Many of Japan’s traditions and ideas are unfamiliar to those outside of Japan. Therefore, JAPAN Forward and Jinja Honcho have collaborated to bring readers an explanation of the key concepts of kami, matsuri, shrines, myths, and many other traditions and beliefs which form the core of Japanese culture.
The “Soul of Japan” series provides an introduction to Shinto and Ise Jingu.
Since ancient times, Japanese have expressed the divine energy or life-force of the natural world as kami.
Kami derived from nature — such as the kami of rain, the kami of wind, the kami of the mountains, the kami of the sea, and the kami of thunder — have a deep relationship with our lives and a profound inﬂuence over our activities.
Individuals who have made a great contribution to the state or society may also be enshrined and revered as kami.
Nature’s severity does not take human comfort and convenience into consideration. The sun, which gives life to all living things, sometimes patches the earth, causing drought and famine. The oceans, where life ﬁrst appeared, may suddenly rise, sending violent tidal waves onto the land, causing much destruction and grief. The blossom-scented wind, a harbinger of spring, can become a wild storm. Even the smallest animals can bring harm — the mouse that eats our grain and carries disease, and the locust that devastates our crops.
It is to the kami that the Japanese turn to pacify this sometimes calm but at times raging aspect of nature.
Through ceremonies, called matsuri, they appease the kami and
wish for further blessings.
Some key concepts are:
Shinto observes no one single, omnipotent Creator. Each kami plays its own role in the ordering of the world, and, when faced with a problem, the kami gather to discuss the issue in order to solve it. This is mentioned in records from the 8th Century which tell the story of the Divine Age before written history began. It is the basis for Japanese society’s emphasis on harmony and the cooperative utilization of individual strengths.
OTHER PARTS OF THE SOUL OF JAPAN SERIES:
- [Soul of Japan] What is Shinto?
- [Soul of Japan] Matsuri, the Sacred Rituals of Prayers and Festivities
- [Soul of Japan] Jinja: Places of Worship Infused with Nature’s Energy
- [Soul of Japan] The Divine Age of Shinto
- [Soul of Japan] Amano-Iwato, the Celestial Cave
- [Soul of Japan] Ninigi-no-Mikoto, the Kami Who Established A Nation
- [Soul of Japan] Ise Jingu: a Place to Pray for the Imperial Family and the Nation
- [Soul of Japan] The Enshrinement of Amaterasu-Omikami at Jingu
- [Soul of Japan] Imperial Rituals of Matsuri at Jingu
- [Soul of Japan] Shikinen Sengu, the Ritual of Rebuilding and Renewal
- [Soul of Japan] Visiting a Jinja
Source: Jinja Honcho
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