In Japan the most practiced religions are Shinto and Buddhism but it wasn’t always this way. There have been a lot of problems involving religion until a certain time in Japan when they had “Freedom of Religion” written in their constitution, just like it’s in China.
The earliest records of the Shinto religion were found written in historical records of the 8th century. though these records don’t describe Shinto as a unified religion but a collection of native beliefs and mythology. Practicers show their belief in traditional rituals and dressing in clothes from the Nara and the Heian period. These days the religion is practiced in Shinto Shrines by worshipping multiple gods and having festivals in honor of them. One of these festivals is the Harvest Festival.
Shinto is Japan’s original religion. It’s focussed on action centred rituals that have to be performed with diligence, this way they can combine present and ancient Japan.
Shinto means “Way of the Gods”, but Kami (God in Japanese) is not seen as one single thing, Kami is multiple divinity or sacred essence. Kami is found in nature (trees, rocks, plants, water) but also in places, in the animal kingdom and in man. Kami and people exist within the same world and share its interrelated complexity.
Kami, itself is unlike in other religions, not perfect. Kami makes mistakes like humans do. This means they exist in the same realm as man but are a higher power.
Even within Shinto there are multiple different scholars as to what one beliefs.
- Shrine Shinto (神社神道, Jinja-Shintō), the main tradition of Shinto, has always been a part of Japan’s history. It consists of taking part in worship practices and events at local shrines. Before the Meiji Restoration, shrines were disorganized institutions usually attached to Buddhist temples; in the Meiji Restoration, they were made independent systematized institutions. The current successor to the imperial organization system, the Association of Shinto Shrines, oversees about 80,000 shrines nationwide.
- Imperial Household Shinto (皇室神道, Kōshitsu-Shintō) are the religious rites performed exclusively by the imperial family at the three shrines on the imperial grounds, including the Ancestral Spirits Sanctuary (Kōrei-den) and the Sanctuary of the Kami (Shin-den).
- Folk Shinto (民俗神道, Minzoku-Shintō) includes the numerous folk beliefs in deities and spirits. Practices include divination, spirit possession, and shamanic healing. Some of their practices come from Buddhism, Taoism or Confucianism, but most come from ancient local traditions.
- Sect Shinto (教派神道, Kyōha-Shintō) is a legal designation originally created in the 1890s to separate government-owned shrines from local organised religious communities. These communities originated especially in the Edo period. The basic difference between Shrine Shinto and Sect Shinto is that sects are a later development and grew self-consciously. They can identify a founder, a formal set of teachings and even sacred scriptures. Sect Shinto groups are thirteen, and usually classified under five headings: pure Shinto sects (Shinto Taikyo, Shinrikyo and Izumo Oyashirokyo), Confucian sects (Shinto Shusei-ha and Taiseikyo/体制教 ),mountain worship sects (Jikkokyo, Fusokyo and Mitakekyo or Ontakekyo), purification sects (Shinshukyo and Misogikyo), and faith-healing sects (Kurozumikyo／黒住教, Konkokyo/今故郷 and its branching Omotokyo/お元教師 and Tenrikyo／天理教.
- Koshintō (古神道, Ko-shintō), literally ‘Old Shinto’, is a reconstructed “Shinto from before the time of Buddhism”, today based on Ainu religion and Ryukyuan practices. It continues the restoration movement begun by Hirata Atsutane
Following the shinto religion (around 51% of the Japanese citizens) Buddhism is a large part of the religion in Japan. Introduced in Japan in 552 CE (current Era) from Korea by Buddhist monks, buddhism had a major influence in society. The most popular ‘Schools’ are Pure Land Buddhism, Nichiren Buddhism, Shingon Buddhism and Zen. Around 75% of the Japanese practice buddhism and around 90% practice Shinto. Which means most of the believers practice “Shinbutsu-shūgō” which means “syncretism of kami and buddhas”.
It took a number of years for buddhism to become bigger in Japan. The first introduction of it was in 467 CE by five buddhist monks but it wasn’t until the king of Baekjae sent a mission to Japan and the Soga Clan spread buddhism, until finally encouraged by Empress Suiko, the Japanese began accepting Buddhism. From there on out there have been influxes and drops in the religion until after WW2 when Buddhism reached rock bottom. From 27% in 1984 until now in 2018 it has risen to staggering numbers.