texts and popular

religious practices.

However, Shintoism is probably not a native religion of

Japan (since the Japanese were not the original natives of

Japan). There really is no one thing that can be called Shinto,

The name itself is a bit misleading because it is made up of two

Chinese words meaning the way of the gods(Shen : spiritual

power, divinity; Tao : the way or path). The word for this in

Japanese is kannagara : "the way of the kami ."

Many things can be said about Shinto. First, it was a tribal

religion, not a state one. However, even when the tribes were

organized into coherent states, they still retained their Shinto

beliefs. Second, all Shinto cults believe in Kami (the divine)

Individual clans worshipped a single Kami which was regarded as

the principal ancestor of the clan. As the clan spread, it still

worshipped its Kami, but when one clan conquered another

clan-the defeated clan had to worship the Kami of the victorious

clan. What the Kami consist of is hard to define. Kami refers to

the gods of Heaven, Earth, and the Underworld. But Kami also

are all those things that have divinity in them to some degree.

Third, all Shinto involve some sort of shrine worship, the most

important was the Izumo Shrine on the coast of the Japan Sea.

Originally, these shrines were himorogi (unpolluted land

surrounded by trees) or iwasaka (unpolluted land surrounded by

stones). Shinto shrines are usually single rooms raised off the

ground, with religious objects placed inside, and on the outside

there was a torii (wash-basin). The torii was used for the misorgi,

which is washing the hands and sometimes the face before

entering the shrine. Someone worships a shrine by attending it,

or devoting oneself to the object that is being worshipped, and by

giving offerings to it: the offerings can be anything from

vegetables to great riches.

Almost nothing at all is known about early Shinto because

nothing was written about it. Early Shinto may just be a name

given to a large number of unrelated local religions that combined

with the the centralized states. The two texts of Shintoism, the

Kojiki (The records of Ancient matters) and the Nihongi

(Chronicles of Japan), were written down around 700 A.D., two

centuries after Japan had declared Buddhism the state religion.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Japanese government

campaigned to make Shinto the national religion. However many

people were unhappy with Shintoism. During that time

Christianity arrived in Japan. Between 1868 and 1873

Christianity was severely attacked as the government shut out

foreigners and their ideas. Many active Christians were killed. In

1912 the Japanese got religious freedom.

In 1990 the number of followers for religions in Japan are

:Shintoists -112,200,000, Buddhists - 93,400,000, Christians -

1,422,000, and others - 11,412,000. Therefore, about 120 million

people adhere to 2 or more religions at the same time.

Works Cited

Shinto Online. 5

June 1995.

Hishida, Miki. Religions in Japan. 15 Dec 1995. Online posting: Internet.

Source: Essay UK -

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