Indigenous Religion of Japan Shintoism is the indigenous religion of Japan. Shinto is its Chinese name coming from Shin-Tao - 'the way of the gods'. Its name in Japanese is kami-no-michi.
The term 'Torii' came from the Japanese word for 'chicken perch' because birds in Shintoism are believed to be messengers of the gods. Some scholars believe that the Torii may actually have come from India - as shown above. The Sanskrit word for the gate is 'Torana'.
What role does Shinto play in Japanese society? Provided a myth which explained the divine origins of the islands of Japan. The myths surrounding the belief that the emperor is divine legitimized the authority of the emperor over the nobles (daimyo). Along with the legitimacy of imperial rule, it provided a number of rituals, myths and shrines that unified the Japanese by giving them identity and purpose. Ancestor worship gave a sense of continuity for the people.
What was Shintoism missing? Although Shintoism provided a direct and intense experience of nature, life, and living in the moment, it did not provide a disciplined and organized way of approaching spirituality. Shintoism had many myths to explain the creation of the world and humanity's place in it, but did not have a recognized canon of scripture. The Japanese believed that their emperor was the divine, legitimate ruler and they knew they had to show respect. However, as Japanese society became more complex Shintoism lacked the tools to create social structures that reflected the new social reality.
Selective Borrowing To this day, the Japanese are known for their selective borrowing from other cultures be it China or the West. Discuss with your partner what you think the Japanese will borrow from Confucianism and Buddhism to meet the following needs: Disciplined approach to spirituality. Lack of a recognized canon of scripture. Social structure and social expectations of individuals.
Borrowing From Mahayana Buddhism The strict meditative practices born in India will bring structure and a disciplined approach to Japanese religion. The Buddhist sutras will also provide a scriptural source.
Borrowing From Confucianism Confucian writings become another scriptural tradition in Japan. Confucianism will also provide a set of social expectations for the various classes in Japanese society. Confucian theories on governance provide the Japanese with the tools to deal with a more complex society. Fit in well with Shintoism because Confucians emphasized ancestor worship too.