by Kevin R Burns
Shinto Shrines: many religious rituals and events take place at these spartan, yet beautiful shrines.
At one month, babies are taken to a shrine to be blessed and so the parents can pray for the health of the newborn.
At three, 5 and 7 years old (Shichi go san) boys and girls are taken for another blessing to the shrine and families often take portraits of the whole family at a film studio.
These photos grace the walls of homes throughout the land.
Shinto Shrines - Festivals
There are many festivals throughout the year in Japan and many of these are Shinto. Portable shrines are paraded around the town throughout the day, starting in early morning, and alcohol imbibing shrine porters (myself included) transport the shrine to bless various important areas of the town including local businesses that may have donated to the shrine to have such a service.
These festivals bring the local people closer together and function as a way of bonding, in a country prone to natural disasters, and requiring cooperation to get through them.
The Shinto Religion - the Way of the Gods
"Shinto (神道, Shintō) or kami-no-michi is the indigenous spirituality of Japan and the Japanese people. It is a set of practices, to be carried out diligently, to establish a connection between present day Japan and its ancient past. Shinto practices were first recorded and codified in the written historical records of the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki in the 7th and 8th century. Still, these earliest Japanese writings do not refer to a unified "Shinto religion", but rather to disorganized folklore, history, and mythology. Shinto today is a term that applies to public shrines suited to various purposes such as war memorials, harvest festivals, romance, and historical monuments,
as well as various sectarian organizations. Practitioners express their diverse beliefs through a standard language and practice, adopting a similar style in dress and ritual, dating from around the time of the Nara and Heian Periods."
My father in law and my wife believe in Shinto. It is the native religion of Japan. Basically they believe that Kami (sama) or Gods (plural) are everywhere. For example if you are going to hammer a nail in a wall in your house, you should say a little prayer in case a God happens to be there in your wall.
"Kami are defined in English as "spirits", "essences" or "deities", that are associated with many understood formats; in some cases being human-like, in others being animistic, and others being associated with more abstract "natural" forces in the world (mountains, rivers, lightning, wind, waves, trees, rocks). Kami and people are not separate; they exist within the same world and share its interrelated complexity."
Shinto desires to connect ancient Japan with modern
Even when you rent an apartment in Japan, if there is a small shrine usually on a raised platform near the ceiling, you mustcheck to see if a God lives there. My wife was quite concerned each time we rented an apartment, and was sure to check if a God was present.
If a God is present you must give food, ie)mikan (Japanese mandarin oranges) and sake, to show reverence and nourish theGod who protects your abode. Should you not do this, thenbad luck may befall you.
My father in law, strongly believes, that until he became adevout shintoist, his luck was not good. Everything fell intoplace after becoming a devotee. Indeed he has done well. So who can tell why?
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