What does the Punjabi word Kokka mean

Shinto (jap. wird, is mostly translated in German as “way of the gods”) - also as Shintoism - is the ethnic religion of the Japanese(see also Religion in Japan). Shinto and Buddhism, the two most important religions in Japan, are not always easy to distinguish due to their long common history. As the most important characteristic that separates the two religious systems, the Shinto is often cited as being related to this world. In addition, the classical Shintō does not know any holy scriptures in the sense of a religious canon, but is largely passed on orally. The two writings Kojiki and Nihonshoki, which are considered sacred by some Shinto-influenced new religions in Japan, are more historical and mythological testimonies.[1]


Shinto consists of a variety of religious cults and beliefs that refer to the native Japanese deities (kami) judge. Kami are numerically unlimited and can take the form of humans, animals, objects or abstract beings. One speaks therefore of Shinto as a polytheistic and animistic or theophanic religion.

The buildings or places of worship of Shinto are called Shinto shrines. At the top of the shrine hierarchy is the Ise Shrine, where the sun deity Amaterasu, also the mythical ancestor of the Japanese emperor, the Tennō, is venerated. Accordingly, the Tennō is also considered the head of Shintō. While this religious leadership role of the Tennō has only nominal significance today, it reached its climax in the era of nationalism before the Second World War. The Tennō was then assigned a divine status. In this context, one speaks of State Shinto.

Historically, the Shinto was for centuries an inconsistent religious tradition connected with elements of Buddhism and Confucianism, which was only recognized by the state with the beginning of the Meiji Restoration due to new political ideologies standardized and purely Japanese "original religion" was interpreted.[2] There is still no agreement on a precise definition. So noticed z. B. the Japanese historian of religion Ōbayashi Taryō:

"Shintō ... [is] in the broadest sense the original religion of Japan, in the narrower sense a system developed from the original religion and Chinese elements for political purposes."[3]

Important deities of Shinto are the pair of primordial gods Izanagi and Izanami, who play a decisive role in the Japanese myth about the origin of the world. The sun goddess Amaterasu, the storm god Susanoo, the moon god Tsukuyomi and many other kami emerged from them. Most Shinto shrines today, however, are dedicated to deities such as Hachiman or Inari. Both deities do not appear in the classical myths and were heavily influenced by Buddhism.


The word shinto comes from the Chinese where it shéndào (Chinese 神道) - Standard Chinese - is pronounced. Has shen here the meaning of "spirit, god or deity", while dao can be translated here simply as “way or path”.[4]

In Japanese, the symbol for shin神 in the word shinto depending on the reading (読 み yomi, German, pronunciation ‘) as shin, jin (Sino-Japanese sound reading) or kami (Japanese term reading) pronounced. Kami is the Japanese name for deity and has a different nuance than the Chinese shen. The term kami can also refer to deities of other religions, e.g. B. relate to the Christian God. The Kanji道 in shinto will depend on the reading , do (Sound reading) or michi (Term reading) and can, similarly to Chinese, in a figurative sense stand for terms such as “teaching” or “school”. (please refer do in Judō, Kendō, ...)

Already in the second oldest Japanese imperial history, the Nihonshoki (720) is shinto mentioned, but only four times in total. It is also still a matter of dispute what the exact term used for the word at the time meant (see below). As a designation for an independent religious system in the sense of today's word usage emerges shinto first in sources of the Japanese Middle Ages.

Identity Features

The ambiguous, polytheistic nature of the native gods (kami) makes it difficult to find a common religious core in Shinto. Shinto has neither a founding figure nor a concrete dogma. The uniform characteristics of Shinto are primarily in the field of rite and architecture. The "Shinto shrine" is therefore one of the most important identity-creating features of the Shinto religion. Various Japanese expressions correspond to the term “shrine” (jinja, yashiro, miya, ...), But all of them clearly point to a Shintoist building and not to a Buddhist one. In the narrower sense, a shrine is a building in which a divine object of worship is held (shintai) is kept. In a broader sense, the term refers to a "shrine facility" that can include a number of main and secondary shrines, as well as other religious buildings. There are certain optical or structural identifiers that can be used to identify a Shinto shrine. These include:

  • torii ("Shinto gates"): simple, distinctive gates made of two pillars and two crossbars, which are mostly free and provide access to one for the kami symbolize the reserved area.
  • shimenawa ("Divine ropes"): ropes of different strengths and lengths, mostly made of plaited straw, which either surround a numinous object (often trees or rocks) or act as a decorative element torii or shrine buildings are attached.
  • Zigzag paper (shide, gohei): A decorative element mostly made of white paper that can also serve as a symbolic offering. Often attached to god ropes or a staff.

