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Key Terms on Shinto


Department
Religion
Course Code
RLGA01H3
Professor
Henry Shiu

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Key Terms for the Lecture on Shinto:
1. Shinto: The way of the gods. Here, gods refer to Japan’s s pirits (kami). No known
person or group as its founder. 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 dimensions. The spirits that are worshipped
include the spirits of departed family members, distant ancestors of one’s clan, great
leaders, and so on.
2. Kami: The spirits that animate all living things, natural phenomenon & natural forces.
Shrines were built to accommodate their presence during rituals. Kami are the spirits of
the mountains, rivers, seas, islands, forests; deified clan ancestors; deceased emperors,
saints, heroes. Kami are thought of almost universally as invisible presences, not to be
portrayed.
3. Izanami: 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.
4. Izanagi: 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. 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 s pirit 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.
5. Jimmu: the first human emperor of Japan.
6. Amaterasu: Female deity of the sun, born from the eye of the primordial deity Izanagi
following his purification; enshrined at Ise as the patron deity of the imperial family. She
sent her grandson to bring order to the islands of Japan.
7. Emperor Meiji: In 1868, Mutsuhito came to the throne and assumed real, rather than
merely symbolic power. Known to history as the Emperor Meiji, he began a deliberate
process of bringing Japan into the modern world. He imported European and American
experts to build up the governmental, military, and educational systems according to
Western models. 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.
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