What are the religions of Japan?

Ever wondered what the predominant religion in Japan is? What religions are there in Japan? Do the Japanese believe the bible? In this article, we are going to talk about Japanese religions and some curiosities.

Talking about religions in Japan is a bit confusing. At the same time that half the population claims not to have a religion, nearly 100 million inhabitants claim to be Buddhists and Shintoists. Those who deny still participate in their practices and customs.

What is the official and predominant religion of Japan?

There are disagreements as to which is the predominant religion in Japan. Some say it's Buddhism, others say it's Shinto, but it's a complicated answer because about 80% of the Japanese practice Shinto rituals tied to the precepts of Buddhism.

The traditional religion of Japan is the Shintoism - Shintō which literally means “Path of the gods”. Shinto incorporates spiritual practices derived from diverse Japanese, local and regional prehistoric traditions, characterized by the worship of deities that represent the forces of nature. There are more than 88,591 Shinto shrines spread across Japan.

The history of Buddhism in Japan was widespread in several different periods until it became dominant in Japan. Buddhism encompasses diverse traditions, beliefs, and practices generally based on the teachings of Buddha. There are over 85,439 Buddhist temples across Japan.

Coexistence of religions in Japan

Shintoism and Buddhism coexist peacefully, most Japanese claim to belong to the 2 faiths, even Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines are often found together in the same places.

It is common for the Japanese to marry in a Shinto ceremony, and to have a Buddhist funeral. The Japanese do not regularly attend these places for worship. Both religions greatly influence the Japanese way of life.

A good number visit the temples and shrines most of the time for events, tourism, rituals and needs. About 100 million Japanese claim to be Shinto and 80 million Buddhist. Both religions are full of superstitions and traditions.

Religions in Japan - list and curiosities
Japanese temples and tori portals

Shinto in Japan

Shintoism is the term for the indigenous religious beliefs and practices of Japan. Shinto has no founder, no official sacred scriptures, and no fixed creeds, but it has preserved its core beliefs and rituals throughout the ages.

The word Shinto came into use to distinguish indigenous Japanese beliefs from Buddhism, which were introduced to Japan in the 6th century CE Shinto (along with Buddhism) is closely linked to Japanese society and culture.

Shinto is the ethnic religion of Japan that focuses on the belief that spiritual powers manifest in natural places such as mountains, rivers and other aspects of nature, including people and animals.

What does the Shinto religion preach? - Shintoism pleat the harmonious relationship between man and nature.

What is the origin of Shintoism? - Originally, the Shintoism it had no name, doctrine, or dogmas. As mentioned, it was created to distinguish itself from Buddhism. The tradition of Shintoism explains the origin of the world, Japan and the Japanese imperial family.

We recommend reading: Shintoism in Japan - Japanese Religions

Religions in Japan - list and curiosities
Festival in Tokyo

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Buddhism in Japan

Buddhism is a religion that originated in India between the 4th and 6th century BC that is centered on the teachings of Siddartha Gautama, known posthumously as The Buddha, whose purpose is to help any living being to cease the cycle of suffering (samsara) and achieve the extinction of suffering (nirvana) becoming a bodhisattva (one who reaches the nirvana).

The religion migrated out of India and spread throughout Asia. Buddhism had a great influence on the development of Japanese society. In modern times, the most popular schools of Buddhism in Japan are Pure Land, Nichiren, Shingon and Zen.

Even though only 35% of the Japanese claim to be Buddhists, 90% practices Buddhism in some way, either by visiting temples or having some related object. About 60% of the Japanese have a Butsudan (Buddhist shrine) in their homes.

We recommend reading: Buddhism in Japan - Japanese Religions

What are the religions of Japan?
Buddhist statue

Christianity in Japan

Are there Christians in Japan? Many wonder if there are any Christians in Japan. Yes, but only 1% out of the 126 million people are Christian, much of it from the Nagasaki region, the largest Christian community in Japan.

