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Shintoism In Japan

Shintoism In Japan Shintoism is the indigenous and national religion of Japan. The word Shinto means the way of the gods. Shintoism is a nature worship based religion. Shintoism is a unique religion with its own concepts on deities, ethics and life. Shintoism is based on the beginning of the race when the trees and the herbs had speech(Underwood 16). At the beginning of the Earth, Shinto followers believed, that the animals acted and spoke like men.

The religion does not directly deal with common religious themes of; problem of evil, man’s consciousness of sin and his need for redemption. Shinto followers believe that spirits exist everywhere whether good or evil. The religion is unorganized worship of these deities. The name given to these spirits and deities are Kami. Kami is a key concept in Shintoism and is difficult to define. All that is wonderful is God, and the divine embraces in its category all that impresses the untrained imagination and excites it to reverence or fear.

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(18) Objects of worship included: the sky, heavenly bodies, mountains, rivers, seas, trees, beasts, great fishes, reptiles and the process of reproduction in nature and humans. There are four historical written sources, which provide scholars with information on the beginnings of Shintoism. The first of these books is the Kojiki, which means records of ancient matters. The Kojiki was written in a combination of archaic Japanese and Chinese. The book was compiled in 712 CE by an emperor who feared that many variants may destroy the foundation of the monarchy.

The book’s principle aim was to demonstrate the divine origin of the ruling family and the foundation of the state. Some refer to this book as the Bible of the Japanese. This is not true as it is not regarded as inspired or to possess any doctrinal interest, Shinto has no sacred texts. The second book is titled the Nihongi, which means the chronicles of Japan. The Nihongi was written entirely in Chinese. The book was compiled in 720 CE and covers much of the same material as the Kojiki with alternate versions of myths or events.

The third book is the Yengi-shiki, meaning the institutes of the Yengi period. The book was compiled between 901-923 CE and describes the rituals practiced during the Yengi era. It contains a few ancient prayers and is an important source for the ceremonies of Shinto. The final book is the Manyo-shiu, meaning the collection of myriad leaves. It was written in the late eighth or early ninth century and contains a collection of four hundred poems.

The poems celebrate the splendors of the Japanese landscape. In the seventh century the Shintoism gained some coherence by being related to the emperor. The Kojiki established the emperor as a direct descendent of the Sun-Goddess. To secure the loyalty of his subjects the old myths were retold and elaborated and the emperor became a divine figure. The Kojiki shows how the emperor can trace his descent from the Sun-Goddess and through to Izanagi and Izanami the two primal deities who gave birth to the gods and the islands of Japan. The elaboration of Shinto in the interest of the monarchy is the really characteristic feature of Shinto and its typically national form.

(19) An issue of debate among Shinto scholars is on the question of whether ancestor-worship had always existed or whether it had been imported from China. There is an important distinction to be made between a cult of the dead and a cult of the ancestors. A cult of the dead is based on a fear that if the dead are neglected, they will haunt or harm the living. A cult of the ancestors, however, is based on spiritual fraternity in which offerings are not made through fear but to promote the family. It is now generally regarded by most scholars that Shintoism included nature-worship and a cult of the dead prior to Chinese contact. After the Chinese arrival true ancestor worship began and these spirits took their place alongside the Kami and received veneration not based on fear.

The key mythology of Shintoism is based on the creation of Japan. The first to appear were three deities who are said to have emerged out of the primeval chaos, which is likened to an ocean of mud veiled in darkness. These three deities disapear without leaving a trace. Two deities followed, when the Earth was just beginning, These two also vanish without leaving a trace. Two more follow and disappear.

Five more couples follow the final two being Izanagi, meaning the male-who-invites, and Izanami, the female-who-invites. The gods prior to Izanagi and Izanami are referred to as celestial deities to distinguish them from earthly deities who are said to have walked on the Earth. Some scholars think these heavenly deities may have been deities no longer worshipped in Japan. It is more likely they were inventions to eke out genealogical tree for the greater divinities who came afterwards.(24) Izanagi and Izanami were ordered by the celestial deities to come to Earth to produce the terrestrial world. They were given a spear and, standing on the floating bridge of heaven, they push the spear into the mist and stir the briny silt below.

They draw up the spear and the brine on its tip forms the island of Onogoro. They descend to the island where they erect a pillar and palace. After completion of the palace and the pillar the notice their sexual differences and are filled with the desire for sexual union. Izanami speaks first saying, oh, what a beautiful and amiable youth. Izanagi replies, oh, what a beautiful and amiable maiden.

They then embraced as man and wife. Their union results in the birth of a child, Hiruko meaning child of the sun. The child is evil and is put on a boat and sent adrift. They have another child who is also seen as evil. The couple return to heaven to find out why their offspring are evil.

They are told that it is because Izanami spoke first, and they are told to descend back again and amend your words. They return and give birth to eight great islands and then the smaller ones. After giving birth to all the countries they give birth to more Kami. In all they produce eighty countries eight hundred myriads of Kami, the eight great islands, the sun mountains and rivers. The last Kami they create is the Fire Kami. Izanami is burnt very badly by the Kami and eventually dies and withdraws to the underworld.

Izanagi in a fit of wrath draws his sword and cuts the fire Kami to pieces, thus creating fu …

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