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World Religions: Shintoism

Use this primer with the lesson The World's Religions to teach about the diversity of faiths in the United States and around the globe.

Shinto, which means "the way of the gods," is the traditional religion of Japan. It emphasizes the relationship between humans and a variety of supernatural entities called kami which are associated with different aspects of life, including ancestors and forces of nature.

Shinto practices center on tradition and family, love of nature, physical cleanliness and festivals and ceremonies that honor the kami. Shinto does not have a schedule of regular religious services—followers decide when they wish to attend a shrine. Japan has over 80,000 Shinto shrines, ranging greatly in size from tiny to elaborate and large.

Valued texts in Shintoism (such as the Kojiki and the Rokkokushi) contain folklore and history, rather than being considered holy scripture. Many people who follow Shinto also follow aspects of Buddhism.

Some religious observances:

Oshogatsu (New Year)

Time of Year: January 1. On New Year’s Day, attendance at shrines is huge, as this is traditionally a time when the Japanese make a special visit. People go to thank the kami, make resolutions and ask the kami to bring them good fortune in the coming year.

Rissun (or Setsubun)

Time of Year: February 3. Rissun, known as the bean-throwing festival, marks the beginning of spring. When celebrated at home, a male family member will scatter roasted beans, saying "demons out, good luck in." At shrines, beans are thrown into the congregation, and people will try to catch them.

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Article by Celine Provini, EducationWorld Editor
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