Shrines can also be characterized by a characteristic roof decoration: It usually consists of X-shaped beams (chigi), which are attached to both ends of the roof ridge, as well as from some ellipsoidal cross timbers (katsuogi, literally "wood [in the form] of the bonito fish"), between the chigi are lined up along the ridge. However, these elements can mostly only be found on shrines in the archaic style.

The objects of worship kept in the shrines (shintai) are considered the "seat" or "place of residence" of the revered deity and are never shown. Typical shintai are objects that came to Japan in small numbers from the Asian mainland in the early Japanese period, when their respective production was not yet mastered in the country itself, and that were considered miracles here, such as bronze mirrors or swords. Other shintai are the so-called "crooked jewels" (magatama)made in Japan since ancient times. Finally, statues or other objects can also be used as shintai serve. In some cases, the appearance of the shintai unknown even to the priests of the respective shrine.

The shrine priests themselves wear ceremonial robes that are derived from the official robes of court officials in ancient Japan. They are i.a. through headgear made of black-dyed paper (tate-eboshi, kanmuri) characterized. A specific ritual instrument is that shaku, a kind of scepter made of wood, which formerly also functioned as a symbol of secular rule. All these elements also characterize the traditional ceremonial robes of the Tennō.


An official statistic named about 100 million believers for 2012, which corresponds to about 80% of the Japanese population.[5] According to another source, however, the number of believers is only 3.3% of the Japanese population, or about four million.[6]

The difference between these numbers reflects the difficulty in defining Shinto more precisely: the first survey is based on the number of people identified by the shrines themselves as parishioners (ujiko), which results from participation in religious rituals in the broadest sense (such as the traditional shrine visit at New Year). This corresponds (sociologically) to felt Belonging to an ethno-religious group that sees many Shinto aspects such as ancestral cult or belief in spirits as an inseparable part of Japanese culture.[7] An actual affiliation to a religious community cannot be derived from this. If you ask explicitly about the belief in the Shinto religion, as in the second survey, the result must inevitably be significantly lower.



The oldest myths of Japan, which are considered to be the most important source of Shinto, suggest that the religious rites related to awe-inspiring natural phenomena (mountains, rocks or trees) as well as to food gods and elementary natural forces, which were predominantly agricultural at the time Society mattered. To describe the totality of all deities, the myths use the term yao yorozu, wtl. "Eight million", which is to be understood in the sense of "uncountable", "unmanageable". This indicates that the religion of that time was not a closed, uniform belief system.

Like all ancient Japanese culture, this religion was probably related to the Jōmon culture, the Yayoi culture and the Austronesian religions, which found their way mainly over a land bridge from Taiwan over the Ryūkyū Islands in the south to Japan. In addition, early Korean and classical shamanistic cults from Siberia (via Sakhalin) as well as influences of Chinese folk beliefs that came to Japan via the Korean peninsula are suspected.[8] According to Helen Hardacre, Shintoism and Japanese culture are derived from Yayoi culture and religion.[9] It must be borne in mind that Japan in prehistoric times was not populated by a single, ethnically homogeneous group and that even in historical times waves of immigration from the continent led to local cultural differences. The so-called "Ur-Shinto" therefore consisted of local traditions that may have been much more different than is the case today. A certain standardization only came about in connection with the establishment of the early Japanese state, the formative phase of which was completed around the year 700. The earliest written sources come from the Nara period immediately following the political consolidation (Kojiki: 712, Nihon shoki: 720). Many questions about the prehistoric Japanese religion therefore remain open due to a lack of sources. All of this has led to the fact that research hardly uses the term "Shinto" in connection with the prehistoric, pre-Buddhist religion (or better: the religions) of Japan, but rather uses neutral terms such as "kami- Adoration ", served. In many introductory works, however, the equation "Shinto = original Japanese religion" can still be found frequently.

