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    I. Group Profile

    1. Name: Shintoism
    2. Founder: Shintoism does not have a founder, but it is rooted in ancient Japanese mythology and history. This history was orally transmitted between generations of Japanese people prior to the introduction of Buddhism in the sixth century A.D.19
    3. Date of Birth: DNA
    4. Birth Place: DNA
    5. Year Founded: There is no exact date as to when Shintoism was founded, for it encompasses rituals and customs that began in Japan during ancient times. However, the introduction of Buddhism and Confucianism to Japan in 552 A.D. prompted the adoption of the term "Shinto" to differentiate the religious history of Japan.18
    6. Sacred or Revered Texts:17

      Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters): 712 A.D.
      Nihongi or Nihon Shoki (Chronicles of Japan): 720 A.D.
      Engishiki or Yengishiki (Procedures of the Engi Era): 927 A.D.

      The Kojiki and Nihongi texts are not actually "sacred" by the traditional, religious definition. In other words, they are not comparable to the Bible for Christianity or the Torah for Judaism. However, they are useful to the Shinto religion because they contain the first comprehensive writings on the history of Japan and Japanese mythology, wherein Shintoism has its roots. The most significant myth to the Shinto religion is the creation myth, which is described in the beliefs section below.
      The volumes of the Engishiki provide details of codes, national rites, and ancient prayers (norito).17 The Engishiki are not as important as the other two texts, but were listed here because they constitute some of the first writings specifically on Shinto.

    7. Cult or Sect:

      Negative sentiments are typically implied when the concepts "cult" and "sect" are employed in popular discourse. Since the Religious Movements Homepage seeks to promote religious tolerance and appreciation of the positive benefits of pluralism and religious diversity in human cultures, we encourage the use of alternative concepts that do not carry implicit negative stereotypes. For a more detailed discussion of both scholarly and popular usage of the concepts "cult" and "sect," please visit our Conceptualizing "Cult" and "Sect" page, where you will find additional links to related issues.

    8. Size of Group:

      Worldwide Population of Shintoists by Six Continental Areas, Mid-1998: 1
      Asia: 2,727,000
      Latin America: 7,000
      North America: 55,000
      Africa, Europe, Oceania: None reported0
      World: 2,789,000

      Adherents in Japan Only:

        "...adherent counts for this religion are problematic and often misunderstood. The number of adherents of Shinto are often reported as being around 100 million, or around 75 to 90% of the Japanese population. These figures come from the Shukyo Nenkan (Religions Yearbook), put out by the Ministry of Education & Bureau of Statistics, and they obtain their figures by asking religious bodies for statistics. The Shinto religious bodies have on record most Japanese citizens because of laws established in the 17th Century which required registration with the Shinto shrines. Essentially everybody within local "shrine districts" were counted as adherents. In Japan, the majority of adherents of Shinto, as claimed by the Shinto organizations, don't even consider themselves adherents, even nominally. In polls, only about 3.3% of the Japanese people give Shinto as their religion." 2

        "According to statistics published by the [Japan] Agency for Cultural Affairs in 1998, 49.2 percent of citizens adhered to Buddhism, 44.7 percent to Shintoism, 5.3 percent to so-called "new" religions, and 0.8 percent to Christianity. However, a 1996 Jiji Press Service poll showed that 46.6 percent of the population identified themselves with no particular religious group, 44.3 percent choose Buddhism, 3.2 percent Shintoism, 3.1 percent "new" religions, and 1.0 percent Christianity. A 1994 poll indicated that less than 7 percent of the population regularly took part in formal religious services. Shintoism and Buddhism are not mutually exclusive religions; most members claim to observe both." 13

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    II. History of the Group

      Shintoism is rooted in the ancient history and mythology of Japan. Because writings on Shintoism were relatively nonexistent prior to the arrival of Buddhism in the sixth century, the nature of its beliefs and worship during ancient times remains indefinite. According to the Nihongi, Buddhism was introduced to the Japanese emperor Kimmei Tenno from the King of Pekche of Korea in 552 A.D. 3 This new religion was welcomed in Japan to both complement and enrich the Shinto faith, though initially, the Buddha was viewed as just another manifestation of kami (spirits or gods that embody forces of nature and deceased ancestors; reverence for the kami is the focus of worship). Confucianism was also introduced during the sixth century (exact date unknown), but made its impact primarily on Japanese moral conduct and social order.

