|No single religion dominates Japanese culture.
The Japanese consider themselves to be members of more than one faith.
The three major religions are Shinto, Buddhism and Christianity.
Shinto is considered Japans indigenous religion, since it existed in Japan before the introduction of Buddhism. The word Shinto means the "way" or "teaching" of the gods or kami. In Shinto, there are many gods who govern every natural object. The wind, sun, moon, water, mountains and trees are kami. Modern Shinto practices are not as closely tied to agriculture as they were in the past, but major Shinto festivals still occur in the spring and fall during the planting and harvesting of rice.
|Shinto shrines play an important role in Japanese culture. People go to shrines to pray at New Years, when a child is born or before starting a journey. A typical Shinto shrine is usually situated near water at the foot of a mountain. The entrance to the shrine is marked by a torii or archway. A braided rope with strips of white paper hangs over the entrance. Worshippers must wash their hands and their mouths with water before entering the shrine. They must announce their presence to the god by ringing a bell and clapping their hands. They pray to the gods for guidance and for approval of their decisions. A priest or kannushi manages the shrine and conducts religious services.|
|Buddhism was introduced in the 6th century. The Japanese reconciled Shinto and Buddhism by considering Buddha a spirit god. In the 8th century, the two religions were interwoven. Shinto gods were included in Buddhist temples and statues of the Buddha in Shinto temples. However, during the Meiji period, 1868-1912, the government tried to separate Shinto and Buddhism. Shinto became the state religion until after the Second World War. The emperor was viewed as a god.||
|The philosophy of Buddhism is that peace and happiness
can be achieved only by eliminating human desire. Buddhism forbids killing,
stealing, acting immorally, lying and drinking alcohol. During Buddhist
festivals, worshippers come to the temple to offer prayers for ancestors.
The main hall of the temple has an area for offerings of incense, food
Christianity was introduced to Japan by a Portuguese missionary named Frances Xavier in the 16th century. Currently, Christians make up less than 1% of the population