Mythology and Imperial Rite

When a hegemonic dynasty established itself in central Japan in the 5th and 6th centuries, a courtly cult emerged that was increasingly oriented towards the Chinese state and culture. Both the ancestor worship and the moral concepts of Chinese Confucianism, as well as the cosmology of Daoism and Buddhism's belief in redemption played a role. All these traditions were combined with the cults of indigenous territorial and sound deities (Ujigami) to form a new type of state ceremony.

The early Japanese state emerged from alliances of individual clans (uji), each worshiped their own ujigami. When the clan of the later Tennō ("emperors") asserted itself as the leading dynasty within this alliance, a mythology arose that merged the stories of the individual sound deities into a unified mythological tale. The earliest text sources of this mythology from the eighth century already mentioned describe the origins of the world and the origin of the Tennō dynasty: A pair of primordial gods (Izanagi and Izanami) created the Japanese islands and all other deities. Amaterasu Omikami (heavenly, great deity) is the most important of their creations: She rules the "heavenly realms" (Takamanohara) and is equated with the sun. On her behalf, her grandson descends to earth to establish the eternal dynasty of the Tennō family. This mythological idea of ​​the origin of Japan and its imperial line forms a central idea in all later attempts to systematize Shinto (e.g. in Yoshida Shinto, Kokugaku or State Shinto). The term "Shinto" itself appeared at this time, but was not used in the sense of a systematic religion.[10] The so-called "office of gods" (神祇 官, Jingi-kan), the only ancient government institution that does not correspond to any Chinese model, is simply not called the "Shinto office" (as sometimes stated in Western literature), but is literally the "authority for gods of heaven (神, jin or. shin) and the earth (祇, gi) “- again an ultimately Chinese concept.

Shinto Buddhist syncretism

Buddhism, which was newly introduced in the 6th and 7th centuries, initially encountered resistance in the context of the local worship of gods, but quickly found ways that kami integrated into his worldview, and influenced, among other things, the buildings and later also the iconography of the kamiWorship. During most of the epochs of the known Japanese religious history, there was no clear separation between Buddhism and Shinto. Especially within the influential Buddhist schools of Tendai and Shingon, Shinto deities were seen as incarnations or manifestations of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Buddha worship and kamiWorship thus served the same purpose - at least on a theoretical level. This theological development began in the Heian period and reached its peak in the Japanese Middle Ages (12th-16th centuries). It is known as the theory of "archetype and lowered trace", whereby the "archetype" (本地, honji) the Buddhas, the "lowered trace" (垂 迹, suijaku) the kami corresponds to.

Most kami- Shrines were under Buddhist supervision between the later Heian period (10th – 12th centuries) and the beginning of Japanese modernism (1868). The great Shinto institutions were in the hands of hereditary priestly dynasties who were originally subordinate to the imperial court, but with the decline of the court, Buddhist institutions took its place. Only the Ise shrine retained a special position thanks to its privileged relationship with the court and eluded the direct influence of the Buddhist clergy. Smaller shrines, on the other hand, usually did not have their own Shinto priests, but were looked after by Buddhist monks or lay people.

First Shinto theologies

Although most Shinto priests at this time were devout Buddhists themselves, there were individual descendants of the old priestly dynasties and also some Buddhist monks who came up with the idea kami to worship independently of Buddhism. In this way, the directions Ise- or Watarai-Shintō, Ryōbu-Shintō and Yoshida-Shintō emerged in the Japanese Middle Ages. The latter direction in particular presented itself as purely on that kami related teaching and thus represents the basis of modern Shinto, but Buddhist ideas actually played a central role in Yoshida Shinto. A fundamental criticism of the religious paradigms of Buddhism only became conceivable under the so-called Shinto-Confucian syncretism.