      Over time, Buddhism's influence over the Shinto faith grew as the Japanese people became enamored by the art and intricate philosophy that Buddhism held. Japanese law, social customs, and religion saw tremendous changes due to the growing influence of China. This led to the beginning of the Ritsuryo state (645-1185 A.D.), comprised of the Asuka, Nara, and Heian periods.4 During Shintoism's integration with Buddhism, known as Shin-Butsu Shugo, changes were quickly made in the shrines. Buddhist statues and art could be seen all over Shinto shrines. Buddhist priests resided over Shinto shrines, ceremonies, and festivals. Numerous Japanese Buddhist sects developed. The kami eventually were seen as manifestions of the Buddha.

      During the Tokugawa period (1603-1868), Buddhist institutions were incorporated in the structure of the feudal government and Neo-Confucianism was relied on for its guiding principles.6 Shintoism as the center of Japanese culture had become dominated by foreign influences. Many scholars set out to counter this trend with a revival of Shinto as a distinct religion with its own history and beliefs. Pioneering the movement to restore the pre-Buddhist and pre-Confucian meaning of Shinto was Kamo Mabuchi (1697-1769), though his ideas even reflected some Taoist influence. His disciple, Motoori Norinaga (1730-1801), propogated absolute faith in the Kojiki and the divinity of the imperial family. Norinaga's disciple, Hirata Atsutane (1776-1843), continued the movement, emphasizing the notion of emperor-centered nationalism.6

      In 1868, under the rule of Emperor Meiji, Shintoism was established as the state mandated religion of Japan in an effort known as the Meiji Restoration. Nearly all the Shinto priests and shrines came under the political and financial control of the Japanese government and the other "foreign" religions were suppressed. The Council of State ordered the removal of Buddhist statues, images, and implements from Shinto shrines, and the renaming of those shrines which had been given Buddhist names. All of the Japanese people were expected to accept the Emperor as a descendent of the gods and that the Japanese people as a whole were superior. Japanese children learned about Shinto traditions in school.5

      During this time, Shinto was separated into two groups: Shrine (Jinja) and Sectarian (Kyoha). The government acknowledged the existence of thirteen sects, but claimed that only the Shrine (Jinja) was Pure Shinto. Thus, the sectarian shrines were not supported financially by the state.

      Following World War II, on December 15, 1945, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP) issued the Directive on the Abolition of Governmental Sponsorship, Support, Perpetuation, Control, and Dissemination of State Shinto, known simply as Shinto Directive. The purposes of the Directive were the separation of church and state, and the establishment of religious freedom. All public support of shrines, and any affiliated educational institutions, was abolished. The study of Shinto doctrine was removed from school curriculum, and public schools could no longer sponsor visits to shrines. Shrine Shinto was allowed to continue after cleansing itself of militaristic and ultra-nationalistic elements, but had been degraded to the same status as all other religions.14 On February 2, 1946, the Japanese government abolished the Shrine Board, and thus terminated the state control of Shrine Shinto. One of the two campuses of Kokugakuin University, established for the study of Shinto, was closed down.15 Two weeks following the the release of the Shinto Directive, Emperor Hirohito delivered his New Year's Rescript of 1946, wherein he renounced the divinity of the imperial family.

