What Is Shintoism

The Shintoism is Japan’s national religion, with more than 120 million adherents throughout the country.

Shinto is a word of Chinese origin ( Shin + Tao ) and means ” Way of the Gods “.


Shintoism is an ancient religious practice that has roots in Japanese prehistoric traditions and the tribal system based on clans from the Joomon period (8,000 BC), from him, he inherited spirituality, as well as the mythological accounts of the creation of the gods and the world.

In this belief of an animistic and polytheistic character, all the things that make up the Universe are divine and are closely interconnected.

For this reason, harmony with nature and purification of body and soul are preached. It considers the human being pure in its natural state, however, tainted by the evil influences of the spirits that inhabit the lower world.

Historically, in spite of its ancient roots, Shinto was instituted only from the 6th century. At that time, he had contact with other religions and religious doctrines such as Buddhism and Confucianism .

In the 8th century, the first Shinto texts appeared, such as Kojiki and Nihon Shoki.

As a result, Shinto is gradually moving away from foreign influences. It became the state’s official religion during the Meiji Era (1868-1902).

That was, until 1946, when Japan was defeated in World War II and the Japanese emperor was forced to renounce his divine status.

Shinto Practices and Customs

Basically, Shinto is characterized by the cult of nature and ancestral spirits. They are revered through offerings and prayers performed at altars across Japan.

The purpose of worship is to make requests for help, promises to act in the future or simply praise for thanks. The offerings, on the other hand, are generally made in genres such as rice, salt and sake.

The praised entities are called Kamis, spirits of conscience and limited powers, but capable of major interventions in the everyday world. They are responsible for protecting the places where they are patrons.

They are represented in various forms, such as trees, valleys, rivers, mountains, atmospheric phenomena (rain, lightning, etc.), or even by important men, especially the great sages and warriors.

Due to the importance of purity in the Shinto religion , aspects of hygiene and health are highly valued.

Purification is a common practice, performed through ritual baths, by fasting before ceremonies and, often, by the practice of exorcism.

Although they do not have a moral code defined in dogmatic terms, Shintoists have a set of sacred scriptures that present the mythologies of the Shinto tradition.

They contain descriptions of religious rituals and serve as a parameter among adherents, who do not need to be practicing believers. Just follow the ideal of justice and character, based on a life of purity and without voluntary sins.

This flexibility extends to the clergy, who has a major theological authority, the kannushi or kami master.

He can be male or female and must serve the kami in carrying out the appropriate rituals for each shrine. They learn after several years of study at specific institutes.

Shinto temples, which can have local, regional or national reach, are generally surrounded by nature and have several portals without doors (tori). In addition, they have bridges that cross water courses and lakes.

Its structure is usually composed of a prayer room, one for offerings and another reserved anteroom, where the sacred objects that symbolize the kami are deposited.

To learn more: Religion


  • Amaterasu Oo-mikami, the goddess of the Sun, is considered the founder of the Japanese royal family.
  • It is common in Japanto practice Shinto rituals to mark birth and marriage, however, for funeral rites, Buddhist rituals are preferred.


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