Discovering The Basics of the Shinto Religion
The Shinto religion is the oldest surviving and widely practised Japanese religion, however its relevance in modern day society is still very much present throughout Japan. In this blog post, we have complied all the basic essentials you need to know about Shinto including; it’s origins, Shinto beliefs, places of worship and how the Shinto religion is still practised.
What are the main beliefs of Shinto?
Considered as the indigenous religion of modern day Japan, Shinto followers believe that every object has a spirit or a soul including the sun, stars, rivers, trees and rocks. Interestingly, the Japanese story of creation is Shinto in origin, with famous gods and goddesses also stemming from Shinto too.
The most famous incorporation of Shinto is that of the Samurai, they are one of the most fundamental parts of the religion in order to form Bushido “the way of the warrior”, which was the code of honour and moral principles they lived by.
Places of Workshop
The place of worship for those following the Shinto religion is a shrine called a Jinja. Although they are a very popular tourist attraction across Japan, the Jinja is a sacred place and is expected to be treated with respect by all who enter it.
A Torii (shown in the picture above) is built purposefully to highlight to visitors the beginning of the sacred space of the Jinja. In addition, everyone must enter and exit through the Torii too when visiting a Jinja. According to tsunagu Japan, the Torii is more than just a symbol of where sacred ground starts and ends, it is also widely believed that the gods enter and leave through a Torii, hence why it is such an important Shinto symbol.
Matsuri are known as celebrations that centre around the notion of rejoicing in being alive! The majority of these festivals are local and are in honour of a historical event or day celebrated nationally, alternatively they can be dedicated to the nearest shrine or Jinja’s represented deity. The main objective of these celebrations is to show gratitude for all the positive things in life for overall happiness.
Shinto Religion in Modern Day Japan
Shinto’s presence in Japan can not only be seen in architecture, but also in Japanese social culture. One of the best examples of this can be seen in the sport of Sumo wrestling, Japan’s national sport. Before the match begins the wrestlers first throw down a handful of salt in order to purify the arena. The symbolism behind kicking one another is supposedly to crush forces of evil. Both of these acts stem from Shinto origins and have remained a part of the sport since it first began thousands of years ago, as a performance to entertain the Shinto deities. For more information on Sumo wrestling and other popular Japanese sports, read our recent blog post.
Interestingly, a large majority of Japanese weddings are celebrated in accordance with traditional Shinto practise too. The main symbol of marriage between the two parties consists of them both drinking Sake from the same cup, originating from the Shinto wedding symbolism of each drinking Sake for purification. The traditional bridal wear which is a classic white kimono also originates from an original Shinto wedding. Many couples now like to fuse traditional elements with modern westernised aspects, however these subtle Shinto rituals have remained in the majority of services in some way.
We hope you now have a basic knowledge of the Shinto religion and can see how present it still remains in Japan to this day! If you are attending a Japanese wedding soon and are looking for gift ideas, discover our handpicked collection of Japanese wedding gifts or if you want to know more about other traditions in Japanese weddings before you attend, then please read our informative blog post on other customs involved with wedding ceremonies in Japan.