      The establishment of complete religious freedom propelled new religious movements (Shinko Shukyo), including groups that were branched off from Sect Shinto and Buddhism. In general, these groups may be classified into the following categories:16

      1. groups stemming from Buddhism (e.g. Soka Gakkai and Rissho Koseikai)
      2. groups professing a monotheistic or monolatristic belief (e.g. Tensho-kotai-jingu-kyo and Sekai Kyusei-kyo)
      3. groups following pantheistic belief (e.g. Ananai-kyo)
      4. groups that are utopian and messianic (e.g. Reiyu-kai)
      5. groups concerned with practical aspects of life (e.g. PL Kyodan)

      Despite its postwar pacification, Shrine or Jinja Shinto (formerly State Shinto) continues to function as one of many religions in Japan. Of the approximately 100,000 shrines that exist, a little over 80,000 now belong to the Association of Shrine Shinto, established after the abolishment of the Shrine Board. Devout Shintoists still perform their daily rituals, pay homage at the family shrine, and visit their tutelary shrines on special occasions.16 Today, Shinto may be divided into four forms: 1) Koshitsu Shinto (Shinto of the Imperial House), 2) Shuha Shinto (Sect Shinto), 3) Folk Shinto (Observances and Rites of Passage), and 4) Jinja Shinto (Shrine).7

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    III. Beliefs of the Group

      The Creation Myth. According to the Kojiki, there were initially three kami that were born individually of primeval chaos in the Plain Of High Heaven (Takama-no-hara):

      1. Ame-no-minaka-nushi-no-kami (The Deity Master of the August Centre of Heaven),

      2. Taka-mi-musubi-no-kami (The High August Producing Wondrous Deity), and

      3. Kami-musubi-no-kami (The Divine Producing Wondrous Deity)

      Afterwards, something in the form of reed-shoots sprouted, and from this, two more kami emerged:

      1. Umashi-ashi-kabi-hiko-ji-no-kami (The Pleasant Reed Shoot Prince Elder Deity) and

      2. Ame-no-toko-tachi-no-kami (The Deity Standing Eternally in Heaven)

      Next, seven more generations of kami emerged, mostly in pairs. The last pair of these kami were the infamous Izanagi-no-kami (Deity the Male Who Invites), and his goddess wife, Izanami-no-kami (Deity the Female Who Invites).

      The myth claims that while Izanagi and Izanami were standing on the heavenly floating bridge (sometimes identified as a rainbow or rainbow-like), Izanagi thrusted a jewelled spear into the waters below. When he lifted the spear, the dripping brine formed an island. The couple descended down to the island and proceeded to create the other islands of Japan. These two gods gave birth to many more gods, each having distinct responsibilities and representing different phenomena of nature, including the wind, trees, mountains, herbs, and grasses.

      The myth further claims that Izanami died while giving birth to the god of fire and retreated to Yomi (Nether or Under World). When Izanagi, struck with grief, attempted to visit his wife, he was told never to look at her, for she had already attained a high state of decomposition. However, Izanagi disobeyed and was driven back to Earth.

      Upon his return, Izanagi began a purification ritual, and gave birth to three new gods:

      1. Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess, born of Izanagi's left eye,

      2. Susanoo, god of swift impetuosity, born of Izanagi's nostril, and

      3. Tsukiyomi, the moon god, born of Izanagi's right eye

      Amaterasu, the most revered and significant kami to the Shinto religion, was given reign over the Plain of High Heaven. It is believed that one of Susanoo's descendents, Okuninushi, was the the first to rule Japan. However, Amaterasu later sent her grandson Ninigi to take over. Ninigi's great-grandson, Jimmu Tenno, became the first human emperor of Japan in about 660 B.C. Thus, a link between the goddess Amaterasu and the imperial family was established. The belief that the imperial family descended from the gods remained until after the second World War.8

      Much of the Shinto religion is based on worship of the kami, or "spirits." The gods described in the myth above are examples of kami, though kami exist in many different forms, both animate and inanimate. The kami are not considered to be good nor evil, but rather serve to protect and sustain.

