Japan has so many religious traditions that it has been called
a "living museum of religious traditions." Buddhism
(originally from India) passed through China
and Korea before entering Japan about 500 CE. Also at about
this time Confucianism
and Daoism (also called Taoism) were transmitted
to Japan, where they were accepted primarily as philosophical
and ethical ideas. Christianity
first came to Japan in 1549, but its following has always remained
very small. The oldest religious tradition in Japan is Shinto,
a distinctive, highly diverse religion born of the culture and
experience of the Japanese people.
literally means "way of the kami." Kami refers
to "the sacred," and there are countless kami manifested in
natural forms (mountains, waterfalls, trees, rocks, etc.), in
human forms, and even in human ancestors. Shinto has no founder,
no explicit teachings or doctrines, and no universal claims.
Shinto also is not exclusive; a Japanese individual may worship
at a Shinto shrine yet also affirm the beliefs of Buddhism or
at Shinto shrines occurs during annual festivals or at a personal
time of need for prayer. Shrine enhances are marked by a sacred
archway called a torii; the two most important shrine
buildings are the sanctuary (honden) and the hall of
worship (haiden). The most important written records
of Shinto belief are the Kojiki (712 CE) and the
Nihon Shoki (720 CE); influential figures of
Shinto history include the fourteenth-century pilgrim Saka
and the eighteenth-century scholar Motoori.
the last two centuries, many new religions have appeared in
Japan; some examples are Kurozumikyo (1814), Tenrikyo
(1838), Konkokyo (1859) and Hommon Butsuryuko
(1857). Such new religions (as opposed to reforms) are marked
by five key features: their founder, message, following,
practices, and organization.
Shinto became Japan's official religion after 1868, but
was disestablished after Japan's surrender in World
War II (1945). Japan has since had a formal separation
of church and state, with significant consequences for Japanese
politics, society, and religious life.