I love to go to the shrines because every time I go there, I can feel something spiritual – which makes me relaxed. For Japanese people, shrines have been a big part of our life. However, I can’t answer to a question asked by people – ‘what’s your religion?’
This question seems easy. But not for many Japanese people. – Many of us don’t believe in any specific religion in fact. However, it doesn’t mean that we all are atheists. The closest answer I could say is – “Shintoists”.
So what is ‘Shintoism’?
‘Shintoism’ is so unique that some people even don’t think it as a religion. I personally, don’t know if I could say I believe in Shintoism just like people believing calling themselves a Christian.
Here is how ‘Shintoism’ were made in the past according to Jinja Honcho which is ‘Association of Shinto shrines’. I’ll make it short.
In the past, we made a living with nature by doing rice farming, or fishing. Nature had such a huge impact on our lives. – there were times where it brought us blessings, on the other hand there were also times where people suffered from the violence of it. Basically, our lives had to be toyed with it. – which led us to believe that this has something to do with kami. (divine beings). – We thought that every nature has spirits. Naturally, we started to make buildings for them, which is called ‘shrines’. This idea became as large as buddism after that.
There are so many kinds of divine beings in Shintoism, for seas, mountains, and wind. Other than that, for our life in general. We call them ‘八百万の神々’ (Yaoyorozu no kamigami). Yaoyorozu literally means 8,000,000 – which shows that large amounts of divine beings were considered to exist among Japanese people at that time.
Festivals are a visual part of our belief. In Spring we hoped for harvests and in fall we showed appreciation for that. There are still countless festivals all over in Japan today.
Shintoism shaped ancient Japanese people’s way of thinking, perspectives and life. – Human beings getting along with nature, the harmony between communities through festivals (it’s so obvious still now), appreciation for everyday’s life and meals (we say ‘itadakimasu’ before starting each meal.) …. and more.
I have a favorite word. かがみ = (Kagami) = 鏡 which means a mirror in Japanese.
You can also write like this ;
かがみ = 神が身 which means –
‘deify is ourselves. ‘
🙂 Every shrine put mirrors. Shrines tell us that you, yourself are own deify.