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Religious Studies: Shintoism

Religion 101


“To be fully alive is to have an aesthetic perception of life because a major part of the world's goodness lies in its often unspeakable beauty.” (Yukitaka Yamamoto)


"The native religion of Japan. Shinto is primarily an attitude of nationalistic and aesthetic reverence towards familiar places and traditions, rather than a set of religious beliefs. However, the central themes are the belief in numerous usually amoral kamis or nature spirits, together with ancestor worship and an ideal of military chivalry. The two principal kamis are the sun-goddess (reputedly mother of the emperor) and her brother the storm-god. The conflict between them expresses the creative and destructive forces of nature. The scriptures of Shinto, the Ko ji ki and the Nihon Shoki, are both semimythological histories of Japan, written around 720  AD. The hereditary priesthood officiates at ceremonies of birth, marriage, and death, ensuring ritual purification. State Shinto, which developed during the 19th century, required unquestioning obedience to the emperor, who was seen as divine, and encouraged an attitude of militaristic nationalism. After World War II, Shinto was disestablished as the state religion."

Shinto. (2003). In The MacMillan encyclopedia (2nd ed.). Market House Books Ltd.

"Shinto did not develop as a system until far into Japanese recorded history, and then it appears to have attained its own identity partly as a reaction to Buddhism's presence as well as political developments. It was also not always seen as a “religion” in the same way Buddhism was perceived. To this day many people who respect the kami, or Shinto deities, do not necessarily see themselves as believers in a Shinto religion. At the same time, governments have often tried hard to develop a Shinto institution or symbol for their own purposes."

Irons, E. A. (2016). Shinto. In E. A. Irons, Encyclopedia of world religions: Encyclopedia of Buddhism (2nd ed.). Facts On File.

  1. All things have their eternal divinity.
  2. There is no important difference between life and death.
  3. A natural polytheism and an ability to incorporate concepts from other religious philosophies (e.g. Buddhism) or polytheistic systems (e.g. Hinduism).

Shinto. (2001). In C. Arnold-Baker, The companion to British history, Routledge (2nd ed.). Routledge.



  • Kojiki (“Records of Ancient Matters”) (English Translation)
  • Nihon shoki (Nihon-gi) (“Chronicles of Japan”) (English Translation)
  • Kogoshūi (“Gleanings of Ancient Works”) (English Translation)
  • Engi shiki (“Institutes of the Engi Period”) (English Search)

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