Lecture 11- Shinto
• Shinto – The way of the gods
• Here “gods” refer to Japan’s spirits (kami)
• Japan – land of rising sun, kojikic = record of ancient matters
• No known person or group as its founder. Nihongi, Nihonshoki- Chronicles of
• Its mysterious origins date back to the ancient people of Japan and their
stories of how the world came into being.
• The people of the Japanese islands lived close to nature, and Shinto as a
religion reflects that reality in its worship of the spirits who are believed to
inhabit the natural world.
• It is more than a nature religion; however, it also has ethnic and family
• The spirits that are worshipped include the spirits of departed family
members, distant ancestors of one’s clans, great leaders and so on.
• Kami are the spirits of the mountains, rivers, seas, islands, forests; deified
clan ancestors; deceased emperors, saints, heroes.
• The Japanese descended from several immigrant groups that came from the
Northwest and the South (including the possibility of Siberia, Korea, and
Malay Peninsula). Their traditions mixed, blending a large number of gods
into a pantheon and yielding a single creation myth.
• Similar to other creation myths, in the beginning there was primeval chaos,
which came to be populated by several generations of kami. Two of these
kami, Izanami and Izanagi, became the cosmic parents who created the first
islands of Japan.
• They gave birth to additional kami, many of them nature deities.
• From the eyes of Izanagi emerged the spirits of the sun and the moon; from
his nostrils came the spirit of the wind. It is the spirit of the sun, Amaterasu,
who sent her grandson to bring order to the islands of Japan, and later came
Jimmu, the first human emperor of Japan.
• The imperial house mythically traces its origin back to the goddess of the
• It was the transmission of Buddhism to Japan in the 6 century that forced
Shinto to define itself, a process complicated by the tendency of Mahayana
Buddhism to absorb native religious elements. • Hence, Buddhist monks viewed Shino kami as different forms of Mahayana
Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, and sometimes as heavenly beings converted to
• Shinto and Buddhism reached an accommodation, with several patterns
Shinto was often associated with agriculture, fertility, and birth, while
Buddhism was called on for philosophy, help with serious sickness, funerals,
and the afterlife.
• Sometimes a place of worship was neither exclusively Shinto nor Buddhist.
• In the late nineteenth century, the two religions were forced to disentangle
• The Meiji government began to emphasize the belief that the emperor was a
descendant of the founding deities, and Shinto was appropriated by the
government for instilling patriotism.
• Confucianism in Japan play the role of an