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Researched and edited by:

Joey, Erin, Meghan

How did the religion develop? Did someone found the religion?

Shinto was founded in around 500 BC in Japan. The name comes from the Japanese “Shin” meaning spirit or god and “to” meaning the way of, so the way of the gods. Shinto has no founder, sacred texts or formalized system of doctrine. The roots of Shinto can be traced back to around 500 BC, but only became the formal state religion in the 6th century AD.

Shinto was first used in the sixth century of the common era, although its roots go back to 500 B.C.E. Shinto has no founder. It’s rituals lie deep within prehistoric religious practices of the Japanese people. Shinto is conveyed through actions and behaviors rather than by words and scriptures.

Shinto was first used in the 6th century, although its roots go back to the 6th century B.C.E. at least. There is/was no founder of the religion.

Are there any important days? Which ones? What happens on those days?

There are many Shinto festivals, some as a universal gathering and some for individual things like weddings and purification ceremonies for cars and other vehicles.
  • Daijōsai - A celebration of a new emperor’s succession to the throne, in this ceremony the new emperor must go through various abstinences to purify himself, and then make an offering of sacred rice to the Kami.
  • Hatsumode - Hatsumode is the first visit to a shrine in the new year. During this visit you must show your thanks for your blessings in the past year, and thereby gain blessings for the coming year. The shinto priest then gives a short speech, and invites everyone to a cup of sake. During the events it is common place for bonfires to be lit.
  • Miyamairi - This is the shinto equivalent to a baptism. The event takes place 31 days after birth for a boy and 32 days after birth for a girl. The parents and grandparents of the baby take it to a shrine and express gratitude for it’s well being and ask the priest to pray for it’s good health to continue. The prayer is done by the priest, who is wearing a unique costume, standing in between the gathered people and the altar reciting a prayer whilst swinging a “tamagushi” right and left.
  • Shōgatsu - New year’s day, celebrated in many different ways
  • Seijin-no-hi - This holiday is about coming of age and is celebrated on the second Monday of January. On this day those who have turned 20 on their previous birthday visit a shrine for a party.
  • Bean-Throwing Ceremony - On February 3 everyone nation wide throws beans inside and outside of their home, while chanting “Oni Wa Soto, Fuku Wa Uchi”. Translated this means get out ogre, come in happiness.
There are many other holidays such as boy’s day, girl’s day, Buddha's birthday, star day, festival of the dead etc.

Shogatsu - New Year is the most important holiday in Japan. It is started by watching the first sunrise. This symbolizes the beginning of a new year. January first should be spent free of anger and stress, and full of [[#|joy]]. No work may be done on this day.

Toshi-goi-no-Matsuri - Is a festival known also as the Yakuyoke festival. Yakuyuoke is a festival meant to ward off evil influences. The festival deals with the problems people face at particularly difficult periods of their lives.

Setsubun a holiday that falls on the first day of spring. It marks the end of Winter. Bean are thrown inside and outside the house to expel evil and bad luck and to invoke good.

Hina-matsuri is a day that celebrates the daughters in the family. Dolls are dressed up in heian age costumes and are often old and passed through the family for many generations. Families visit shrines and eat traditional foods on this day.

Shubun-sai is Equinox Day, and is spent visiting the graves of ancestors.

Oshogatsu (New year): Most important holiday. People visit the shrines and ask the kami for good fortune in the year.

Seijin Shiki (Adults' Day)

Aki Matsuri (Autumn festivals)

Rei-sai (Annual Festival)

Haru Matsuri (Spring festivals)

Shichigosan (7-5-3 festival)

How many gods does the religion have?

Shinto is polytheistic religion, meaning it has many gods and goddesses. Shinto holds “kami” as it’s deities. Kami are believed to be spiritual beings, or in natural things like trees, mountains or rivers. Kami can also be in specific locations throughout the world. So really Kami are just essences that can make anything divine, sometimes with no form of their own.

Gods and goddesses in Shinto are called kami. Kami refers to anything that is divine, awe-inspiring or special in any way. This can include plant, rocks, animals, or people. Something that inspires or give the beholder a sense of wonder are also considered Kami. Amaterasu, the sun goddess, is arguably the most famous of the Shinto gods or kami.

The gods and goddesses are the kami. Kami can be anything that is special, unusual, auspicious, or inspires awe in the beholder. There are 3 types of kami: family ancestors, abstract powers in or associated with nature (rock or landscape formations, essences of certain weather events, forests, water bodies), and souls of auspicious dead.

How do the followers contact or pray to their gods?

