The religion we know as Shinto is native to Japan and was first practiced sometime before the year 500 B.C.E. The name ‘Shinto’ comes from a Chinese phrase meaning “Way of the Gods”. It was first used to describe the native Japanese religion in the 8th Century C.E. It is currently the official religion of Japan along with Buddhism (Ono 1-3). There is a less common name for Shinto that comes directly from the Japanese language, which is “Kami no michi” which also means “Way of the Gods” (Renard 18). While Shinto has existed for more than 2500 years, there is no distinct founder, there is no body of religious law and there is no specific scripture as there are in other religions (Ono 2). Despite all of these differences, historically Shinto has coexisted peacefully with other religions, most notably Buddhism (Robinson).
When looking at Shinto, one must realize that it is fundamentally different from most modern religions, especially western religions such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam in that it is polytheistic (DesRivieres 98). According to Shinto, the world is filled with spirits or deities called ‘Kami’ (Renard 18). All of the Kami are descended from the brother and sister Izanagi and Izanami who also created Japan after crossing to this world from heaven (Ono 4). Each of the Japanese clans was formed by one of their children (Shinto).
The basic story of the birth of the other Kami is as follows. Izanami died while giving birth to the fire god. In his anger at his sister’s death, Izanagi cut the fire god into pieces, each piece creating a new Kami. Izanagi then journeyed into the underworld to find his sister, but on his arrival he was revolted by her horrid appearance in death and blocked the gatew...
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...i, known as the ‘Continuing Chronicles’ continue the stories of the Kami and the first emperors. The last and most recent book is the Jinno Shotoki, written in the 14th century C.E., the Jinno Shotoki contains the history and politics of Japan from creation to the time of writing (Robinson).
DesRivieres, Dennis and Don Quinlan, ed. Exploring World Religions. Don Mills: Oxford Canada. 2001.
Ono, Sokyo, and William Woodard. Shinto: the Kami Way. Tuttle Pub, 2004. Print.
Renard, John. 101 Questions and answers on Confucianism, Daoism, and Shinto. New York: Paulist Press,
Robinson, B.A. . "SHINTO." Religious Tolerance. N.p., 14 Dec 2007. Web. 28 Apr 2010.
"Shinto." New World Encyclopedia. 29 Aug 2008. Web. 29 Apr 2010.
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