Shintoism Japanese


Shinto (Shintoism) originated in Japan. Shinto is grounded in Nature and its rhythms. Shinto practitioners make daily offerings and prayers at home shrines and attend regional or national Shinto Shrines on annual festival days. Shinto means ‘way of the divine’ and represents an almost entirely Japanese way of thinking. The essence of Shinto is the devotion to invisible spiritual beings and powers called Kami. They are spirits concerned with human beings and earth. There is no defining morality of its own. Followers of Shinto believe the world is good, the people are good and there is harmony, however, these are threatened by evil spirits which must be kept at bay. Though Shinto holidays were previously based on a lunar calendar, the Shinto calendar is now based on the Gregorian calendar, which has been adopted in Japan. Most Japanese practice both Shinto and a form of Mahayana or Tantric Buddhism

Nen-chu-gyo-ji, "year-round-discipline-rituals," refers to the events of the Shinto year, the annual calendar of events. These make up the cycle of activities which the priests of the shrine are occupied from one year to the next. The central events of the year are festivals in which the greatest acts of celebration take place. The yearly cycle follows a rhythm that gives life in Japan its context in division of time and seasons.

Day to meditate for peace throughout the world. Jan 1st to Jan 6th:
Shogatsu/Shinto New Year's Festival--The Kami (Holy Spirits) of the four directions are honored, and prayers for happiness, good health, and prosperity are made. The end of the old year and the beginning of the New Year are very important times in Japan. Towards the end of the old year, people gather for bonenkai, year-end parties at which the irritations and frustrations and any misfortunes of the past year are symbolically washed away and forgotten in the Japenese special drink called Sake is drunk on these occasions.
After the new year has been ceremonially ushered in, people hold shinenkai or new year parties, toasting the new year, expressing their hopes and expectations for the year to come, wishing each other well. Children receive money, otoshidama, for the New Year and people involve themselves in the whole range of activities special to the New Year such as ladies in kimono playing a kind of badminton, men playing card and dice games and, in some rural areas, men dressed in costumes called Namahage visit homes, to see if the young are behaving well.


January 7th: Koshogatsu--Shinto rite honouring Goddess Izanami, partner of God Izanagi. They created Nature and the Kami. Shinto try to live in harmony with the cosmic forces of the Kami.
Jan 15th : Seljin-no-hi/Coming of Age Day--Shinto festival honoring 20-yearold men and women. Sago-cho and also Seijin-no-hi is coming of age day, in Japan is the age of twenty. Shinto considers different stage in life are important, and therefore these are celebrated. Local town halls give presents to this year's new twenty-year old. Girls will often dress in kimono and take pictures which will, in due course be used to introduce them to prospective husbands according to the traditional Japanese marriage system. It is a big day for these young adults, full-fledged members of society. They also visit the holy shrine to seek the blessing of the kami on their newly acquired status of adulthood.
February 17th: Toshigoi--Shinto rite honoring the Kami and offering prayers for a bountiful rice harvest. The Kami are manifestations of Kuni-Tokotachi-no-Kami, the one universal, primordial and eternal, immanent and transcendent holy spirit.
February 19th:
Day the President ordered the internment of loyal Japanese Americans during World War II (1942); day to mourn Asian victims of internment and exclusion (past and present), make peace, and celebrate empowerment of Asian Americans. [Executive Order 9066 was signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt]
March 3rd: Girls' Festival-- Hina-matsuri is a festival of dolls to celebrate daughters in the family. These dolls wear Heian age old costumes and are sometimes handed down, in the family for generations. Traditional food, celebrations and a shrine visit are associated with Hina -matsuri.
March 3rd: Setsuban-Sai/Turn of the Seasons Festival-- Setsubun means the day before the official beginning of Spring. Shinto rite in which good fortune is invoked by throwing beans into the home and evil is exorcised by throwing beans out the door. People on that day at home throw beans to expel bad fortune & invoke the good energy. The Kami of the four directions are also honored. [Bean-Throwing Festival]
April 8th: Hana Matsuri / Shinto flower Festival - Shinto rite honoring the Kami.
May 3rd: Taue Matsuri--Shinto rice-planting festival.
May 5th: Koi-no-bori is the boys festival-- Large cloth carp blow in the wind outside homes where there are boys. The carp is admired because of its ability to swim against the stream, and is a fitting model for youth to emulate. The household decoration for boys is model of the helmet of an ancient samurai.
June 15th: Suijin Matsuri / Water Kami Festival--Shinto rite honoring the Kami of Water] Natsu-matsuri lasts for almost the entire month of June. The summer festival is celebrated at the time when the crops are in the greatest danger of being destroyed by pests. Storms and floods can create unexpected chaos and therefore the blessing of the kami at this delicate time is sought.
June: Nagoshi-no-Oharai --this form of purification or walking through a circle of rope - takes place in June. A large sacred ring called a chi-no-wa, made of loosely-twisted miscanthus reeds, is set up and after oharai people walk through it. Intended for the purification of agricultural workers, to ward off mishaps of any kind, one of the two great days of national purification, and completes the rites of the summer period. Obarae (the other one is in December, Shiwasu-Oharai)

