Back in about 300 BCE, the Yayoi culture formed in Japan, and the first version of the Shinto religion came with it. Dating back before the Japanese written language, Shinto has developed a whole ton since then. In the 6th century Shintoism acquired Buddhist aspects and Shintoism developed the religion name (Shinto) when Buddhism came to Japan. Then, during the Meiji Era (1868-1912 CE), Shinto was adopted as the state religion.
Shinto is a religion I find very fascinating. It has no one supreme being, so much different from the Western way of thinking. Shinto is a religion based on nature. We saw how on Miyajima Island the deer are sacred and they roam freely. I feel like I really click with Shinto just like Buddhism, even though I didn’t go to a meditation retreat or something like that.
In the Shinto religion, the symbol and a very common Shinto gate–the torii, has a lot of meaning. It’s most commonly the entrance to a shrine, and when you pass under a torii, you are entering a sacred space and most worshippers bow when going under it. The upward curving line on the torii represents the sacredness of the space versus the outside space. The middle is reserved for the kami. Kami can be a lot from supreme deities to rocks and trees. Kami are just like humans: they can be born and they can die. There are three main types of Kami: The powerful ancestors like the emperor, ordinary human ancestors (ancestor spirits), and the spirits of the forest and nature.
In Shintoism there are over a thousand Shinto shrines (in Japan). They can be almost anywhere from across your street to in the middle of the forest. They can be anything from a little shed with a bell and a table to a big complex of buildings for different prayers. I love the Shinto shrines where I can relax and just let my mind wander in peace.
Shinto has changed a lot over time. It was thought to start around the time of the Yayoi culture, and it was probably part of the culture. Then, in the 300s (CE), Taoism and Confucianism came into Japan. About 250 years later, in either 538 or 552 CE, Buddhism rushed into Japan. When these religions came into Japan, Shinto adopted a lot of myth and mythical stories, instead of the less mythical Yayoi culture. (We don’t know exactly when these things happen, so this is roughly what we think according to old texts and other old information.)
Now, today, Shinto is still flourishing in Japan. Even though less than 1% of the world population follows Shinto, there are only about 4 million Shinto adherents, and only about half of the population follows the Shinto religion, it’s still a big part of Japan.
Below: Shinto shrine next to our house in Hiroshima
Below: Other torii