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Shinto origins

Way of the gods

Shinto means ‘Way of the Gods’. It is the traditional and ancient religion of Japan, without a founder or sacred scriptures, which regards all natural things as having their own spirituality. Traditional Shinto was not organized into a religion. It reveres kami, the indigenous folk deities of Japan – spirits present in animals, plants, and even stones and waterfalls.

Formal beginnings

Shinto became a distinct religion in response to the arrival of Buddhism in Japan around 550 AD. But not until the late 12th century was the word Shinto used to define a distinct body of religious teachings. Since then Shinto and Buddhism have co-existed in Japan, sometimes closer, sometimes further apart.

State Shinto

The 19th century was a turning point. In 1868 Shinto was divided into State Shinto, obligatory for all Japanese, and Shrine Shinto, which included an enormous number of popular cults, a few of which were persecuted by the then Japanese government.

Popular movements

After Japan's defeat in World War II, State Shinto was disestablished and replaced by Jinja Shinto, or Shrine Shinto, which now represents the majority of Shinto shrines. Tens of Shrine Shinto organizations revitalized their movements and hundreds of new religious denominations sprung up from the fundamental teachings and practices of Shinto and Buddhism.

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Related information

Shinto Faith Statement
A formal statement of Shinto beliefs about creation and ecology: "the relationship between the natural environment of this world and people is that of blood kin, like the bond between brother and sister."
September 10 2003:
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WWF and ARC have launched a programme for sacred site to be internationally recognised. This will help protect environmentally important sacred places such as mountains, holy rivers and pilgrim routes.
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