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What Is The Ancient Japanese Religion Shinto?

Practiced by nearly 80% of the population, Shinto is the largest religion in Japan. So what exactly is this ancient Japanese religion?


image credit: japan-guide

Shinto is wholly devoted to life in this world and emphasises man’s essential goodness.
Shinto is, above all, the deep expression of the ancient culture of the Japanese people. In this respect it may be compared to many of the animist religions of Black Africa which are practised in certain specific ethnic groups.

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Of course, the strength of Shinto is its being that of a particularly developed nation of more than 100 million inhabitants, but from a philosophic or religious point of view, Shinto is puzzling.


Shinto gives divine status equally to forces of nature, to animals or to famous people. These divinities are called ” kamis ” in Japanese and their Chinese equivalent is ” shin “. “To” or “do” mean ” way ” or ” method ” in Sino-Japanese.

So Shinto is literally ” the way of the gods “. The most important god is the sun which, among its other virtues, serves as a protection against invasions.