Different Forms of Shinto

Shinto is the state religion of Japan.  Over 80% of Japanese are Shinto.  It has four affirmations:

One: Family and tradition, Shinto has borrowed heavily from Confucianism in its respect for family and traditions.

Two: Love of nature, this affirmation reflects the nature-worshipping roots of Shinto. Often natural objects, such as rivers and trees are worshipped as spirits.

Three:  Cleanliness. Shinto worshippers often bathe, wash their hands, etc.

Four:  Correct worship and honor of the gods (Kami) and the ancestors.

Shinto has four main traditions or forms:

Imperial Shinto or Koshitsu Shinto: This form of Shinto is the form performed by the Emperor and other members of the Imperial Family. Essential Koshitsu is a remainder of when the Emperor was considered divine and had to perform certain rituals to ensure the well-being of the Japanese nation. The Emperor continues to perform many of these rituals; the most important one is Niinamesai. Niinamesai is an offering of the first fruits of harvest.  Priests and Priestesses assist the Emperor in the ceremony.

Shrine Shinto or Jinja Shinto: This is the largest form of Shintoism and hews closest to the original form of the religion.  Nearly all the shrines in this form belong to the Jinja Honcho or Association of Shinto Shrines which has some 80,000 associated shrines.  The three major tenets of this form of Shinto are:

To be grateful to the gods (Kami) and the ancestors for their blessings, to be conscientious in performing the rites and approach the ceremonies with right attitude.

To help others through good deeds without consideration of self gain and to improve the worldly condition as one that was made by the gods.

To cooperate with others in service to the state (will of the Emperor) and pray for the nation so that other people may live and prosper in peace.

Sectarian Shinto or Kyoha also called Shuha Shinto:  There are 13 different sects of Sectarian Shintoism. Most of these focus on individual deities within Shinto to the near exclusion of all other Kami. All of these sects were founded since the 19th century and are the most reflective of Western influences on Shinto.

Folk or Minzoku Shinto: While not organized as Shrine Shinto, Folk Shinto reflects the natural-worshiping roots of Shinto.  Folk Shinto is seen as mostly a series of local practices and ceremonies worshipping local Kami. Centered on families and agriculture practices, the worship generally takes place at home or small roadside shrines. Folk Shinto has no priesthood as such, but rural villages or districts select a layman to perform certain ceremonies for the local deity.

Shinto is a syncretic religion in that many aspects of Buddhism and Confucianism have been integrated into its worship.

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