Religion in Japan Prepared by Anita Aliferova Form10
Introduction Most Japanese people do not identify themselves as adherents of a single religion; rather, they incorporate elements of various religions in a syncretic fashion known as Shinbutsu shugo. About 70 percent of Japanese profess no religious membership, according to Johnstone , 84 percent of the Japanese claim no personal religion.
Shinto Shinto, meaning "the way of the gods", is Japan's indigenous religion and is practiced by about 51% of the population. Shinto originated in prehistoric times as a religion with a respect for nature and for particular sacred sites. These sites may have originally been used to worship the sun, rock formations, trees and even sounds. Each of these was associated with a deity, or kami . Shinto worship of kami is performed at shrines. Especially important is the act of purification before visiting these shrines.
Shinto has no single founder and no canon. Shinto began to fall out of fashion after the arrival of Buddhism, but soon Shinto and Buddhism began to be practiced in tandem. Before 1868, there were three main forms of Shinto: Shrine Shinto, the most popular type;
Folk (or Popular) Shinto, practiced by the peasants; Imperial Household Shinto, practiced by the imperial family of Japan .
Buddhism Buddhism first arrived in Japan in the 6th century from the Southern part of the kingdom of Baekje on the Korean peninsula. The Baekje king sent the Japanese emperor a picture of the Buddha and some sutras. Japanese aristocrats built Buddhist statues and temples in the capital at Nara, and then in the later capital at Heian (now Kyoto).
Buddhism is divided into three forms: the orthodox and impersonal Theravada Buddhism, which is prevalent in India and most of Southeast Asia; the more personal Mahayana Buddhism, which spread to China, Tibet, Vietnam, and ultimately to Korea and Japan;
Vajrayana Buddhism. From the beginning, the largest form of Buddhism in Japan was the Mahayana school. According to the Agency of Cultural Affairs, 91 million Japanese identify themselves as Buddhist.
The Toshodaiji was an early Buddhist temple in Nara. Another form of Buddhism known as Jodo-kyo , or Pure Land Buddhism , which emphasizes the role of Amitabha Buddha and promises that reciting the phrase " Namu Amida Butsu " upon death will result in being removed by Amitabha to the "Western Paradise" or "Pure Land", and then to Nirvana. Jodo-kyo attracted the merchant and farmer classes.
New religions Beyond the two traditional religions, a great variety of popular religious movements exists in modern Japan. These movements are normally lumped together under the name "New Religions". These religions draw on concepts from Shinto, Buddhism, and folk superstition. The officially recognized new religions number in the hundreds, and total membership is reportedly in the tens of millions.
The largest new religion is Soka Gakkai, a Buddhist sect founded in 1930, which has about 10 million members in Japan. Many of these new religions arose as part of Shinto and retain elements of Shinto in their teachings.
Conclusion In modern times, Japanese society has become very secular, and religion in general has become less important. However, many Japanese remain nominally Buddhist and are connected to a local Buddhist temple, although they may not worship regularly. Buddhism remains far more popular in traditional rural areas than in modern urban areas and suburbs. For instance, while some 90% of rural households include a Buddhist altar ( Butsudan ), the rate drops to 60% or lower in urban areas.