Shinto (神道, the way of the gods or the way of the divine) or Shintoism is a set of beliefs dating from the ancient history of Japan, sometimes recognized as a religion. It mixes polytheistic and animistic elements.

From time immemorial, the Japanese have worshiped kami — spirits that inhabit or represent a particular place, or embody natural forces like wind, rivers, and mountains. Each time a village was created, a sanctuary was erected to honor the surrounding spirits and thereby ensure their protection. It was believed that kami could be found everywhere, that no place in Japan was beyond their power. Shintoism therefore encompasses the doctrines, institutions, rituals and community life based on the worship of the kami.

shinto festivals

Shinto festivals

Holidays of the month

  • March 3, 2024 (1 event)

    March 3, 2024

    Hinamatsuri

    Today the Japanese celebrate Hinamatsuri, the doll festival. This day is dedicated to young girls. Little girls display precious dolls. These dolls are sometimes passed down from generation to generation. They represent characters from the imperial court of the Heian era. #mythology #myth #legend #calendar 1TP5Q3March #japan #hinamatsuri

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  • March 13, 2024 (1 event)

    March 13, 2024

    Kasuga Matsuri

    Today, the Japanese of Nara celebrate Kasuga Matsuri at the Kasuga-taisha temple. The festival presents the dances of gagaku and bugaku, Yamato-mai which date back to the Heian and Nara periods. This festival also organizes a horse festival which consists of a parade through the streets by a sacred horse. #mythology #myth #legend #calendar #March 13 #Kasuga%atsuri #KasugaTaisha #Nara #Japan

  • March 15, 2024 (1 event)

    March 15, 2024

    Honensai

    Today, the Japanese of Komaki celebrate Hōnen Matsuri. This festival, more than 1500 years old, celebrates fertility, the Earth's ability to regenerate itself, and good harvests. This holiday is often called the “penis festival”. #mythology #myth #legend #calendar #March 15 #Japan #penis #HonenMatsuri

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  • March 20, 2024 (1 event)

    March 20, 2024

    Shunbun no Hi

    Today, the Japanese celebrate Shunbun no Hi (spring equinox). The festival was originally an opportunity to visit the graves of loved ones and pay respects to ancestors. The Japanese also took the time to renew their lives by cleaning their homes and changing their daily lives. #mythology #myth #legend #calendar #Japan #SjunbunnoHi #HiganNoNakaba

  • March 28, 2024 (1 event)

    March 28, 2024

    Sen no Rikyū

    Today, the Japanese pay homage to the tea master of the Wabi school, Sen no Rikyū. He became a monk at Daitoku-ji temple and a specialist in chanoyu, the Japanese tea ceremony. He enters the service of Oda Nobunaga before being forced to commit suicide by seppuku. #mythology #myth #legend #calendar #japan #tea #March 28

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Cultural areas of Shintoism

Shintoism is an animist religion. The major concept of Shintoism is the sanctity of nature. The resulting deep respect defines the place of man in the universe: to be an element of the great All. Thus, a watercourse, a star, a charismatic character, a simple stone or even abstract notions such as fertility can be considered as divinities. Respect for ancestors and feelings of communion with the forces of the universe and past generations are the spiritual bases of Shinto.

Issued from the cosmic Unity, the flows founding life are embodied in a multitude of kami. The polytheism that emanates from it is infinite, in the sense that each particle of life is sacred. Shinto mythology says that there are 8 million kami Happyakuman (八百万?) because the kanji are also read yaoyorozu, meaning a myriad, that is to say an indefiniteness, an unquantifiable number. By descending to Earth to breathe life into it, the kami created the Japanese archipelago.

Countless, the kami are everywhere, hiding in the most diverse forms, in the most unexpected places. It is therefore advisable to be extremely careful with them, especially since the smallest are sometimes the most susceptible. Their character is ambiguous, like nature itself. All of them, including the best among them and the greatest, possess a "spirit of violence", arami-tama (荒御魂), which must be reconciled or neutralized by appropriate rites.

Some are even dangerous in their principle, such as the "gods of epidemics" or the "gods of insects", predators of rice. All can hit you with a Tatar (祟り). The old definitions that are given of it have a more physical than moral character: it is thus that contact with death, blood, excrement provokes ritual defilement; but life in society will lead to a broadening of this notion of tsumi, and certain social offenses will be qualified as such (destruction of a dyke of rice fields).

In principle, however, the tsumi, like the tatari which is its almost automatic consequence, seems to have to be defined in a way that is both more vague and more general. Numerous examples, even recent ones, indeed show that one can be struck by a Tatar as long as one has encroached, even unconsciously, on the domain of a kami; the tsumi is in short the transgression of certain limits, not always formally prohibited or specified, but charged with a formidable magical potential due to the mere presence of the kami.

Purification rituals are of singular importance in Shinto belief. To escape the consequences of an imprudently incurred tatari, it is necessary to "purify" those around you (祓う) or yourself (清む). These two terms are used to define the usual actions of cleaning "sweeping, cleaning, washing", and other more symbolic with ritual ablutions.