      Kami may be classified into three main types:9

      1. Clan ancestors (uji-gami): Amaterasu is the most famous of the uji-gami, having a primary shrine at Ise (located south of Kyoto at Uji-Yamada). Clan ancestors are worshipped at shrines throughout Japan.

      2. Deification of a power of nature or humanity: Examples of such kami are the creative (musubi) kami who represent the powers of growth and reproduction, the "straightening" kami who set things right, and the "bending" kami who bring misfortune. The more obvious type of kami are the ones that represent nature, such as mountains, rivers, rain, and wind.

      3. Souls of dead leaders: These kami are the souls of great emperors and heroes.

      Shintoists express their gratitude and respect for the kami through individual shrine worship, rituals, customs, and even festivals, some of which are held in conjunction with State holidays and celebrations.

      Shrine worship generally consists of a purification ritual (washing), making an offering of food or money to the kami for which the shrine was erected, and saying a prayer.

      A number of different festivals, called matsuri, are held to celebrate seasonal events, such as the fall harvest and the New Year.10 Many shrines also hold matsuri to honor their own particular purpose or history.

      Ceremonies are also held for certain rites of passage, such as Hatsumiya-Mode, which is the visit of a newborn baby to a shrine to receive blessings. Another example is Shichi-Go-San, where boys aged five and girls aged three and seven visit a shrine to give thanks for their good health and receive blessings.7

      Shintoism does not have a system of ethics or morals, but rather places emphasis on ritual and ceremony to express the joyful acceptance of nature. Life and death are viewed as natural processes. The general concept of good and evil does not exist. What is important is ritual, particularly rituals pertaining to purity, which are closely related to an individual's obligations to his superiors - ancestors, the emperor, family, Japan, and Shinto. The demonstration of loyalty is most important, and is expressed through the observance of rituals and taboos.5

      The Four Affirmations of Shinto:11

      1. Tradition and the family: family is emphasized because it represents the channel through which tradition is passed between generations as well as the rites of life (birth and marriage).

      2. Love of Nature: every object in nature is sacred because it embodies a spirit and represents a connection to the Gods.

      3. Physical cleanliness: the importance of cleanliness, especially in the presence of the Gods, is emphasized and Shintoists frequently bathe and wash themselves as a purification ritual.

      4. Matsuri: festivals and celebrations are held in honor of the spirits

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    IV. Links to Shinto Web Sites

      International Shinto Foundation
      This links to the official Shinto homepage. It includes a brief description of Shinto background and provides updates on current and planned events, discussions, and conferences in which the organization participates. Also provides information on how to become a member and advertises some of the works the organization has published. Shinto
      This site provides a brief overview of Shinto history and details the basic beliefs and practices. It also offers a few links at the end to other Shinto-related sites.

      This site provides more detail on the history of Shintoism, from the myth of Amaterasu to the Meiji Restoration and the present. There are also descriptions of Shinto ceremonies, shrines, shrine architecture, and purification rituals.

      Basic Terms of Shinto
      This site provides an alphabetical listing of terminology associated with Shintoism and is good for reference.

      A Guide to Japan
      This site contains numerous links within it on the history and culture of Japan. Descriptions are given on the all the different eras and events from the ancient Jomon and Yayoi periods to the present. There are also links that provides descriptions and examples of Shinto festivals, ceremonies, and shrines. Includes pictures.

      Modern Shinto Classification
      This site breaks down the four modern categories of Shinto: Koshitsu (Imperial), Shuha (Sect), Folk (Observances/Rites of Passage), and Jinja (Shrine).

      Shinto and Buddhism: Wellsprings of Japanese Spirituality
      Article written by Paul Watt for the Asia Society's Focus on Asian Studies, Vol. II, No. 1, Asian Religions, pp. 21-23, Fall 1982. Copyright AskAsia, 1996.

      Shinto Shrine Photos
      This site has links to numerous photographs of Shinto shrines and torii (sacred arch or gateway) in Japan.

