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Religion Japon
March 07, 2020

Religion in Japan

6 min read

Unlike any other country in the world, the Japan is very spiritual and has a system of beliefs unique. One of the most interesting aspects of Japanese religion is that no one preaches it, while it acts almost like a moral code, a way of life .

Shinto, Buddhism, and the Japanese belief system

Festival Japonais
The japanese religion is a private and family affair. It is separate from the state; there are no prayers or religious symbols during a graduation ceremony, for example. Religion is rarely discussed in everyday life and the majority of Japanese do not worship regularly or claim to be religious.

However, most people turn to religious rituals at birth, marriage and death and participate in matsuri (festivals) spiritual throughout the year.

Religion and the Emperor

Empereur Japonais Until World War II, Japanese religion focused on the figure of the emperor as God living. The subjects saw themselves as part of a large family of which all Japanese were members.

The crushing defeat of the war, however, shattered the beliefs of many people, because the frail voice of the Emperor was broadcast to the nation by renouncing his divinity . The period that followed saw a secularization of the Japanese company almost as dramatic as the economic miracle that saw Japan's post-war economy take off.

However, much of the rituals survived the collapse of the religious beliefs . Today, religion defines Japanese identity more than spirituality, and helps strengthen family and community ties.



Shintoism versus Buddhism

Ikebana the shintoism is here spirituality native of Japan. It is believed that every living thing in nature (e.g. trees, rocks, flowers, animals, and even sounds) contains kami (spirits or gods).

Our Yuki T-Shirt is a good representation of this idea of spirituality. You can click on the image below if you are interested in its design.

T-shirt japonais streetwear


Therefore, Shinto principles are present throughout the Japanese culture , where nature and the change of seasons are cherished. This is reflected in arts such as ikebana (flower arrangement) and the bonsai , the design of Japanese gardens and the annual celebration of Sakura (Cherry flower).

Bouddhisme the shinto only received its name when the Buddhism arrived at Japan through China, Tibet, Vietnam and finally Korea. Buddhism arrived in the sixth century, establishing itself at Nara . Over time, Buddhism has split into several sects, the most popular being the Zen Buddhism .

In essence, Shintoism is the spirituality of this world and of this life, while Buddhism is interested in the soul and beyond. This explains why, for the Japanese, the two religions exist so well together, without contradiction. To celebrate a birth or a marriage, or to pray for a good harvest, the Japanese turn to Shintoism. The funeral , on the other hand, are generally Buddhist ceremonies.

Shrines vs. temples

Porte Torii As a general rule, sanctuaries are Shintoists and the temples Buddhists. The shrines can be identified by the huge front door or torii gate, often painted in vermilion red. However, you will often find shrines and temples in the same complex, so sometimes it is difficult to identify and separate them.

The Japanese Tera Sweatshirt gives a good overview of what a sanctuary represents, with its typical symbols and representations.

Sweat à capuche japonais

To make the most of a sanctuary, do like the Japanese. Just inside the red door torii , you will find a fountain or a drinking trough. Here you have to use bamboo ladle to wash your hands and mouth in order to purify your spirit before coming in.

Next, look for a long, thick rope that hangs from a bell in front of a altar . Here you can pray: ring the bell first, throw a coin in front of the altar as for the offering (five yen coins are considered lucky charms), clap your hands three times to invoke the kami , then join your hands in prayer.

In a temple, you will need to take off your shoes before entering the main building and kneel on the tatami floor in front of an altar or icon for pray .


Lucky amulets

Temple Japonais The luck , the destiny and the superstition are important to the Japanese. Many people buy small charms in temples or shrines, which are then attached to purses, key chains, cell phones or hung in cars for bring luck . The different charms bring good luck to varying degrees, such as passing exams or fertility.

The prayers are often written on votive tablets: wooden boards called ema which are hung by the hundreds around the temples. In famous temples like the Kiyomizu-dera of Kyoto , you will see votive tablets written in different languages.

