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Shinto (Shintoism)

Shinto is a religion with an estimated 3,500,000 followers or Shintoists, most of who are of Japanese heritage. (NOTE: In a very loose way, most Japanese can be considered as joint followers of Shinto, Buddhism and Confucianism. If that was the case, the number of (full-fledged and half-hearted) Shintoists could be estimated at 120,000,000.)

Shinto was founded in Japan about 500 B.C. or earlier. (NOTE: the name "Shinto" is believed to be derived from the Chinese words "shin tao", meaning "The Way of the Kami" or "The Way of the Gods". Furthermore, the use of name "Shinto" is believed to have started after the 6th century A.D., when Chinese Buddhism was introduced in Japan.)

Shinto is the traditional Japanese faith, that was derived from: the worship of nature, practices that dealt with the spirit world (like in Shamanism) including both good and evil spirits, divination techniques, hero worship, extremely high regard for ancestors and veneration of the Japanese Emperor as a descendant of the Amaterasu Omikami, the Sun goddess and most important Shinto deity. (According to legend, Jimmu Tenno, the first emperor in 660 B.C. was a descendant of Amaterasu. Therefore, all Japanese emperors were of divine origin.)

Shinto was established without an original set of commandments, code of conduct or doctrine. Some later Japanese texts that were written after the 7th century A.D. and are now respected by Shintoists include: The Kojiki (or Record of Ancient Matters), The Rokkokushi (or Six National Histories), The Shoku Nihongi and its Nihon Shoki (or simply, Nihongi -or- Continuing Chronicles of Japan) and The Jinno Shotoki (a study of Shinto and Japanese politics and history). The main symbol of Shinto is the TORII.

There are four different traditions of Shinto including: Koshitsu, Minzoku, Jinja and Kyoha. Koshitsu Shinto (or Imperial Shinto) involves the Emperor of Japan. Minzoku Shinto (or the Folk Shinto) is rooted in rural areas or the Japanese countryside.

Jinja Shinto (or the Shrine Shinto) emphasizes the use of shrines. There are thousands of shrines, each of which represents a specific entity and serves as sacred place for worship. Some shrines represent Japanese Emperors and other important people. Shinto's most sacred shrine is "Ise Jingu".

Kyoha Shinto (a.k.a. Shuha Shinto -or- the Sectarian Shinto), consists of various sects. Some sects started in the 19th century.

Note that the worship of nature includes the spirits of the Sun, oceans, rivers, springs, mountains, rocks, minerals, trees, plants, animals, birds, insects, etc.. Some Shinto cults also worshipped fertility. rain, wind and other processes (rather than objects) that occur in nature. Also, unlike most major religions (including Christianity, Islam and Hinduism), Shinto accepts the validity of other religions and respects the deities of other religions.


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