8 Million Gods, Shinto and Shrine

This article includes a lot of my own opinions. I’m not a Japanese leader nor spokesman, my purpose of this article is to help your understanding of Japanese mentality. It doesn’t mean Japanese religion. This is very normal Japanese mentality. So I wrote this. Shinto is Japanese religion but not really a religion.

It respects nature, such as river, mountain and so on, and finds a God for each of them. For example, a God lives in the mountains, a God lives in the river, so if there are two mountains, there are also two mountain Gods. There’s said to be a total of around 8,000,000 Gods, up to an infinite amount. The point is each part of nature has an equal God.

Also, the bridge between God and human is the shrine ceremony. The ceremony is done at the shrine so the shrine is supposed to be a sanctuary. This is in Japanese wikipedia. Usually the English version is different than Japanese one. So I tried to translate directly into English today. I’m not sure about details, though.

I guess most Japanese also don’t know the details, so if you asked some Japanese people about this, the answer would depend on the person, I suppose. Here are the key points. I mean I didn’t know it but, I could understand. As for some things, My intelligence is not much and not good and I referred it pretty much from wikipedia.

In Japanese, Shinto(神道) is written with Gods way(road). The truth means “We with Gods” with wikipedia, but the kanji is the same way as writing and means Judo(柔道; Japanese fighting sports and the some spirits), Sado(茶道; Japanese tea manner and welcoming mind for visitors total art), Kado(華道; Japanese flower arrangement and total space art esthetic) and so on. Otherwise, most religions are written with some teaching(何教). It means evangelistic. Such as Christian religion(キリスト教), Muslim(イスラム教), Hindu(ヒンズー教), and Buddhism(仏教). So Shinto is religion with wikipedia but some Japanese don’t think it’s religious. It’s why they say “I have no religion”.

No one is the founder of Shinto. There are no clear scriptures corresponding to the Christian Bible, or the scriptures of Buddhism, “Kojiki” (Record of ancient matters), “Nihon-Shoki” (Cronicles of Japan), etc. The norm (like myth, fiction) is a class called “shinten”. There is no clear perceptions, or clear idols of a “one and only”.

The foundation of our God worship, is traditional national faith and all things in nature (and the universe). The myth of Japan being, the spirits of ancestors give faith and natural faith. Traditionally, it has become a pillar of morality, spirituality, and the nations character, from ancient times. It is also included in many childrens nursery rhymes.

I suppose, we think Gods live in the universe and we don’t think this thought is religious because, in the above explanation, there is not just one God, no bible, no rules. We care for everything. It doesn’t mean atheism.

A lot of Japanese would think and say “I don’t care for religion” or “I’m not interested in religion”, but a lot of them mix up atheism and our mentality. However, they know and have shinto’s mentality. This is a very complicated point.

We, including me, don’t think of them because it is not important for shinto’s mindset, perhaps Japanese mentality. It’s why a lot of Japanese say their religion is atheism because they don’t know or consider shinto as a religion and explaining it is so hard, I suppose.

I’m also that way. Gods live in our hearts, they also live in all the things. Furthermore, this mentality may be already improved, so today we think everything, including stones, insects, grasses, trees, an umbrella, a watch, a park, a school, a castle, a car, of course a toilet, too.

That’s why we care about all the things even if it was only a product. I suppose, most Japanese don’t study about these much, not even the class of Japanese history in school. In school history class, they study “how Japan was built long ago”, “Japanese myth and living people” like that, so the point is not religion.

However, we know because adults tell children and childrens games include some information, too. It’s a very very normal thing. Take Care of your toys because…. Take Care of your clothes because… Like that. The toilet, too. “Toilet Gods

In addition, the difference between Buddhism and shinto, is Shinto has the faith of protecting the village and the tribe. Buddhism has the faith for the purpose of determining the national protection, relief, and peace of mind for the soul. I didn’t know even this, though.

If you knew or watched Princess Mononoke by Ghibli, the movie tells you these things pretty much. Princess Mononoke
I hope this article help to understand Japanese mentality. Why we love detail. Why we analogy physical thing to human. I hope so.