Lesson 1 Traditional ReligionShinto



Shinto is the natural indigenous religion of Japan. Shinto gods, or kami, are worshipped at shrines. All natural objects and phenomena used to be considered as having kami(animism), so it is said that eight million kami [八百万の神]exist around us. Gradually Shinto practice extended to the worship of ancestors. Accordingly, then, there were no specific founders in Shinto religion, nor any books of scripture.


参考文献 十九世紀半ばにペリー提督が著した『日本遠征記』

The original national religion of Japan is called Sin-syu, (from sin, the gods, and syu, faith,) and its followers are called Sintoos. Such, at least, is the statement made by some writers; but Siebold says the proper Japanese name is Kami-no-Mitsi, which means “the way of the Kami," or gods; this the Chinese have translated into Shin-tao; and the Japanese have modified the Chinese into Sintoo.



The word Shinto is written with two Chinese characters; the first, shin, is also used to write the native Japanese word kami (divinity or numinous entity), and the second, to, is used to write the native word michi (Way). The term first appears in the historical chronicle Nihon shoki [日本書紀], where it refers to religious observance, the divinities, and shrines, but not until the late 12th century was it used to denote a body of religious doctrines. The worship of kami slowly emerged at the dawn of Japanese history, crystallized as an imperial religious system during the Nara (710-794) and Heian (794-1185) periods, and subsequently was in constant interaction with Buddhism and Confucianism, which were introduced from the Asian continent. This interaction gave birth to various syncretic cults that combined the worship of kami with the imported religions. In the Muromachi (1333-1568) and Edo (1600-1868) periods, however, there was a revival of Shinto as the “Ancient Way[復古神道]”, and an attempt was made to pare away all foreign influences. This expurgated system became the state religion of Japan during the Meiji period (1868-1912), but in 1945 Shinto was disestablished and again became one among other forms of worship.

Shinto can be regarded as a two-sided phenomenon. On the one hand it is a loosely structured set of practices, creeds, and attitudes rooted in local communities, and on the other it is a strictly defined and organized religion at the level of the imperial line and the state. These two basic aspects, which are not entirely separate, reflect fundamental features of the Japanese national character as it is expressed in sociopolitical structures and psychological attitudes.



A Shinto shrine is an enclosed area containing a wooden sanctuary[鎮守の森] and several auxiliary buildings[社殿] where Shinto rites are performed and prayers offered. The shrine is the focal point of organized Shinto religious practice, including annual festivals and sacred dance and music[御神楽]. In urban areas it provides a sense of community[] to those living within parish. In rural areas it tends to create a feeling of kinship among villagers[氏子] by stressing the common tie that all to the shrine deity[氏神].

A typical medium-size shrine might be often be laid out as follows: Toward the rear of the shrine precinct[境内], which is often rectangular and surrounded by a fence[玉垣] marking it off as sanctified area, stands the main sanctuary[本殿], which houses go-shintai[御神体], a sacred object in which the spirit of the deity is believed to reside. Usually more than one deity is enshrined. Directly in front of the main sanctuary is the hall of worship or oratory[拝殿], where the priests conduct their rituals and individuals make their offerings. Worshipers announce their presence to the deity enshrined in the main sanctuary by clapping their hand[拍手/柏手] and tugging on a heavy bell rope hanging from the eaves of the main sanctuary. A wooden box[賽銭箱] stands in front of the main sanctuary to receive money offerings[御賽銭]. The interior of the main sanctuary may be entered by laymen only on special ritual occasions and the main sanctuary only by priests on rare occasions. At the entrance to the shrine stands characteristic shrine gateways[鳥居] which are said to have their roots in India, China or Korea. A pair of highly stylized stone lions called komainu [狛犬]stand guard in front of the gate or hall. Adjacent to lions, a stone basin[手水鉢] is placed to purify oneself by ritual washing of hands and mouth.