Shinto worship chant take place in ones home or a shrine. It is highly ritualised, however the formalities are highly dependent on the region and are interchangeable on the location. When worshipping one must be sincere and pure, otherwise the prayer is false. The worship is meant to ease the worshipper’s mind and senses, so the setting is incredibly important. It is also meant to please the Kami, for whom the prayer is made. Many who follow Shinto have a shrine set aside in their home for worship, this is called a kami dana, or a kami shelf. A kami dana contains a miniature version of a shrine, amulets to absorb bad luck and a mirror in the middle to connect the shelf with the kami. Offerings of food and flowers can also be placed in the kami dana. There is no specific day to visit the shrine, but is down to the individual. One might visit for good luck on an upcoming [[#|competition]] or to help them make a major life decision.

A Kami-dana or houshold shrine
A Kami-dana or houshold shrine

People usually perform rituals in groups in shrines, or they pray to a specific kami to thank them or ask them for something. Rituals should always be carried out with a cheerful heart and is intended to satisfy the senses as well as the mind. The way the priests are dressed, the language, the songs, the way of speaking, and the journey to the shrine are all important elements of Shinto worship. Worship can also take place in ones home. Most Shinto homes have a shrine in their home called a kami-dana, or kami shelf, where they may make offerings of flowers or food, and say prayers. On the kami-dana there is a small replica of a shrine, and often an amulet, to provide good luck and absorb bad luck. There is a mirror in the middle that connects the shelf to the kami. If a religious item is bought in a shrine it is set on the kami-dana to connect the home to the shrine.

There are no specific times or dates for worship. Shrines are called kami-dana. They have a replica of the kami, sometimes good luck amulets, and a mirror to connect the shrine to the kami. People make offerings of flowers and food and recite prayers. The worshiper may request for help, something, or give thanks.

What are the rules? What do people have to do in their lifetime?

There are no outstanding laws of Shinto, other than trying to follow the wills of the Kami and maintaining a healthy relationship with them. In Shinto texts the Kami make mistakes and occasionally do the wrong thing, as a result there are no moral absolutes in Shinto.

There are ten precepts in Shinto. However, it is believed that a sincere heart will behave this way naturally.

i) Do not disobey the will of the gods.

ii) Do not forget your commitments to ancestors.

iii) Do not show disrespect by breaking the laws of the State.

iv) Do not forget the greatness of the gods, for they perform miracles.

v) Do not forget that we are all brothers and sisters in this world.

vi) Do not forget that you are a human and humans have limits.

vii) Do not let others anger make you angry.

viii) Do not work slowly.

ix) Do not blame the teachings for your misfortunes..

x) Do not be follow foreign teachings.

There are no absolute rules or morals although you should follow the wills of the kami.

Are there any sacred books? What are they called?

There are no exclusive Shinto religious texts or sacred books. Any sacred documents are shared with other religions, or non existent.

There are four valued texts in the Shinto religion, however it is believed that God can not and

should not be expressed through words, so these books mostly contain records, histories and

studies on Shinto. Most of them date from the eighth century AD.

The Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters)

The Rokkokushi (Six National Histories)

The Shoku Nihongi and its Nihon Shoki (Continuing Chronicles of Japan)

The Jinno Shotoki (a study of Shinto and Japanese politics and history) was written in the 14th


The shinto holy books are the Kojiki or “Records of Ancient Matters” and the Nihon-gi or “Chronicles of Japan”. These books contain myths and teachings that used to be taught orally.

What do the holy buildings look like?

A Shinto shrine is meant to be the dwelling of a Kami, as a result they are very grand, and could be described as temples. Every village and town has its own shrine, for the local kami. However, shrines aren’t always temples, they can be other things that contain Kami, like trees, rivers and mountains.

Shinto shrines are known as, “The place of the kami” and are the most sacred places in Japan. Shrines are used to symbolize the kami in that area. The placement of these shrines are often chosen by the kami themselves, through priests and rituals. Most shrines include a “Mikoshi” or “portable shrine” which can be carried through streets during a parade or procession. In the entrance each shine, one will pass under a Torii, of special gateway of the gods.

Shrines are where people worship and are the dwellings of the kami. In and around a shrine you will normally find Torii gates, Komainu (guardian lions, dogs, or foxes at the entrance of a shrine), a purification trough (before entering you must clean your mouth and hands in the fresh water), Main (where the kami representation is kept) and offering hall (where you make offerings) (they can be separate or combined).

What happens to you when you die?

Shinto has no obvious views on life after death, but a vague picture can be painted. After a few decades since someone dies, their memorial tablet is thrown away and is replaced with a pebble, this pebble is then added to a pile of pebbles previously accumulated representing others in the family who have died. This is the same as their belief of what happens to someone after they die, after a while they lose their individuality and join their family as a guardian for the still living members.

