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Shinto originates from Japan and was its state religion until the end of World War II (ca. 300 BC). The term Shinto consists of the two words shin, meaning gods or spirits, and to which corresponds to the Chinese Dao meaning way or path. The introductions of Buddhism in the 6th century had a profound impact on the development of a unified system of Shinto beliefs. Vice versa, Shinto had a profound influence on the Buddhism in Japan.

For more details take a look at the The Kokugakuin Shinto Encyclopedia or at Japanese Mythology (Pantheon.org).


One of the basic principles is the worship of native gods or Kami. Shinto has no binding set of dogma, no holiest place for worshipers, and no defined set of prayers. Instead, Shinto is a collection of rituals and methods meant to mediate the relations of living humans to kami. A fundamental theme in the Shinto religion is a great love and reverence for nature. Thus, a waterfall, the moon, or just an oddly shaped rock might come to be regarded as a kami; so might charismatic persons or more abstract entities like growth and fertility. The principal worship of kami is done at public shrines, although home worship at small private shrines is also common.


In the early centuries, each tribe and area had its own collection of gods with no formal relationship between them. Thus, Shinto traditions and teachings were taught locally. In the time of the first tenno Emperor Temmu, the 40th emperor of Japan, the Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters, 712) were introduced, 680 A.D, in which it was claimed that the imperial line descended directly from the sun-goddess Herself. Thus, connecting the imperial line to the Shinto religion. Following the Meiji Restoration, Shinto was made the official religion of Japan, and in 1868 its combination with Buddhism was outlawed. During this period, it was felt by numerous scholars of Kokugaku that Shinto was needed in order to unify the country around the Emperor. After World War II Shinto no longer is Japan's state religion.

Ancient Texts

The Kojiki is one of the two primary sources for Shinto, the other is the Nihongi (1), (2), (3), (4). The Yengishiki is a collection Shinto rituals. Some more ancient texts of Shintoism can be viewed at Sacred Texts.

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