In the course of the Edo period there were repeated anti-Buddhist tendencies, which also gave the ideas of an independent indigenous Shinto religion ever greater popularity. In the 17th century it was mainly Confucian scholars who looked for ways to combine the teachings of the Chinese neo-Confucian Zhu Xi (also Chu Hsi, 1130–1200) with the worship of native deities and thus develop an alternative to Buddhism. In the 18th and 19th centuries, a school of thought emerged that tried to cleanse the Shinto of all "foreign", that is, Indian and Chinese ideas and to find its way back to its "origin".This school is called in Japanese Kokugaku (literally Doctrine of the land) and is considered to be the pioneer of State Shinto, as it emerged in the course of the 19th century in the course of the reorganization of the Japanese state. However, the Kokugaku had little influence on general religious practice in the Edo period. Thus, the Shinto Buddhist syncretism remained the dominant trend within the Japanese religion until the 19th century. The casual access to both religions in today's Japan is based on this tradition.

Modern and present

The Meiji Restoration in 1868 ended the feudal rule of the Tokugawa shoguns and installed in their place a modern nation-state with the Tenno as the supreme authority. Shinto was defined as a national cult and used as an ideological tool to revive the power of the Tenno. For this purpose, a law on the “separation of kami and Buddhas " (Shinbutsu Bunri) enacted that forbade the joint worship of Buddhist and Shinto shrines. In contrast to the mostly locally limited shrine traditions, Shinto shrines were now reinterpreted nationwide as places of worship of the Tenno and every Japanese, regardless of his religious convictions, was encouraged to pay his respects to the Tenno in the form of shrine visits. In consideration of the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion under Western influence, this shrine cult was not defined as a religious act, but as a patriotic duty. This form of worship was called "Shrine Shinto" in the interwar period. (jinja shintō), in the post-war period, however, mostly as "State Shinto" (kokka shintō) designated. In addition, there was also the category "Sect Shinto" (shuha shintō), in the various new religious movements that arose in the course of modernization and defined themselves as Shinto (Tenri-kyō, Ōmoto-kyō, etc.),[11] were summarized.

In the burgeoning militarism of the Shōwa period, Shintō was then further instrumentalized for nationalist and colonialist purposes. Shrines were also built in the occupied territories of China and Korea, in which the local population should pay their respects to the Tennō. After Japan's defeat in World War II in 1945, Shinto was officially banned as the state religion, and in 1946 the Tenno renounced any claim to divinity. Individual institutions that are said to be politically close to State Shinto, such as the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, still exist today.


Shinto has few clearly defined concepts of religious ethics in its entire history. There are no written commandments that would have been valid for all believers or even all people at all times. The orientation towards the Tennō as the highest authority is not undisputed even in the so-called shrine Shintō, while the directions of the so-called sect Shintō usually revere their own founder figures as the highest religious authority. A difference to Buddhist, Confucian or merely secular ethics is often not discernible. However, some general tendencies are generally attributed to ethical practice in all directions:

  • A lifestyle is advocated in accordance with the Kami, which can express itself in admiration and gratitude towards them, and above all in striving for harmony with their will (especially through conscientious execution of the Shinto rituals). Particularly in shrine Shinto, this also includes consideration for the natural as well as one's own social environment and order. In this emphasis on mutual help-based harmony, which can also be extended to the world as a whole, a commitment to human solidarity can be found, as is the case with the universalistic world religions.
  • The kami are much more “perfect” than humans, but not perfect in an absolute sense, such as in monotheism. Kami commit mistakes and even sins.[12] This corresponds to the fact that there are no moral absolutes in Shinto. The value or unworthiness of an action results from the totality of its context; Bad actions are generally just those that damage or even destroy the given harmony.[13]
  • Purity is a state to strive for. Accordingly, soiling (kegare[14]) Avoid both physical and spiritual nature and regular cleansing rituals (harai[15]) to hold. Purification rituals are therefore always at the beginning of all other religious ceremonies of Shinto. In the historical development of Shinto, this has led to a general taboo on death and all related phenomena. Therefore, funeral ceremonies in Japan are mostly incumbent on Buddhist institutions and clergy. In addition, organ donations are sometimes rejected or the dead bodies of relatives are posthumously released. B. to the autopsy, in order not to disturb the spiritual connection between the dead and the mourners and not to injure the body.[16][17] In recent years, however, voices from high clergymen have also been voiced against the latter tendencies.[18]