Festivals 2

August 15th: Kaza Matsuri/Wind Kami festival--Shinto rite honoring the Kami of Wind
July 7th: Star Festival/Tanabata—Shinto rite honoring the Kami of the Stars
Bon Festival (also called O-bun Festival) Usually celebrated around August 15. Many people make trips back to their home towns at this time of the year to visit the graves of relatives. During this festival people set up lanterns to guide the souls of the dead to and from their homes, make offerings of food to the deceased, and enjoy a special kind of dancing called bon odori. The lanterns are often floated down rivers. During Bon Festival the Japanese welcome their ancestors' souls to our world. For religious reasons, people believe that ancestors' spirits come back to their home during the Bon Festival. People offer a variety of foods to the spirits of ancestors in front of their Buddhist family altars and pray for their ancestors' well being.
September 23rd: Shuki-Korei-Sai—Shinto rite honoring ancestral spirits] [Aki-no- Higan]
October 17th: Shukaku Matsuri—Shinto rite offering thanks and first fruits of the rice harvest to the Kami. [Kannamesai, Harvest Festival - At Tsubaki Grand Shrine, celebration of the Rei-tai-sai from October 11 to 17. This festival is also associated with Sarutuhiko Okami. The community gathers to offer thanksgiving for the incoming harvest.
In the neighboring Ise Jingu where Amaterasu Omikami is enshrined, there is the festival called Kannamae-sai in mid- October when the first fruits of the grain harvest are offered to Sun.
The Autumn Festival, Akimatsuri, takes place during the months of September to November. The Autumn Festival is the sequel to the Spring Festival. October is known in Japanese as kan -nazuki, the month when the kami are absent. Closely related to this, and held at Tsubaki Grand Shrine in November, is the festival known as Niiname-sai, a very old and important festival held once a year which, like the Kannamae-sai, has to do with the agricultural cycle. At the Ise celebration, the Emperor offers the first cuttings of harvest just as a local village headman would do at a village shrine.

Shichi-go-san, the festival for three, five and seven year-old, is held nationwide around this time.
Children in classical dress are taken to shrines to seek the protection of the kami in this delicate stage of their lives. The Shichi Go San or 7- 5-3 Festival is one of the unique Japanese festivals. Boys who are 3 and 5 years old, and girls who are 3 and 7 are taken to a shinto shrine, often in their first kimono, and the parents pray for their continuing good health and prosperity. This is celbrated around November 15th. This dates back before the Edo period. November 15th is the harvest festival, and families visit the god praying for their children's growth and at the same time this occasion for the child to be recognized by the public & gods as a member of society.
December 1st: Suijin- Matsuri/Water Kami Festival--Shinto rite honouring the Kami of Water]
December 22nd: Tohji-Taisai--Shinto rite honoring Sun Goddess Amaterasu. Storm God Susano-o angered Her, and She withdrew into a cave until enticed with music and dance, to calm her down.
December 31st: Oharai / Grand Purification Festival -- Shinto rite exorcising evil from the world and purifying devotees from offenses committed during the year.

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