Thursday, February 23, 2012

Something more about Shintoism

Shinto Shrine

Shintoism or Shinto is the traditional religion of Japan. Shinto means "the way of the Kami (gods)" and its a very old religion. It appeared around year 500 B.C. There is a mythology that explains the Kami´s lives and the origins of Japan. A couple of gods called Izanagi-no-mikoto and Izanami-no-mikoto gave birth to the Japanese islands and they also had several children. One of their daughters was goddess Amaterasu Omikami, the Sun Goddess. This goddess is considered to be the ancestress of the Japanese imperial family. Shinto followers believe in and worship different gods, but they can´t be compared with the gods of monotheistic religions. The Kami can be present in elements of nature (rivers, mountains, such as Mount Fuji), the emperor, the ancestors, extraordinary people, such as war heroes... 

There are two historical facts related to this religion that may interest you: 

- On the 15th August 1945 the Japanese people received a huge impact when they listened to their emperor Hiro Hito on the radio, announcing Japan´s surrender. Until that moment, the emperor had been a sacred figure in Japan.

- One of the most important Shinto sanctuaries is Yasukuni Shrine, a place to worship all those who have fought on the Emperor´s behalf. This sanctuary is very controversial outside Japan, because it includes many war criminals of World War 2 and it has been visited by many Japanese politicians. This has created diplomatic problems with the countries invaded by the Japanese during World War 2, such as China and South Korea. 

If you are curious and want to learn more about Shintoism, here you have some interesting links:


Mªluz Ortiz S-Manjavacas said...

Hello Paqui! This is very curious and it is beautiful the Yasukuni Shrine. I really like, in the future I will go there to see all this interesting things.
bye, see you on monday

Paqui Pérez Fons said...

I hope you will remember all these stories when you visits these places ;)

Have a good night.

Alejandro Torrillas said...

So Shintoism as more or less the same bases of all polytheistic religions. the emperors are considered son of the Gods, they are untouchable they hold all the power... and what you say about the war heroes I heard that there are buried there to general which belong to samurai families which made competitions about who beheaded more people with their katanas in a certain time in China during world war 2. This is one of the controversies.

Paqui Pérez Fons said...

Yes, Alejandro. If you study religions, they all have a common base: a mythology based on the origin of the world and its inhabitants and what gods demand to the people. As Shintoism is a religion restricted to Japan, they have some rules or beliefs closely related to the society where this religion was born (this could be related to Biology and what Darwin discovered: adaptation to the environment). Japan was a feudal society until the Meiji era, that is the last decades of the 19th century. In that feudal society soldiers and warriors (samurai) were admired as heroes (gods). That´s why they continue to have an important role in Shintoism. The believers of this religion consider that the people who fought for the Emperor and the survival of the country have to be venerated. But some (or many) of this people fought for Japan in a very inhuman way (if any time war can be defined as human). And this is also related to their idea of superiority over other peoples. They had been educated in the idea that other peoples were inferior and they didn´t deserve living. As the other peoples were subhuman, they didn´t deserve to be treated as humans. There is a very interesting book called "Horror in the East. The Japanese at War 1931-1945", written by Laurence Rees, where the author explains the origins of the Japanese behaviour during WW2 and some current attitudes in Japan about what happened during the war. The book is based on a BBC TV series written by the same author. This book gives a lot of information and makes the reader understand how peoples beliefs can drive them to committ horrible crimes. Here you have a summary of the TV series in English:

And here you have a small review in Spanish I wrote when I read it:

AS for religion, here you have a recent debate between an Atheist and an Anglican archbishop:

See you on Thursday.