Japanese Culture and Shintoism

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a state of mind The main sects of the Japanese people are Buddhism and Shintoism. Both sects have an important place in Japanese society. As a result, this paper will discuss how Shintoism has affected Japanese society. Many people will believe that Shinto is a Japanese faith because it has had a significant impact on Japanese society and values. Since the Japanese claim that Shintoism is merely a way of life, this religion has coexisted with Buddhism for decades. Shinto concepts can be found in all aspects of Japanese society, including ethics, moral life, creative life, and social order. Every Japanese is said to belong to this indigenous religion, Shinto, by birth. Shinto means the ways of the gods.’ Individuals from Japan have a nature-loving character because they believe that Kami (gods) exists in natural phenomena like rivers, mountains, and trees. Therefore, all Japanese must take care of the environment and their families with absolute loyalty kindness. According to Shinto religion, every believer ought to follow the ways of Kami. Since Kami values harmony and cooperation, everything must be dedicated to impressing the gods. All action must show recognition, respect, and honor for Kami (Suzuki, Pp592). Therefore, the Shinto teachings emphasize on harmony with nature and society. Shinto has been influential in the Japanese culture. The ideas from the Shinto religion can be seen in several aspects of the Japanese culture including the architecture, garden making, and the tea ceremony.
Research findings reveal that the trends of the most famous Japanese buildings were influenced by the Shinto shrines. The trends included sloping roofs which have red tiles and wooden embellishments. A shrine is a sacred place of worship as well as where people go to practice their beliefs. Therefore, the materials used, design, and decorations about the Shrine must be approved by Kami. Therefore, Shrines were carefully constructed in a systematic manner keeping in mind certain things and symbols that would signify respect and honor for Kami. The Japanese architecture was influenced by the Shinto values of constructing shrines. In fact, famous shrines in Japan were rebuilt to be in line with the Shinto requirement for a place of worship. Major influences of Shinto on Japanese buildings are also evident in cases where magnificent structures were reconstructed to meet the specific architectural features. For instance, Japanese culture honors and respects the fact that any shrine that is constructed must be according to the taste of the gods. Otherwise, the shrine has to be brought down, reconstructed, or refurbished. According to Toshio 21, most shrines in Japan have features that were inspired by the Shinto religion. The features included sloping roofs, white frames, lacquered wood decorations, and symmetric pillars. All these features were created from natural materials, symbolizing the presence of gods. Japanese shrines hold unto the values of the Shinto religion which asserts that everything must be in harmony with nature and society.
Secondly, Shinto ideas are also expressed in the Japanese art of garden-making. The gardens represent something more than just beauty. The manner in which the garden appears as well as its design is symbolic. Shintoism adores nature especially when they strongly believe that it represents Kami’s dwelling place. As a result, Japanese culture has been influenced to honor the art of garden-making. Due to Shinto’s influence, Japanese culture has adopted materials and garden arrangement styles which reflect the adoration for nature. Various styles and materials are adopted when designing the garden to symbolize every important aspect of life. Such kind of an attitude implies that Japanese culture has started valuing gardens the way Shinto does. Also, it is evident that Shinto appreciates nature in different ways because Kami dwells there. The Japanese demonstrates the same appreciation by putting a careful consideration in the backdrop of the garden (Young Pp32). For instance, the Japanese ensures that every material used to design the gardens come from the natural world. Therefore, the Japanese gardens do not only signify their appreciation but it also represents the symbol of respect for Kami who dwells in the natural environment. More so, the Japanese garden’s arrangement is symbolic. Just like in Shinto, these gardens signify intense feelings or warnings depending on the type of material used and the way they are arranged. For example, the Japanese culture uses tall bamboos to give a forewarning that a particular area is out of bounds. Furthermore, Shintoism requires that everybody live in harmony with each other as well as the environment. The implication is that everyone should treat nature with absolute respect and honor. Japanese culture is concerned to ensure that no one disrupts the harmony. When different plants are intermingled, it signifies an aspect of disrespect towards Kami thus creating disharmony. As a result, the Japanese culture tries to avoid different plants to maintain their respect for the natural environments and gods. Generally, Shinto ideas have influenced the Japanese culture in terms of the garden arrangement and materials used to show their appreciation towards nature, Kami (Young Pp32).
Lastly, the Japanese tea ceremony has also been influenced by ideas from the Shinto religion. Scholarly articles reveal that the primary influence in the development of the Japanese Tea Ceremony was Zen Buddhism. According to the Zen Buddhist, the caffeine element in the tea helped to sustain them during the marathon meditation sessions. The purpose of the tea ceremony was to calm the mind. The Japanese culture has been influenced by the Shinto’s practice of tea-making. The influence is illustrated in the way Japanese values the preparation and drinking of tea. According to Keenan 30-37, the Japanese tea ceremony is considered as an event for stress management. Many Japanese attend this event because they believe that when they consume the tea, they will develop a strong mind and body. As a result, an individual could transform any tension in their minds into beautiful moments. Also, Japanese believe that the tea ceremony aid in changing tough and meaningless moments of life into meaningful and tranquility ones. Also, Japanese value tea ceremony because it helps people to concentrate on their present situations rather than the past and the future. Most individuals believe that all worries from their past experiences as well as the anxiety regarding the future are wiped the moment one takes that tea. The Japanese tea ceremony is an effective stress management tool. The calming effect of the ceremony believed in the Shinto religion aided the popularity of the preparation and drinking of tea in Japan (Keenan Pp30-37).
In conclusion, Zen Buddhism and Shintoism religions have had major influences on the Japanese culture. The Japanese had borrowed values from the two religions and incorporated in their daily activities. Various values are demonstrated in different areas of life. The ideas from both Buddhism and Shinto religion are illustrated in several aspects of the Japanese culture including the architecture, garden making, and the tea ceremony among many other activities. Regarding architecture, the designs, material used for construction, and the decorations are done similarly as Shinto. For example, most buildings have features that are adored by the Shinto religion such as the sloping roofs, white frames, lacquered wood decorations, and symmetric pillars. The Japanese would construct buildings whose compositions have the elements that appreciate nature to symbolize their respect and honor for Kami. Similarly, the Japanese gardens are stunning and unique. Most people admire its appearance without noting the main reason behind every consideration done during the designing stage. However, it is apparent that Shinto has influenced the Japanese culture to care and adore nature because it represents the dwelling place for Kami. Shintoism adores nature because they strongly believe that that Kami is always present in the natural environment like mountains and rivers (Frame & Taylor Pp250). As a result, Japanese culture has been influenced to honor the art of garden-making. Furthermore, the Japanese culture of the tea ceremony has also been influenced by the Zen Buddhism ideas. The tea ceremony became popular in Japan after the individual learned from the Zen Buddhists that it contains a calming effect element. The Japanese consider taking tea as an effective method of stress management. Tea ceremony helps people to stop worrying about their past or future experiences but concentrate on the present.
Works Cited
Frame, Ed, and Jennifer Taylor.Asian Reader. 3rd ed. Mason, OH: Thompson South-Western, 2006. Print.
Keenan, Brother Joseph. “The Japanese Tea Ceremony and stress management.” Holistic nursing
practice 10.2 (1996): 30-37.
Suzuki, Daisetz T., and Richard M. Jaffe. “Zen and Japanese culture.” (1959).
Toshio, Kuroda, James C. Dobbins, and Suzanne Gay. “Shinto in the history of Japanese
religion.” Journal of Japanese Studies 7.1 (1981): 1-21.
Young, David, and Michiko Young. The art of the Japanese garden. Tuttle Publishing, 2012.

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