One last way to learn your destiny is to take a lottery ticket. Sometimes available in English, a lucky ticket assesses your to come up in different areas: success, money, love, marriage, travel and more. If your fortune is weak, tie your ballot to a tree branch within the temple grounds; leaving the newsletter at the temple should improve your luck.

Religious ceremonies

Festival Japonais The most important periods of japanese calendar are the New Year, celebrated from January 1 to 3, and the O-Good , which is usually held around August 16. At New Year , the Japanese go to ancestral graves to pray for the deceased parents. The first visit to the New Year's shrine is also important to ensure good luck for the coming year.

TO O-Good , it is believed that spirits from ancestors come down to earth to visit the living. Unlike Halloween, these spooky spirits are well received.
Births are celebrated with family visits to shrines. The death of childhood is commemorated at three key ages: three, five, and seven. Young children are dressed in luxury kimonos and taken to some shrines, like the shrine Meiji of Tokyo . The age of majority is officially celebrated at 20 years. At the beginning of January, coming of age ceremonies (such as graduation ceremonies) take place in town halls, followed by visits to shrines by young people proudly dressed in kimonos luxury.

Mariage Japonais In the Land of the Rising Sun, today, ceremonies of wedding are a big clash between East and West. a japanese wedding may have multiple parts, including a ceremony shinto in traditional costume in a sanctuary as well as a western wedding reception in a hotel or restaurant. In the second part, it is now common for a bride to wear a wedding dress for a howaito wedingu (White wedding).

The funeral is supervised by Buddhist priests . 99% of Japanese are cremated and their ashes are buried under a tombstone. To better understand the Japanese funeral , we highly recommend the Oscar-winning film Okuribito, or Departures, about a concert cellist returning to his roots in Yamagata and turns back into an undertaker.

The matsuri Japanese are festivals linked to shrines. In tradition which dates back several centuries, the parades and rituals of matsuri are linked to rice cultivation and spiritual well-being of the local community.

And if you want a taste of all of these traditional japanese clothes , while keeping a Streetwear style, we recommend our Kimonos Cardigan!

Kimono Cardigan japonais


Other religions

According to article 20 of the Japanese constitution, the Archipelago grants complete religious freedom, allowing the practice of minority religions such as the christianity , the' Islam , the' Hinduism and the sikhism . These religions represent about 5-10% of the Japanese population. However, the spiritual void left by the emperor's renunciation was also quickly filled by a plethora of new religions ( shin shukyo ) that have sprung up all over Japan.

Culte Japonais Asahara Mainly concentrated in urban areas, these religions provided this world with benefits such as health, wealth and good luck. Many had charismatic Christlike leaders who inspired fanatic devotion to their people. followers . It is here that we find the roots of "cults" as famous as the "Supreme Truth of Aum", which carried out the gas attack on the metro in Tokyo in 1995.

However, the vast majority of new religions are focused on peace and achieving happiness, although many Japanese who are not involved seem to be wary of these organizations. Tax evasion or money laundering are, according to some, common practices.


Where to visit?

Statue Bouddha For those interested in Buddhism or Shintoism, Japan is full of fascinating places to visit. Nara , in the region of Kansai near' Osaka , is considered the cradle of Buddhism in Japan and houses an extensive museum of art and buddhist objects , as well as the huge statue of Buddha which is the main attraction of Nara .

If everything that revolves around the Buddhist style appeals to you, we advise you to go for a walk on Buddha universe . A shop that can only be validated at Kimono-obi!

Statue Bouddha

Kyoto is full of magnificent shrines and temples and can offer a unique look at history at a time when the religious belief occupied a more prominent place in everyday life, while being simply breathtaking to behold. In fact, wherever you go in Japan, you will see the face of the country's religious heritage.


We hope that this little article will have enriched your knowledge, or even that it has fascinated you! If so, we invite you to read another article that will also help you learn a little more about the Japanese culture : the Top 11 Most Representative Symbols of Japan !



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