      Jingu Shrine in Ise
      This page provides information on the Jingu Shrine in Ise, Mie Prefecture. This shrine was built in honor of Amaterasu, the Sun-Goddess, and remains the most revered and prestigious place of worship.

      Yasakuni Jinja (Shrine)
      This is the home page of the Yasakuni Jinja (shrine) located in Tokyo, Japan. This particular shrine maintained close ties to the Japanese government during World War II. They claim to have almost two and a half million kami enshrined here, many of whom are spirits historical figures and soldiers who died in service of the country.

      Kannagara Jinjya: Branch of Tsubaki O'Kami Yashiro
      This is a link to a Shinto shrine in America, the Kannagara Jinjya Shrine , located in Granite Falls, Washington. This shrine is the place of worship for the first American to become a fully licensed Shinto priest. Includes a few pictures.

      Ancient Japanese Myths
      This site contains links to several myths that are significant to Shinto, including the creation of heaven and earth, the myth of Izanagi and Izanami, and the conflict between Amaterasu and her brother Susanoo. They are taken from the Nihongi, translated by W.G. Aston.

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    V. Bibliography

      Print Sources

      Bradley, David. 1963.
      A Guide to the World's Religions. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 150-156.

      Creemers, Wilhelmus. 1968.
      Shrine Shinto After World War II. Leiden: E.J. Brill.

      Eliade, Mircea, ed. 1987.
      Encyclopedia of Religion. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co. 13:280-294.

      Hardon, John. 1963.Religions of the World. Westminster: Newman Press.

      Hastings, James, ed. 1921.
      Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 11:462-471.

      Herbert, Jean. 1967.
      Shinto: At the Fountainhead of Japan. New York: Stein and Day.

      Holtom, D.C. 1965.
      National Faith of Japan. New York: Paragon Book Reprint Corp.

      Huffman, James, ed. 1998.
      Modern Japan: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture, and Nationalism. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 233-235.

      Kitagawa, Joseph. 1987.
      On Understanding Japanese Religion. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

      Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan. Tokyo: Kodansha, Ltd. 7:125-139.

      Levinson, David. 1996.
      Religion: A Cross-Cultural Encyclopedia. New York: Oxford University Press, 212-217.

      Neilson, Neils. 1983.
      "The Nature and Myths of Shinto." Religions of the World. New York: St. Martin's Press. 23:320-330.

      Neilson, Neils. 1983.
      "Proto-Shinto, Classical Shinto, and the Medieval Period." Religions of the World. New York: St. Martin's Press, 331-345.

    Internet Sources Modified 18 Sep 2000. Online., Inc. 1999-2000. Worldwide Adherents of All Religions by Six Continental Areas, mid-1998. Online 24 Oct 2000.

      Indiana University East Asian Studies Center. Study Guide: Shinto. Online. 20 Sep 2000.

      Kitagawa, Joseph and John Strong. Shintoism. Online. 20 Sept 2000.

      Shinto Online Network Association. Shinto. Online. 21 Sept 2000.

      United States. Dept. of State. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. 2000 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom: Japan. Revised 04 October 2000. Online. 09 December 2000.

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    References, Inc. 1999-2000
      3Holtom, 31.
      4Neilson, 24:332.
      5Levinson, 215.
      6Kitagawa, 164-166.
      8Name translations taken from Herbert, 234-235.
      9Neilson, 23:322-323.
      11Study Guide: Shinto.
      12A Guide to the World's Religions, 156.
      13U.S. Dept. of State.
      14Creemers, 43-44.
      15Creemers, 55.
      16Kitagawa, 171-173.
      17Texts and Dates taken from Eliade, 287.
      18Eliade, 280.
      19Bradley, 151.

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      Created by Stacy Buko
      For Soc 257: New Religious Movements
      Fall Term, 2000
      University of Virginia
      Last modified: 01/10/01