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Shintoism

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Week 5 Team Paper
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March 8, 2012

Week 5 Team Paper
Shintoism is an ancient religion that originated in the Japanese culture. Shinto is a general term used and is defined by the various activities practiced by those of the Shintoism religion. The Japanese worship deities of different worlds. Their worship of these deities is called the "Way of Kami," with Kami meaning deity or deities. The practice of Shintoism was finally recognized when Yomei, the 31st Emperor of Japan, prayed before an image of Buddha for the first time as an emperor for recovery of his illness. At that time, Yomei accepted Buddhism, a foreign religion, and the Japanese realized the existence of the tradition of their already existing faith.
Shinto dates back to 660 BCE and is an organized religion of the Japanese. Shinto in its basic sense is a religious form of Japanese nationalism and patriotism. The basic belief that the Japanese people were brought to Japan by a divine creator and believe that the Japanese emperors were direct descendents of the Sun Goddess, Kami Amaterasu.
There are two sacred books of Shinto, the Kojiki, (the Chronicles of Ancient Events) and the Nihongi (the Chronicles of Japan). The Kojiki tells the story that in the beginning there was kami, (gods or spiritual forces). Two of the deities, Izanagi (male) and Izanami (female) gave birth to Japan.
There is no one deity that is over all, but some of the kami were raised to higher ranks and the one who held the most exalted position was the Sun Goddess, the Great Kami Amaterasu. It is believed that the emperors of Japan are direct decedents, in an unbroken line beginning with the first emperor, Jimmu, who ascended to the throne in 660 BCE. The emperor is then looked upon as being divine, even while living. By divine right, he is the high priest and as such, presided over ceremonies of the foremost importance.
Shinto cannot be traced to its beginning. Before the introduction of Chinese writing in the 5th century CE, all myths and rituals were transmitted orally. It was not until 712 CE, by imperial order that the Kajiki appeared with a record of the ancient beliefs and customs.
According to the Shinto faith, a human spirit is believed to remain forever like the spirit of Kami does. The spirit, however, is not conceived as a substantial existence. It is believed that because of its work, and the places where the spirit dwells, the spirit is of other worlds. In one world, there lives Kami. The most well-known other world is the world of Heaven, where the most venerable deities lives. These other worlds should not be confused with our ideas of what heaven and hell are, as they are very different from those of the American culture. Also within Shinto faith is the other world of Yomi', where Izanami, the deity who gave birth to the land of Japan lives. This world is believed to be underground and is believed to have the connection with the habit of burial of the dead. The third other world is called 'Tokoyo, which is believed to exist somewhere beyond the sea. According to the Shinto faith there is a belief of the other world in the Mountains. The Shinto faith also believes that graveyards were on a hill, which has a panoramic view over a village; where the people of Shinto descent often express their wish to watch their descendants even after their death. The Shinto believe these other worlds are no different at all from this world. It reflects a faith in the spirit of the dead who can visit this world if people make a ritual to revere the spirit, and the divine spirits visit this world whenever people show their reverence by holding festivals. There is also a faith in that Kami and ancestral spirits to protect their descendants as long as the descendants continue to hold festivals. It is often thought by some that Shinto is not a religion because interests are centralized in this world, rather than life after death.
Shinto shrines are simple, unpainted wooden buildings, having a honden (object) within it that is believed to be the dwelling place of the kami. The shrine may however be empty if it stands on a sacred mountain to which it is dedicated and which is worshipped directly. The honden may also be missing when there are nearby alter-like structures, called himorogi, or objects believed to be capable of attracting spirits called yorishiro that serve as a more direct bond to kami.
Although shrines are a focus for the kami and their worshippers, it is very rare for shines to contain statues of kami. They do, however, include statues of animals such as foxes and horses. These are animals that serve the kami in various ways. To emphasize the connection between the shrine and the natural world, many objects within the shrine are made with as little human effort as possible so their natural origins remain visible. The shrine’s garden is intended to create a deep sense of the spiritual and the harmony between humanity and the natural world. The word matsuri can refer to any occasion for offering thanks and praise to a deity at a shrine. It comes from the word meaning to “entertain” of to “serve”. It can also be used to refer to Shinto festivals. Shinto festivals combine solemn rituals with joyful celebrations. These celebrations can include drunken and ill-mannered behaviors.
