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AI generated Shinto Architecture in forest,

AI generated Shinto Architecture in forest,

Delving into the Roots of Shinto: Japan’s Indigenous Belief System

Shinto, the indigenous faith of Japan, is a path that intertwines spirituality with the natural world. With no single founder or sacred scripture, Shinto is a tradition that has evolved organically over centuries, deeply embedded in Japanese culture and life.

 Torii gate of the Itsukushima shrine. | Photo by McKenzie Perkins

A Glimpse into Shinto’s Past

  • Origins: Shinto’s beginnings are shrouded in the mists of Japan’s ancient past, with practices dating back to at least the 8th century.
  • Chronicles: The Kojiki and Nihon Shoki, Japan’s oldest records, provide insight into the mythological and historical origins of Shinto.

Core Teachings and Practices

  • Kami: The worship of kami, the spirits or divine phenomena, is central to Shinto.
  • Purity: Rituals often involve purification rites to maintain harmony with the kami.
  • Nature: A deep reverence for nature and its kami is reflected in the numerous shrines across Japan.

Diverse Expressions of Faith

  • Shrine Shinto: The most widespread form, involving public shrines and rituals.
  • Sect Shinto: Comprising 13 major sects, each with its teachings and practices.
  • Folk Shinto: The informal veneration of kami through local customs and family traditions.

Shinto in Modern Times

  • Cultural Influence: Shinto continues to influence Japanese festivals, arts, and daily practices.
  • Coexistence with Buddhism: Many Japanese observe traditions from both Shinto and Buddhism, reflecting a unique religious harmony.

Shinto’s rich history and teachings offer a unique perspective on spirituality, one that cherishes the connection between humans and the divine essence of the natural world.

The Global Reach of Shinto: Top 10 Countries by Population

Fushimi Inari Shintō shrine, Kyōto, Japan
Fushimi Inari Shintō shrine, Kyōto, Japan | Image by Britannica

Shinto, often regarded as Japan’s indigenous religion, is a spiritual path that emphasizes the worship of kami, the spirits or phenomena revered in this faith. While it is predominantly practiced in Japan, its influence extends to other countries as well. Here’s a look at the top 10 countries with the largest Shinto populations, based on the latest data:

  1. Japan: Home to the vast majority of Shinto adherents, with approximately 99,099,000 individuals practising the faith, which accounts for 79.2% of the country’s population.
  2. United States: A significant number of Shinto followers are found in the US, reflecting the diverse religious landscape of the nation.
  3. Republic of Korea: Shintoism also has a presence in South Korea, although specific numbers are not readily available.
  4. China: While not traditionally associated with Shinto, there is a small population that practices the religion, often influenced by historical and cultural exchanges with Japan.
  5. Brazil: Home to a large Japanese diaspora, Brazil has communities where Shinto rituals and festivals are observed.
  6. Philippines: Shinto practices have been observed among some communities, likely due to the influence of Japanese culture and migration.
  7. Canada: Similar to the US, Canada’s multicultural society includes several individuals who follow Shinto traditions.
  8. Australia: There is a growing interest in Shinto as part of the broader exploration of spirituality and indigenous religions.
  9. United Kingdom: Shinto practices can be found among Japanese expatriates and those interested in Japanese culture.
  10. Indonesia: With a diverse religious landscape, Indonesia has a small but notable number of individuals practising Shints.

It’s important to note that outside of Japan, the practice of Shinto is often intertwined with other religious beliefs and cultural practices, making exact numbers challenging to ascertain. However, these countries represent the most significant populations of Shinto practitioners outside of its homeland.

Worshippers at a Shinto temple in Kawagoe, Saitama (Japan)
Worshippers at a Shinto temple in Kawagoe, Saitama (Japan) | Photo by Kentaro Toma on Unsplash

Shinto’s emphasis on nature worship, rituals, and community festivals continues to resonate with people around the globe, transcending cultural boundaries and geographical borders.


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