Religious Practice

Traditional marriage ceremony at Meiji Shrine, Tōkyō 2002
A man's prayer in front of a Japanese Shinto shrine, 2007

In the modern everyday life of the Japanese, both Shinto and Buddhism play a certain role, although the majority see no contradiction in professing both religions. In general, there is a tendency to use Shinto rites for happy occasions (New Years, weddings, prayer for everyday things), Buddhist rites, on the other hand, for sad and serious occasions (death, prayer for welfare in the hereafter). In recent times a kind of secular Christianity has been added, for example when young Japanese have one White wedding (ホ ワ イ ト ウ エ デ ィ ン グ, howaito uedingu) celebrating a white American-style wedding.

Regular gatherings of the entire religious community according to Christian masses are alien to Shinto (as well as Japanese Buddhism). Usually shrines are visited individually. The deities are worshiped with a few simple, ritual gestures of respect (bowing, clapping hands, donating small sums of money). A priest is only looked after on special request.

Special rituals performed by priests mostly have to do with purity and protection from danger. Shinto priests are z. B. always called before a new building is erected to consecrate the ground. Ordination rites for cars are also popular, analogous to western ship baptisms. Around the Shichi-go-san festival on November 15, many Japanese leave cleansing ceremonies in the shrines (harai) hold for their children.

The climax of the religious life of the Shinto shrines are periodically held Matsuri, folk festivals that follow local traditions and can therefore vary from region to region, even from village to village. Many Matsuri have to do with the agrarian annual cycle and mark important events such as sowing and harvesting (fertility cults), in other Matsuri elements of evocation and defense against demons can be seen. Many matsuri are also associated with local myths and legends. Shrine parades are a typical element. The main sanctuary (shintai) The shrine in question is reloaded into a portable shrine, the so-called Mikoshi, which is then carried or pulled through the village / city district in a loud and happy pageant. Fireworks (花火, hanabi), Taiko drums and of course sake mostly accompany these parades. Matsuri are often associated with quasi-athletic competitions. Modern sumo sport, for example, is likely to have its origins in festivals like this.

In today's practice, the Tennō cult only plays a central role in a few shrines. These shrines are generally called jingu (神宮) (as opposed to jinja (神社)), the most important of which is the Ise Shrine. Although the "law for the separation of Buddhas and Shinto gods" brought radical changes with it, the traces of the former Shinto-Buddhist mixture can still be seen in many religious institutions today. It is not uncommon to find a small Shinto shrine in the grounds of a Buddhist temple, or a tree that has a Shimenawa as its home kami is marked. Conversely, many Shinto deities have Indian Buddhist roots.

Important deities and shrines

Most Shinto shrines today are dedicated to the deity Hachiman, an estimated 40,000 nationwide. Hachiman was the first native god to be promoted by Buddhism, but also received influential support from the warrior nobility (the samurai) as the ancestral deity of several Shogun dynasties. Also the deity Inari, a rice deity, whose shrines are mostly made up of foxes (kitsune) are guarded, it brings to a similar number of mostly very small shrines. The third most common category is tenjin shrines, where the Heian temporal scholar Sugawara no Michizane is worshiped as the god of education. Amaterasu, the most important ancestral deity of the Tennō, also has a relatively large network of branch shrines outside its main shrine of Ise, while all other deities mentioned in the ancient myths are represented in much fewer shrines. On the other hand, numerous shrines are originally dedicated to Buddhist deities, above all the shrines of the seven gods of luck. The most magnificent shrine complex from the Edo period, the Tōshōgū in Nikkō, is a mausoleum of the first Tokugawa shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu.

The Ise shrine in the city of Ise is considered the highest shrine in Japan in the shrine Shinto. Another significant and ancient shrine is the Izumo Grand Shrine (Izumo Taisha). The most popular shrine in Tōkyō is the Meiji Shrine, which houses Emperor Meiji and his wife.

A controversial political issue is the Yasukuni shrine in Tōkyō, in which all fallen from Japanese wars have been venerated since around 1860. Even war criminals sentenced to death after the Second World War, such as Tōjō Hideki, were admitted to the Yasukuni Shrine as Kami. The main shrine festival of Yasukuni Shrine takes place every year on August 15th, the anniversary of the end of the war in East Asia, and is sometimes attended by leading politicians on the occasion. This indirect negation of Japan's war guilt usually provokes protests within Japan, but especially in China and Korea.