Originally one of the names of the deity of cereals. Inari has been the deity most widely worshiped by the Japanese because of its association with the nation's rice-centered agriculture. Inari has also been regarded as a guardian of commerce and success. During the Edo period (1600-1868) merchants who desired prosperity and many warriors who wished for success erected Inari shrines in their homes. In modern times Inari has been installed as a guardian deity in some households (屋敷神) and companies.           

In medieval times (mid-12th-16th centuries), belief in the sacredness of the fox, especially the white fox, was common. Eventually the fox came to be regarded as Inari's messenger. Thus the fox as a symbol has often been referred to as inari, and a piece of  

fried soybean curd, offered to an Inari shrine in the belief that it was the fox's favorite food, has also been called inari.   




Ise Shrine[伊勢神宮]

One of the most important Shinto shrines. Located in the city of ise in Mie Prefecture and comprising the Inner Shrine[内宮] and the Outer Shrine[外宮], with other affiliated shrines. Beginning in the 10th Century, Ise became a popular pilgrimage site.

Ise Shrine has long had a special significance for the Japanese. It is mentioned in the 8th-century poetry anthology, the Manyoshu[万葉集]. During the 5th century lower-ranking clerics the shrine[御師] went around the provinces proselytizing, collecting funds, and preaching the benefits of visiting Ise, adding that seven pilgrimages ensured salvation. Associations for pilgrimages to the shrine[伊勢講] were formed in various provinces. In the more secularized modern period, Ise Shrine is significant more for its literary and historic associations and for its architecture than a place of worship.


Izumo Shrine[出雲大社]

One of the most important Shinto shrines; located in the town of Taisha, Shimane Prefecture. The chief god of the shrine is Okuninushi no mikoto[大国主命]. The mythic origin of the shrine as described in the 8th-century chronicles Kojiki[古事記] and Nihon shoki[日本書紀] is as follows: Okuninushi no mikoto had first started developing the world of mortal man, but when Ninigi no mikoto[瓊瓊杵尊], the grandson of the sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami[天照大神], descended to earth from the heavens[天孫降臨], Okuninushi no mikoto turned over this land to him[国譲り]. This so pleased Amaterasu Omikami that she had a large shrines erected in honor of Okuninushi no mikoto at the present location of the Izumo Shrine and put it under the care of Amenohohi no mikoto[天穂日命]. In ancient times people said to be the descendants of Amenohohi no mikoto served as the local chieftains of Izumo[国造].

The shrine is built in the taishu-zukuri style[大社造], considered the oldest of shrine architectural styles in Japan. The previous main building (本殿) was built in 1744, the 25th building since the original structure. Now approximately 79ft high, it was reportedly once 315 ft a high.


Kumano Sanzan Shrines[熊野三社]

Collective name for three shrines located in Kumano district of Wakayama Prefecture: Kumano Hongu Taisha in Hongu, dedicated to Ketsumiko no kami; Kumano Hayatama Taisha in Shingu, dedicated to Kumano hayatama no kami; and Kumano Nachi Taisha in Nachi dedicated to Kumano fusumi no kami. From earliest times Kumano, a mountains area overlooking the sea, was believed to be a dwelling place of gods, and the Kumano shrines became a popular pilgrimage site.


Omiwa Shrine[大神神社]

A Shinto shrine in the city of Sakurai[桜井], Nara Prefecture; dedicated to the deity Omonoushi no Kami[大物主神]. One of the oldest and greatest shrines in Japan, Omiwa jinja dose not have a main sanctuary in which the sacred object of shrine normally reposes. Instead, the Omiwa Shrine venerates the exposed peak of Mt. Miwa[三輪山] as its go-shintai. This veneration of an exposed natural object such as a mountain is thought to represent one of the earliest forms of Shinto worship. In the medieval period the shrine was a center of the Miwa school of Shinto[三輪神道], a syncretic theology based on Shingon Buddhist[真言仏教] doctrines.




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