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Characteristics of Shinto

1. Embracing Naturecharacteristics of shinto.JPGのサムネイル画像

Shinto is a general term for the faith in Japan which reveres all the kami of heaven and earth. Its origin is as old as the history of Japan, although it was only at the end of the 6th century when our ancestors began to call it “Shinto” (or the way of kami).

Shinto is a religious faith which naturally came into existence in Japan. It is not a religion advocated and established by a particular individual, and thus there is no dogma based on  the teachings or deeds of a founder.

Shinto thus has an openness to foreign religions, even those of a totally different character like Buddhism. Since there is no dogma, there exists no sectionalism. By nature, a religion has, in general, a tendency to split into several factions due to differences over interpretation of dogma. In the case of Shinto, however, there is no dogmatic dis-unification, and this is why Shinto can embrace people of different faiths.

In the world, there are those who reject foreign religions as heresy, believing in the indisputable truth of their own faith. In Shinto, we consider this tendency to be unhealthy in human societies. It is surely better to learn the good points from all the religions of the world, just as  we learn much from the good actions of our parents, teachers or others in society. Most Japanese, whatever other faith they may adhere to, will visit a Shinto shrine and show respect to the kami, without feeling any contradiction with their own personal faith. Genuine prayers surely transcend form and sect.

2. Social and Pragmatic Nature

Shinto does not teach that people need to be redeemed from the hardships of the world, nor is there a tradition of philosophical reflection on life, death and suffering. Shinto does not always satisfy people in philosophical terms. Yet, this is precisely why it is peacefully accepted by the majority of people, without ideological discrimination.

Since Shinto is a religion closely related to secular life through festivals and traditional rites of passage, its value system is closely related to that of secular society. Accordingly, although it lacks the sharpness in terms of logical development of thought, Shinto has established its own direction over the course of its long history. People have been inspired to do what they believe will bring pleasure to the kami and to abstain from what might offend the kami.

Shinto is not well understood globally. This might be due to the historical background of Japan. The world is now changing, or at least trying to move in the direction of peaceful coexistence. We believe that, in this sense, Shinto has an obvious capacity to perform a vital  role in the future.

The characteristics of kami in Shinto are that they are substantial, particular and historical. So, people feel Shinto through their experiences, but do not acknowledge it through a process of logical thinking. Since Shinto has developed centered on shrines to which kami descend from heaven,  shrines themselves are regarded as halls of worship and, in fact, the atmosphere of the shrine space is a close representation of Shinto’s religious function.

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