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Shintoism: A Brief Look at Shintoism in Today's Society

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Shintoism: A Brief Look At Shintoism in Today's Society

Verisha Barrett, Oxana Aguilar, Eric Gonzales

Nicole MCMillan, Valencia Lovett and

Vicki White

University of Phoenix

World Religious Traditions I


Professor Guy Jeanty

Nov 20, 2006

Shintoism: A Brief Look At Shintoism in Today's Society

Shinto has no none founder like Buddhism and Hinduism. Shinto is known as the Japan's national religion and is also one of the oldest religions in the entire world. According to the Handbook of Today's Religions, it states that "Shinto denotes "the traditional religious practices which originated in Japan and developed mainly among the Japanese people along with the underlying life attitudes and ideology which support such practices."(Handbook of Today's Religions, 2002, p. 1)

Shinto stems from within the mist of the Japanese people and is strictly a religion that is practice diligently by them. The people of Japan idolize their lands and have very strong beliefs in the divine creation. In the early establishment of Shinto which began around 552 AD when Shinto reigned among the Japanese without any other gods in sight. From around 1700 AD, Shinto started to combine with other religions such as Confucianism and Buddhism which then formed a religion called Ryobu Shinto.

Around 1700 AD Shinto experienced an awakening when the Archaic Japanese scripts were being studied by scholars. Hirata was one of the Shinto scholars who learned a great deal and from his knowledge and studies he came to a conclusion that "that Japan is the country of the Gods, and her inhabitants are the descendants of the Gods. Between the Japanese people and the Chinese, Hindus, Russians, Dutch, Siamese, Cambodians and other nations of the world there is a difference of kind, rather than of degree. The Mikado is the true Son of Heaven, who is entitled to reign over the four seas and the ten-thousand countries."(Handbook of Today's Religions, 2002, p. 3) Due to Hirata statements Shinto began to resurface among the people of Japan.

The word Shinto derived from the Chinese word Shentao which definition is "the way of the gods" (Handbook of Today's Religions, 2002, p. 3) the term however was not given to Shintoism until the 6th century ad. Shintoism then and now still maintain a powerful presence of many spirits and gods. These spirits are known as Kami which interpretation means higher beings.

When worshipping in Shinto, the Japanese have a choice of doing so because of the numerous shrines in Japan. The people say a Shinto prayer which intertwines with their feelings and nature. One of the prayers goes like this:

"I declare in the great presence of the From-Heaven-shining-great-deity who sits in Ise. Because the Sovereign great goddess bestows on him the countries of the four quarters over which her glance extends, As far as the limit where Heaven stands up like a wall, As far as the bounds where the country stands up distant, As far as the limit where the blue clouds spread flat, As far as the bounds where the white clouds lie away fallen-

The blue sea plain as far as the limit whither come the prows of the ships without drying poles or paddles, The ships which continuously crowd on the great sea plain,

And the roads which men travel by land, as far as the limit whither come the horses' hoofs, with the baggage-cords tied tightly, treading the uneven rocks and tree-roots and standing up continuously in a long path without a break- Making the narrow countries wide and the hilly countries plain, And as it were drawing together the distant countries by throwing many tens of ropes over them He will pile up the first-fruits like a range of hills in the great presence of the Sovereign great goddess, and will peacefully enjoy the remainder."(Handbook of Today's Religions, 2002, p. 5)

There are many practices involved with Shintoism. The Japanese when worshipping in Shinto identifies the holy places such as springs, mountains, rivers, the sun, the sky, and the moon. Some more of the Shinto practices are:

* Each shrine is dedicated to a specific Kami who has a divine personality and responds to sincere prayers of the faithful. When entering a shrine, one passes through a Tori a special gateway for the Gods. It marks the demarcation between the finite world and the infinite world of the Gods.

* In the past, believers practiced "misogi,", the washing of their bodies in a river near the shrine. In recent years they only wash their hands and wash out their mouths in a wash basin provided within the shrine grounds.

* Believers respect animals as messengers of the Gods. A pair of statues of "Koma-inu" (guard dogs) face each other within the temple grounds.

* Shrine ceremonies, which include cleansing, offerings, prayers, and dances are directed to the Kami.

* Kagura are ritual dances accompanied by ancient musical instruments. The dances are performed by skilled and trained dancers. They consist of young virgin girls, a group of men, or a single man.

* Mamori are charms worn as an aid in healing and protection. They come in many different forms for various purposes.

* An altar, the "Kami-dana" (Shelf of Gods), is given a central place in many homes

* Followers are expected to visit Shinto shrines at the times of various life passages. For example, the Shichigosan Matsuri involves a blessing by the shrine Priest of girls aged three and seven and boys aged five. It is held on NOV-15.

Origami ("Paper of the spirits"): This is a Japanese folk art in which paper is folded into beautiful shapes. They are often seen around Shinto shrines. Out of respect for the tree spirit that gave its life to make the paper, origami paper is never cut. (Robinson, 1995, p. 3)

There are four major types of Shinto; these are Jinja, Koshitsu, Minzoku and Kyoha. The Minzoku Shinto also known as the folk Shinto is a separate Shinto group and is not seen as an organization. This type of Shinto is practiced by individual families. The Jinja Shinto is the largest group of Shinto.



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