Festivals center on particular kami, who are treated as guests at the festivals. The events are very physical and may include processions, dramatic performances, sumo wrestling and feasting. They are usually bright, colorful and loud with aromatic smell of food. The processions often feature a mikoshi (a divine palanquin) used to carry a kami (or an image of a kami). It is often described as a portable alter or shrine. The procession of Mikoshi is effectively a visit by the kami of the shrine to the local community that is devoted to them and is thought to confer a blessing on that community. Most festivals are tied to the farming season because Shinto originates in the agricultural prehistory of Japan.
Seijin Shiki is usually held on the second Monday of January. It is held to congratulate and encourages all those who reach the age of 20 the previous year. It is to help them realize that they have become adults. Aki matsuri are usually held during the late summer and early fall. Shinto followers often offer thanks to the kami and ask for a good harvest. Different shrines countrywide hold their celebrations on varying dates.
Niinamesai is a national holiday held on November 23rd. It was originally a harvest festival in which rituals were performed by the Imperial Family to give thanks for a good crop yield. Now it is celebrated as a labor-thanksgiving day. Rei-sai is a yearly festival on a day that is particular to the shrine where it takes place. During this festival, the kami is carried in effigy around the town or village in an ornate chair, called a mikoshi. The procession is often accompanied by musicians and dancers and the whole occasion is celebratory. The more serious ceremonies take place within the shrine. Oshogatsu is on January 1st. It is traditional at New Year to visit a shrine. People go to thank the kami, ask kami to give them good fortune in the coming years and to make their New Year resolutions in the presence of the kami. Attendance is usually high for this festival. Haru Matsuri is actually many different festivals celebrated between January and May. It is centered on the planting of crops. Different shrines hold their celebrations on varying dates. Some of them include, Rissun and Toshi-no-Matsuri. Rissun is celebrated on February 3rd and marks the beginning of spring. It is sometimes called Setsubun, but this can refer to the beginning of any season. Toshigoi-no-Matsuri is a celebration to pray to the gods for a good harvest.
Shichigosan is celebrated November 15, or on the nearest Sunday. On this day, parents take boys of three and five years of age and girls of three and seven years of age to the shrine to give thanks to the gods for a healthy life so far and to pray for a safe and successful future. The festival is named after the ages of the children taking part. Shichi is seven, go is five and san is three.
Shinto is a religious tradition indigenous to the Japanese culture. Shinto is mainly centered on countless kami, or spirits, as well as places and communities. When Kami is referred to a place, it can be associated with such things as impressive trees, a unique rock, a beautiful valley or stunning waterfall. It can also be referring to a town or a village. The Kami belief is that a spirit will travel from shrine to shrine and reside in the small house like box built for them. These shrines, also called jinja, as scared nationwide. The early focus of the Shinto was to worship natural occurrence such as rocks, trees, water, mountains and the sun. They also worshiped the process of fertility. Kami or deities were also among things worshiped. The Shinto belief has no line drawn between man and nature they are all one. Kami practices belief that these spirits can bring good but there is also thought that at times a spirit can bring harm. Kami are spirits of once living things. They are deceased ancestors, important animals, Emperors, waterfalls and prominent military figures. An all-powerful food does don’t exist in the Shinto religion. Instead numerous little ones are worshiped.
Worship through prayers, offerings and festivals were conducted at many of the shrines. Shinto shrines are dedicated to the spirits of ancestors or deities as well as outstanding phenomenon’s. Visual representations of Shinto are not concrete. There are also no paintings and sculptures of the kami spirits. The Buddhist temples are the only place where physical depictions in paintings and sculptures can be found. The religious ceremonies are held with the attempt to please the kami. Local festivals and shrines are used to entertain the confined kami.

