Shintoism is an ancient Japanese religion. Together with Buddhism, it is one of the most popular Japanese religions. “About 84% of the population of Japan follow two religions: both Shinto and Buddhism. As in much of Asia, Christianity is very much a minority religion” (Littleton, p. 69) It appeared about 500 B. C. Its name derives from Chinese words “shin tao”, which are translated like “the way of Gods”. Shintoism is a mixture of rites, deviation techniques, shaman techniques and nature worship. This religion perfectly illustrates the closeness to the nature ancient people lived in. Shinto Pantheon is rich and diverse.
Different creation stories, which make the part of this religion, explain history and lives of different deities. They are called Kami in Shintoism. There are several kinds of kami. Some of them represent spirits of the particular places and others possess powers over natural events. There are also gods who are the protectors. Exceptional people make a separate group of kami. In contrast to many popular world religions, Shintoism has no definite theological system. In its moral and ethical believes Shintoism counts on Confucianism. When it comes to morality, “Shinto emphasizes right practice, sensibility, and attitude.
” (Ueda, 65). There are four basic concepts, which make the core of this religion. First of all Shintoism believes in traditions and family. The family has paramount importance in this religion and people see it as a source of all traditions. Scientists respect, honor and even worship their ancestors. All rituals connected with birth or marriage have special meaning in Shintoism and reflect the importance of family values. Affection to nature is another core concept of Shintoism. In Shintoism Nature is sacred and people should live in close contact with the world, which surrounds them.
Big amount of Kami or gods, which represent natural forces, is another proof of such attitude. Natural forces are worshipped and honored. Amaterasu, the Goddess of the Sun is among the most honored deities in Shintoism. Love to cleanliness is another basic concept of this religion. This religion proclaims a real cult of cleanliness. All the followers of Shinto take baths, wash hands and clean their teeth often. The last core concept of Shintoism is a worship practice called “matsuri”. This practice includes worshiping to Kami and ancestors, who are respected and honored greatly.
Amaterasu is one of the main goddesses of Shintoism, one of principal Kami. Amaterasu’s father is the Creator God Izanagi and her mother is goddess Izanami. “Written about in the Kojiki and Nihongi Japanese Sacred Texts, she has been revered since at least 600 A. C. E” (Littleton, p. 45). Japanese believe that the Japanese Imperial family is descended from this goddess. Later, her descendants unified the whole country. They worshiped Amaterasu and she gave them power and suggested the way how to use it. One of the main principles of Shintoism is to worship ancestors.
Amaterasu is the ancestor of the Imperial family, that is one of the reasons of the great respect for her. There are a lot of myths devoted to this Kami, where she is called “Ruler of the Plain of Heaven”, “She Who Shines in the Heavens” and “Illustrious Goddess”. She has been depicted in numerous works of artistic painting and sculpture. The primary Sacred Site of Amaterasu is the Ise Nauku Shrine, which is located on the island of Hanshu, at Ise-Jingue on Ise. The body of the goddess is made as a mirror, The Ise Naiku Shrine is pulled down every 20 years but then its original form is always rebuilt.
The light, which surrounds Amaterasu is not only the light of the Sun. Amaterasu is also famous as a goddess of compassion. Shintoists believe that she becomes compassionate for those who worship her and that light, which comes from her heart is a light of passion and purity. Susanowa, the god of thunder, scared Amaterasu by lighting and sounds of thunder. Their first relationship didn’t last long. Old legend states that embarrassed by the actions of her brother, she flew to the cave of Ama-no-Iwato and hid there. The world was plunged into darkness because Amaterasu was the only source of light.
People and deities suffered without her light and compassion but did not know how to make her leave the cave. Finally they organized a great celebration near the cave where Amaterasu hid and Ama-no-Iwato danced a beautiful dance, which made everybody laugh. Amaterasu was depressed by “his temperamental excesses and sought refuge in a heavenly cave until she was eventually coaxed out by seeing the reflection of her divine purity in a mirror” (Littleton, p. 79). Amaterasu came out of the cave and returned to heaven and the world was saved from the darkness.
Later, only after a few years, Susanowa renewed relation with Amaterasu, the goddess of sun. He became less volatile, more mature. He began to value his wife and his family. Family is another value in Shintoism. Family proves that the person is mature, conscious and can be responsible for his actions. It’s a definite level of development of the person and every person should try to achieve this level. Kin also plays a significant role. Respect for the relatives gives the person their support and so they all together can resist difficulties and dangerous situations.