Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Carpe Diem #1148 Shinto

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Welcome at this new episode of Carpe Diem. Today I love to tell you a little bit more about Japan's most important religion ... Shinto. I don't know much about Shinto, but I know it's a religion of nature and the Emperor of Japan is the head of Shinto, he is a direct descendant of the Japanese Sungoddess Amaterasu and that gives him the title Head of Shinto, a kind of highpriest so to say.

To tell you a little bit more about Shinto I decided to surf the WWW and found a nice piece of information about Shinto (Source:


Shinto ("the way of the gods") is the indigenous faith of the Japanese people and as old as Japan itself. It remains Japan's major religion alongside Buddhism.


Shinto does not have a founder nor does it have sacred scriptures like the sutras or the Bible. Propaganda and preaching are not common either, because Shinto is deeply rooted in the Japanese people and traditions.

"Shinto gods" are called kami. They are sacred spirits which take the form of things and concepts important to life, such as wind, rain, mountains, trees, rivers and fertility. Humans become kami after they die and are revered by their families as ancestral kami. The kami of extraordinary people are even enshrined at some shrines. The Sun Goddess Amaterasu is considered Shinto's most important kami.

The Wedded Rocks, a very important kami for weddings in the Shinto tradition

In contrast to many monotheistic religions, there are no absolutes in Shinto. There is no absolute right and wrong, and nobody is perfect. Shinto is an optimistic faith, as humans are thought to be fundamentally good, and evil is believed to be caused by evil spirits. Consequently, the purpose of most Shinto rituals is to keep away evil spirits by purification, prayers and offerings to the kami.

Shinto shrines are the places of worship and the homes of kami. Most shrines celebrate festivals (matsuri) regularly in order to show the kami the outside world. Please read more on our special information pages about shrines and festivals.

Shinto priests perform Shinto rituals and often live on the shrine grounds. Men and women can become priests, and they are allowed to marry and have children. Priests are aided by younger women (miko) during rituals and shrine tasks. Miko wear white kimono, must be unmarried, and are often the priests' daughters.

Important features of Shinto art are shrine architecture and the cultivation and preservation of ancient art forms such as Noh theater, calligraphy and court music (gagaku), an ancient dance music that originated in the courts of Tang China (618 - 907).

Ise Shrine, the most important shrine of Shinto

Shinto History

The introduction of Buddhism in the 6th century was followed by a few initial conflicts, however, the two religions were soon able to co-exist and even complement each other. Many Buddhists viewed the kami as manifestations of Buddha.

In the Meiji Period, Shinto was made Japan's state religion. Shinto priests became state officials, important shrines receive governmental funding, Japan's creation myths were used to foster a national identity with the Emperor at its center, and efforts were made to separate and emancipate Shinto from Buddhism.

After World War II, Shinto and the state were separated.

Shinto Today

People seek support from Shinto by praying at a home altar or by visiting shrines. A whole range of talismans are available at shrines for traffic safety, good health, success in business, safe childbirth, good exam performance and more.

A large number of wedding ceremonies are held in Shinto style. Death, however, is considered a source of impurity, and is left to Buddhism to deal with. Consequently, there are virtually no Shinto cemeteries, and most funerals are held in Buddhist style.

I like this Japanese religion and I even think it's one of the spiritual layers of haiku and I hope to see that deeper layer back in your haiku or tanka inspired on this episode.

a pebble-stone
taken from the Wedded Rocks
a farewell gift
autumn has gone only one
thing remains a chestnut

© Chèvrefeuille

This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until February 13th at noon (CET). I hope to publish our next episode later on today.

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