Shinto-Buddhism In Japan Japan's Main Religious Tradition Essay


Shinto-Buddhism in Japan Japan's main religious tradition is a combination of the conventional Shinto beliefs integrated with the imported Buddhist practices. Long been considered the land of several million gods, Japanese base their traditional Shinto beliefs on this pantheon. But the introduction of Buddhism in the mid 500's A.D. forced an amalgamation of the two belief systems. Over time these two very different religious traditions blended together into a unique system practiced throughout Japan.

Shinto, also known as the "way of the deities," arose during Japan's earliest period and focused on what the early Japanese believed as gods, or kami, which inhabited the natural world. Kami were usually some extraordinary aspect of nature and could be anything including trees, rocks, mountains, rivers and even people. The introduction of agriculture began the association of Shinto rituals with the agricultural cycle and festivals and other religious events often coincided with times of planting or harvesting. "Major rituals contained four parts: purification, offerings, recitations or prayers, and a concluding meal." (Watt, 2003) Originally the Shinto religion was a naturalistic religious tradition and thus the Japanese built no religious buildings or structures, but by the year 600 A.D., the Japanese began to built shrines that represented the kami and offered a permanent place for religious...


Buddhism made its way to Japan from China and Korea but it had it's origins close to a thousand years earlier in India. Based on the teachings of the Buddha, this religious belief system taught that all people were trapped in a cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Life was considered to be a time filled with suffering, but it could also be the means of escape. "The Buddha held that to gain release from suffering one had to attain a new understanding of reality." (Watt, 2003) The Buddha lived sometime in the 500's B.C. And in the thousand years from his death, what he taught spread from India to China and Korea and eventually into Japan. But the Buddhism that was introduced to Japan was a form that had evolved as it made its way across Asia and had been influenced by the lands where it was adopted, primarily China.
Like many religions, Buddhism was first adopted by the Japanese ruling class before it spread downward throughout society. It was adopted by the royal family, primarily Prince Shotoku who lived from the late 500's into the early 600's A.D., and whose name meant "sacred virtue." He was awarded this name because, as the Nihon ryoiki stated, "he not only behaved like a monk but was so well versed in Buddhist teachings that he could write commentaries…" (Nakamura,1997, p.107) But even though Buddhism was the religious practice…

Sources Used in Documents:


Nakamura, Kyoko Motomochi, Ed.. (1997). "Miraculous Stories From the Japanese

Buddhist Tradition: the Nihon Ryoiki of the Monk Kyokai." London: Psychology

Press. Retrieved from

Prideaux, Eric. (4 Sept. 2007). "Japan's Shinto-Buddhist religious medley." The Japan
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Watt, Paul. (2003). "Japanese Religions." Retrieved from

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