The Shinto religion was started in the Tokugawa period (1600-1868) of
Japanese history. The Tokugawa Enlightenment inspired a group of people who
studied kokugaku, which roughly translated means nativism, Japanese Studies,
or Native Studies. Kokugaku’s intent was to recover Japanese character to
what it was before the early influences of foreigners, especially the Chinese.

Some of these influences include Confucianism (Chinese), Taoism (Chinese),
Buddhism (Indian and Chinese), and Christianity (Western European). The
kokugakushu (nativist) focused most of their efforts on recovering the Shinto
religion, the native Japanese religion, from fragments of texts and popular
religious practices.

However, Shintoism is probably not a native religion of Japan (since the
Japanese were not the original natives of Japan). There really is no one
thing that can be called Shinto, The name itself is a bit misleading because
it is made up of two Chinese words meaning the way of the gods(Shen :
spiritual power, divinity; Tao : the way or path). The word for this in
Japanese is kannagara : “the way of the kami .”
Many things can be said about Shinto. First, it was a tribal religion,
not a state one. However, even when the tribes were organized into coherent
states, they still retained their Shinto beliefs. Second, all Shinto cults
believe in Kami (the divine) Individual clans worshipped a single Kami which
was regarded as the principal ancestor of the clan. As the clan spread, it
still worshipped it’s Kami, but when one clan conquered another clan-the
defeated clan had to worship the Kami of the victorious clan. What the Kami
consist of is hard to define. Kami refers to the gods of Heaven, Earth, and the
Underworld. But Kami also are all those things that have divinity in them to
some degree. Third, all Shinto involve some sort of shrine worship, the most
important was the Izumo Shrine on the coast of the Japan Sea. Originally, these
shrines were himorogi (unpolluted land surrounded by trees) or iwasaka
(unpolluted land surrounded by stones). Shinto shrines are usually single rooms
raised off the ground, with religious objects placed inside, and on the outside
there was a torii (wash-basin). The torii was used for the misorgi, which is
washing the hands and sometimes the face before entering the shrine. Someone
worships a shrine by attending it, or devoting oneself to the object that is
being worshipped, and by giving offerings to it: the offerings can be anything
from vegetables to great riches.

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Almost nothing at all is known about early Shinto because nothing was
written about it. Early Shinto may just be a name given to a large number of
unrelated local religions that combined with the the centralized states. The
two texts of Shintoism, the Kojiki (The records of Ancient matters) and the
Nihongi (Chronicles of Japan), were written down around 700 A.D., two centuries
after Japan had declared Buddhism the state religion.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Japanese government campaigned
to make Shinto the national religion. However many people were unhappy with
Shintoism. During that time Christianity arrived in Japan. Between 1868 and
1873 Christianity was severely attacked as the government shut out foreigners
and their ideas. Many active Christians were killed. In 1912 the Japanese got
religious freedom.

In 1990 the number of followers for religions in Japan are :Shintoists –
112,200,000, Buddhists – 93,400,000, Christians – 1,422,000, and others –
11,412,000. Therefore, about 120 million people adhere to 2 or more religions at
the same time.

Works Cited
“Shinto” Online. 5
June 1995.

Hishida, Miki. Religions in Japan. 15 Dec 1995. Online posting: Internet.