A few decades after a person's death, their memorial tablet is thrown away and replaced with a pebble, after many generations of doing this, the family has many generations of pebbles that act as the family’s guardian. It seems as if the people believe that after a few decades some kind of link is broken, and the spirit of the deceased has finally left this world. It is believed that each persons spirit has many different parts, so each part could go to a different afterlife. (reincarnation, guardian etc.) In Shinto, one should not fixate on death, as this will prevent them from living their life to the fullest.

Shinto does not focus on the afterlife, although a place called Yomi a hades-like realm is mentioned in the story of creation. Some decades after a persons death, their memorial tablet is replaced with a pebble. After several generations a family has a pile of pebbles which represents the family guardian. But Shintoism encourages people to not think about death as it will not let them live their life to the fullest.

Are there any religious symbols and writing?

The main Shinto symbol is a torii gate. A torii gate marks the entrance of a sacred area or location and represents transition of our world and the spiritual world of the kami.

The Torii gate is the main Shinto symbol. It marks the entrance to shrine or sacred space and represents the transition between the finite world and the infinite world of the gods and kami.

The most important Shinto symbol is the Torii gate. The gates mark the entrances to shrines and represent the transition between our finite world (earth) and the Kami's infinite spiritual world.

Is there any special clothing?

There are a few uniquely Shinto articles of clothing, some of these include:
  • Hakama - A traditional Japanese piece of clothing, originally only worn by men but now worn by women too. Usually placed over a kimono, there are two types. One with divided legs, like trousers and one that is undivided, like a dress.
  • Jōe - Worn on religious occasions, but not exclusively Shinto occasions. A Jōe consists of a peaked cap, an outer robe, ballooning trousers and a girdle.
  • Senninbari - A piece of cloth about 1 metre long, decorated with 1000 stitches. It is given by a woman to soldier going to war to be worn as an amulet.
  • Fundoshi - Traditional japanese underwear for adult men. It is made from a length of cotton. The fundoshi went out of style just after WWII, when more sorts of underwear became available and is now only really used on festivals and for swimming.

Fundoshi is the traditional undergarment for adult males. It is made from a length of cotton After World War II however, fundoshi quickly became out of style and are nowadays used as swimwear in Shinto.

Hakama are a type of traditional clothing resembling a long skirt.. Originally they were only worn by men but today they are worn by both genders. Hakama are tied at the waist and hang down to the ankles. Hakamaare usually made of stiff silk.

Jōe is a garment often worn by priests at a time of worship, or people attending religious ceremonies. When wearing a Jōe one is also fitted with a peaked cap called tate-eboshi.

A Senninbari or Thousand stitch belt, is given as a symbolic gift by women to soldiers on their way to war as a part of the Shinto culture of Imperial Japan. It is about one meter long, and is decorated with one thousand stitches, each stitch being made by a different woman.

The kimono is a Japanese traditional garment worn by all Shino people of all ages. The word "kimono", literally means "thing to wear". Kimonos are robes with wide sleeves worn so that the hem falls to the ankle. Kimonos are always wrapped left side over right, except when attending a burial service. They are secured by a sash, called an obi.

Hakama (plural Hakamaare): a traditional skirt-like garment worn by both genders.

Fundoshi: traditional male undergarment made of cotton which went out of fashion after WW2 and is today used as swimwear.

Joe: a peaked cap, a girdle and a special type of pants worn on religious holidays, not uniquely Shinto.

Kimono: a traditional garment worn by Shinto of every age; a robe with which hang down to the ankles, kimono is wrapped with the right on the inside, secured with a sash.

Senninbari: a piece of cloth a meter long given to soldiers going to war by women, each each stitch is made by a different woman.

Where is the religion most common?

Shinto is most common, if not exclusive to or in Japan.

Shinto is the indigenous religion in Japan.

Japan is pretty much the only place where Shinto is practised

How many people believe in the religion?

There are about 3,000,000 people who believe in Shinto.

For a few centuries, it was required by law that when a shinto was born, his or her birth must be recorded in a Shinto shrine. Therefore, some professionals estimate there are around 100 million Shinto followers, however, if you only count the people who identify themselves as Shinto and practice their religion, the number is greatly reduced to around three million.

There are some three million people who actively practice and identify themselves as Shinto

What are Shinto weddings like?

Shinto weddings are a small event. Usually only the family and close friends attend the wedding. The bride usually wears a white kimono and a white scarf to symbolize purity. First, the is a ritual of purification is recited, and prayed are said, wishing the bride and groom good luck and happiness. After this, the bride and groom drink three sips from three cups of sake. Next, the groom reads words of commitment and wedding rings are often exchanged.

What happens when a baby is born?

When a child is born he or she must be ritually purified and added to a registry list in a Shinto shrine. If the infant dies and this has not been done, the baby is doomed to be a ​Mizuko​, or a forever wandering spirit.


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