Shinto: The Way of the Kami
Religion in Japan has been influenced by traditions originating in China, such as
Confucianism, Daoism and Chinese Buddhism.
In order to distinguish the Japanese
religion that pre-dated these others, the name
This name derives
from the Chinese words meaning “the Way of the gods,” or more appropriately for the
Japanese “the Way of the kami.”
Here will discuss four forms of Shinto, folk, sectarian,
shrine, and national Shinto.
As with many of the religions we are studying an apparent
difficulty arises when we attempt to define Shinto in terms of regularized rituals, or
orthodox beliefs decided upon through a top down process.
Rather, what we will see is
that the many forms of Shinto share in common basic beliefs that come to diverse
expression in differing circumstances.
The central term to understand in Shinto is
Sometimes translated “gods,”
this translation can be misleading.
It is more akin to the Latin
or the Polynesian
, and it denotes something that is above and beyond the natural realm and which is
a course of awe and power.
Things that are assigned kami-hood include the sun, wind,
thunder, mountains, rivers, trees and rocks, wolves, snakes and foxes, mirrors, beds,
swords, strange men, chief men and wise men, ancestral spirits, guardian spirits, and
evil spirits (Anderson 195).
Indeed, the Shinto term for the pantheon of kami implies an
infinite number of them.
Many of the kami have only local significance for folk Shinto,
and are thus part of the diversity of Shinto.
There is a kami essence that all of nature,