Today, Shintoism is similar to its original form. However, over time is have adopted ideas and traditions from several practices. Shinto has been profoundly influenced by religions such as Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. Buddhism has impacted the Shinto religion immensely. Shinto practices were affected at the beginning of Japans modernization. It was the Meiji Restoration of 1868 that caused Shinto rituals to become reorganized. The affects of modern transformation warped the ceremonial practices and institutional structures of the Shinto religion, but the fundamental beliefs that characterized the religion were unaltered.
Modern day Shintoism has many religious forms. They can be best distinguished into three sects. Shrine Shinto, Sect Shinto and Folk Shinto. Shrine Shinto is not only the oldest practice, but it is also the most prevalent. Shrine Shinto has always been part of the Japanese culture and constitutes the main fundamentals of Shinto traditions. There are roughly 80,000 shrines nationwide that can be associated with the Shrine Shinto practice. Sect Shinto is comprised of thirteen groups that focus on the worship aspect of the religion. Formed in the nineteenth century, this sect does not use Shrines for their religions practices. Instead a religious meeting is conducted in a hall. Some sects include mountain-worship, healing, Confucian and purification. Folk Shinto incorporates the belief of deities and spirits. It is in Folk Shinto that practices such as Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism are incorporated in the Shinto practice. All though many of the Shinto beliefs still hold true to ancient local traditions.
A traditional Japanese home has two family altars. One alter is for Shinto worship, where as the other is for Buddhist worship. However, a family that is pure Shinto will have only Shinto style ceremonies and practices. Shinto together with Buddhist practices are altimetry tied to todays Japanese society and culture. Shinto and the Shinto relationship with any religion in Japan tend to be harmonious and cooperative. The Shinto practiced today focuses on maintain their own religious characteristics while ultimately working towards peaceful existence between humans.
Shinto has experienced many trials and tribulations in its day, from the acceptance and removal of government support and having to rely on private donations, to Japan’s rapid industrialization and its continuous rival Buddhism. With Shinto’s ancient myths, rituals, and shrines, this religion is far from extinct. It still remains an important force in Japanese culture. In fact, the newer Shinto sects are emphasizing faith healing and positive thinking and are also helping people deal with the stress that modern life imposes on us. As our life struggles become more vigorous, we could all use a religion that helps us manage our life in a more complete and fulfilling fashion.

References:
By: Shimazono, Susumu. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Dec2005, Vol. 73 Issue 4, p1077-1098, 22p; DOI: 10.1093/jaarel/lfi115
By: Roemer, Michael K.. Japan Forum, Sep-Dec2010, Vol. 22 Issue 3/4, p491-512, 22p, 1 Chart; DOI: 10.1080/09555803.2010.533506
Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition, 11/1/2011, p1-1, 1p; Reading Level (Lexile): 1330
By: Childress, Diana. Calliope, Mar98, Vol. 8 Issue 7, p4, 4p, 3 Color Photographs, 2 Maps; Reading Level (Lexile): 1040
By: Prescott, Stephanie. Calliope, Mar98, Vol. 8 Issue 7, p28, 4p, 3 Color Photographs; Reading Level (Lexile): 1100
By: Matsumura, Janice. Canadian Journal of History, Winter2009, Vol. 44 Issue 3, p572-574, 3p; Reading Level (Lexile): 1840
By: Fukase-Indergaard, Fumiko; Indergaard, Michael. Theory & Society, Aug2008, Vol. 37 Issue 4, p343-374, 32p; DOI: 10.1007/s11186-007-9055-8
By: Boyd, James W.; Williams, Ron G.. Philosophy East & West, Jan2005, Vol. 55 Issue 1, p33-63, 31p faithresource. (2010). Retrieved from http://faithresource.org/showcase/Shinto/shintooverview.htm
Japanese Shinto Shrine Guide. (2010). Retrieved from http://. http://www.onmarkproductions.com/htlm/shrine-guide.shtml. kwintessential. (2009). Retrieved from http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/resources/religion/shinto.html
Religion Facts. (2010). Retrieved from http:// http://www.religionfacts.com/shinto/index.htm

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