  • Klaus Antoni: Shinto and the conception of the Japanese national system (kokutai): The religious traditionalism in modern times and modern Japan. In: Handbook of Oriental Studies. Fifth Division, Japan. Volume 8. Brill, Leiden / Boston / Cologne 1998.
  • Ernst Lokowandt: Shinto. An introduction. Iudicium, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-89129-727-0.
  • Nelly Naumann: The indigenous religion of Japan. 2 volumes, 1988–1994. Brill, suffering.
  • Bernhard Scheid: Shintō Shrines: Traditions and Transformations. In: Inken Prohl, John Nelson (Ed.): Handbook of Contemporary Japanese Religions. Brill, Leiden 2012, 75-105.

See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ↑ Rabbi Marc Gellman and Monsignor Thomas Hartman: Religions of the world for dummies. 2nd, updated edition, Wiley-VCH, Weinheim, special edition 2016, ISBN 978-3-527-69736-6. Part V, Chapter 13: Shinto texts. (E-book).
  2. ↑ cf. Klaus Antoni: Shinto. in: Klaus Kracht, Markus Rüttermann: Outline of Japanology. Wiesbaden 2001, p. 125 ff.
  3. ↑ Ōbayashi Taryō: Ise and Izumo. The shrines of Shintoism, Freiburg 1982, p. 135.
  4. ↑ The term shendao can be found in the I Ching, among others. In today's Chinese can shendao also denote the access route to a temple. For example, the famous Temple of Heaven in Beijing has one shendao.
  5. 第六 十四 回 日本 統計 年鑑 平 成 27 年 - 第 23 章 文化 (64th Statistical Yearbook of Japan, 2015, Section 23 Culture).23-22 宗教 (religion). (No longer available online.) Statistics Bureau, Ministry of Interior and Telecommunications, archived from the original on September 24, 2015; Retrieved August 25, 2015 (Japanese).
  6. ↑ adherents.com: Major Religions Ranked by Size - English; Retrieved June 10, 2006
  7. ↑ Inoue Nobutaka, Shinto, a Short History (2003) p. 1
  8. ↑ Shamanism in Japan; By William P. Fairchild (https://nirc.nanzan-u.ac.jp/nfile/457)
  9. ↑ Hardacre, Helen (2017). Shinto: A History. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-062171-1
  10. ↑ An epoch-making discussion of this topic can be found in the essay "Shinto in the History of Japanese Religion" by Kuroda Toshio, Journal of Japaneses Studies 7/1 (1981); Similar considerations are already contained in the “Comments on the so-called Ur-Shinto” (PDF file; 1.2 MB) by Nelly Naumann, MOAG 107/108 (1970), pp. 5–13
  11. ↑ A total of thirteen new religious sects were officially referred to as sects Shinto before 1945.
  12. ↑ Shinto Online Network Association: Jinja Shinto: Sins and the Concept of Shinto Ethics (Memento from January 7, 2007 in Internet Archive) - English; Retrieved June 10, 2006
  13. ↑ BBC: BBC - Religion & Ethics - Shinto Ethics (Memento from April 11, 2005 in Internet Archive) - English; Retrieved June 10, 2006
  14. ↑ Basic Terms of Shinto: Kegare - English; Retrieved June 14, 2006
  15. ↑ Traditional pronunciation: harae, see Basic Terms of Shinto: Harae - English; Retrieved June 14, 2006
  16. ↑ BBC: BBC - Religion & Ethics - Organ Donation (Memento from September 2, 2005 in Internet Archive) - English; Retrieved June 10, 2006
  17. ^ California Transplant Donor Network - Resources - Clergy (Memento dated June 21, 2006 in Internet Archive) - English; Retrieved June 10, 2006
  18. ↑ Yukitaka Yamamoto, High Priest of Tsubaki-O-Kami-Yashiro: Essay on the 2,000th anniversary of the shrine in 1997 (Memento from September 25, 2006 in Internet Archive) - English; Retrieved June 10, 2006