What is Shinto? 神道は何ですか?

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Shinto (神道), also known as kami-no-michi (神の道), is the indigenous religion of the people of Japan. According to Japanese mythology 神道 (shinto) was founded in 660 BC. The first 神道(shinto) practices were recorded in the 8th century.

These early writing do not refer to 神道 (shinto) as being a unified religion but rather a collection of native beliefs and mythology. Still, as Japan’s largest religion with nearly 80% of the population as practitioners only a small percentage will identify as “Shintoists”. This is because 神道 (shinto) has a different meaning in Japan.

Most of the Japanese population go to 神社神道 (shinto shines) and beseech 神 (God) without belonging to an institutional “Shinto” religion. There are no formal rituals in becoming a member of the folk “Shinto”. Usually, “Shinto membership” is calculated from people who join organized Shinto sects. There are 100,00 神社神道 (shinto shrines) and 20,000 神主 (shinto priests) in the country.

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神社神道 (shinto shrines) are are considered to be the home of 神 (God) and therefore are places of worship. 神社神道 (shinto shrines) are often visited during special annual events such as 正月 (New year’s holiday) and festivals. People also visit shrines to pay respect to 神 (God) and pray for good fortune.

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When visiting a 神社神道 (shinto shrine) it is not much different then a church or cathedral. Visitors are expected behave respectfully.  Near the shrine’s entrance you will find a purification fountain. Pick up the ladle lying over the small well, fill it with the water provided, and rinse both hands. Then pour some water into your cupped hand, rinse your mouth and spit the water out beside the fountain. You are not supposed to drink the water directly from the ladle. Many people only wash their hands or simply do not perform this purification ritual.

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At the offering hall, throw a coin (any amount will do) into the offering box, bow deeply twice, clap your hands twice, bow deeply once more and pray for a few seconds. If there is some type of gong, use it before praying in order to ‘wake up’ 神(God).

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Although visitors are usually allowed to take pictures at shrines watch for signs prohibiting photography. Sacred objects representing 神 (God) are stored in the inner chamber of the shrine where they cannot be seen except on very special occasions.

Hopefully, this gives you an idea about 神道 (shinto) . As always if you have any questions about this or any other topic I cover feel free to email me at colormeindie@gmail.com or leave a comment below.

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2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Japanese History: Jōmon period. 日本史:縄文時代。 | Japanese 101

  2. Pingback: Japanese History: Kofun period. Part 1 日本史: 古墳時代 パート1 | Japanese 101

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