The history of Christianity in Japan began in 1549 when a Jesuit missionary, Francis Xavier arrived in Kagoshima accompanied by a samurai, Ansei Yajiro. Despite strong opposition from Japan's leaders and Buddhists, Christianity led by the Jesuits received full support from the rulers, Oda Nobunaga and Hieyoshi Toyotomi.

But in July 1587, Generalissimo Hideyoshi, beset by an unhealthy rage, determined that the missionaries could not remain in the country. There were persecutions, expulsions and destruction of churches.

And in 1612 Christianity is outlawed. An inquisition was instituted in 1640 by the Shogun Iemitsu Tokugawa initiating a persecution of Christians. It was not until 1792 that this inquisition ended and in 1873 Christianity was recognized in Japan.

There are currently approximately 3 million Christians in Japan, and nearly 10,000 churches and temples. Christianity in Japan is still considered by many Japanese as the religion of foreigners.

One of the difficulties in the growth of Christianity in Japan is the commitment to renounce the polytheism of Shinto and Japanese Buddhism. There are 32,036 Christian priests and pastors in Japan.

It is interesting to analyze that the fact that Japan does not have a commitment to spirituality does not mean that people are not good. A worldwide survey indicated that 57% of the Japanese claim not to have a religion, while in Brazil 92% claims to belong to a religion. And we noticed a controversy in people's attitude and lifestyle.

Religions in Japan - list and curiosities
Tea ceremony

Other religions in Japan

Below we will see some other religions present in Japan, as well as some curiosities about them:

Shinshukyô (新宗教)

New religions such as shinshukyô and shinkô-shukyô, emerged and have expanded rapidly in Japan, skillfully using mass media, marketing and propaganda techniques, establishing their own educational institutions, promising miracles and material and spiritual benefits even in this life. , and showing a more active proselytizing.

Jehovah's Witnesses (Ehoba no shonin エホバの証人)

At Jehovah's Witnesses are Christian and there are currently 215,703 of them in Japan, and 18 groups are Portuguese-speaking. The New World Translation in Japanese, the bible used by them, is one of the only ones that reads with furigana.

Japan is known for a busy and hectic lifestyle, and the population does not believe in the Bible. Yet Japan is the most dedicated country in the preaching work, where 1 in 3 volunteer to dedicate at least 50 hours every month in house-to-house service (in Brazil it is 1 in 10).

What are the religions of Japan?
Kingdom Hall in Osaka

SGI - Soka Gakkai International

As another religion influenced by countries outside of Japanese customs, we have the Soka Gakkai International. A SGI is a non-governmental organization (NGO) affiliated to the United Nations since 1983 and present in 190 countries and territories.

Its fundamental objective is to promote peace and respect for human dignity. Its members carry out extensive activities in the fields of Peace, Culture and Education that include exhibitions, cultural and educational exchanges, as well as humanitarian aid worldwide.

Ryukyuan (琉球神道)

The Ryukyuan is an indigenous belief system of the Okinawan people and the other Ryukyu Islands. While specific legends and traditions may vary slightly from place to place, the Ryukyuan religion is generally characterized by ancestor worship.

Unlike Shintoism where men are seen as the personification of purity, there is a group of superior women coming from the goddess Amamikyo.

Ainu is another indigenous belief system of the Ainu people of Hokkaido and parts of the Far East of Russia. They believe that spirits or gods live in everything.

Eisa
Festival in Okinawa

Judaism (Yudayakyō ユダヤ教)

In Japan there are approximately 2,000 Jews. With the opening of Japan to the outside world in 1853, some Jews migrated to Japan. Amazingly, some Jews found refuge during World War II in Japan.

"Islam" (Isuramukyō イスラム教)

There are a good number of Muslims in Japan. In Japan most Muslims were immigrants, it is estimated that 70 to 100 thousand Muslims immigrated to Japan.

Confucianism (Jukyo 儒教)

Confucianism is a doctrine (or philosophical system) created by the Chinese thinker Confucius. Confucianism is considered a philosophy, social ethics, political ideology, literary tradition and a way of life.

There are many other religions and groups in Japan, but for today we'll just leave it to that. If you have any data to add, you can comment below. Thanks for the comments and shares.

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