Shinto is an ancient Japanese religion, closely tied to nature, which recognizes the exsistence of various "Kami" nature dieties. The first two deities, Izanagi and Izanami, gave birth to the Japanese islands and their children became the deities of the various Japanese clans. One of their daughters, Amaterasu (Sun Goddess), is the ancestress of the Imperial Family and is regarded as the chief deity. All the Kami are benign and serve only to sustain and protect. They are not seen as separate from humanity due to sin because humanity is "Kami's Child." Followers of Shinto desire peace and believe all human life is sacred. They revere "musuhi", the Kami's creative and harmonizing powers, and aspire to have "makoto", sincerity or true heart. Morality is based upon that which is of benefit to the group. In addition to the hundreds of festivals, many Shinto ceremonies play an important part in modern daily life. Many marriages are carried out in shrines, building plots are purified and sometimes even new cars are blessed for safety. In a rite called oharai, the white-clad priest waves a stick with white strips of paper attached to carry out the blessing. Most family homes have a kamidana (god shelf) as well as a Buddist butsudan (Buddha altar). The main teaching centers for Shinto priests are Kokugakuin University in Tokyo and Kogakukan University in Ise.
THINGS TO DO
Harae - purification rites
Temizuya (purification fountain) at a shrine, guarded by a dragon Purity can be restored through specific Shinto rituals and personal practices that cleanse both body and mind which is a must ritual to be performed by each individual before death.Water and salt are commonly used as purifying agents, and a haraigushi (see below) can also be used. Purifying rituals are always performed at the start of Shinto religious ceremonies. One of the simplest purifications is the rinsing of face and hands with pure water in the temizu ritual at the start of a shrine visit in order to make the visitor pure enough to approach the kami.The concept of purification originates in the legend of the god Izanagi no mikoto who washed himself free of pollution after visiting his wife in the Land of the Dead.
This term covers purification rituals in general, or purification rituals using water to free body and mind from pollution.
This is the "ceremony of great purification". It is a special purification ritual that is used to remove sin and pollution from a large group and is believed that this ceremony helps a person to witness a painless death and come close to God. The ritual is performed at the end of June and December in the Imperial Household and at other shrines in order to purify the whole population.Oharae can also be performed as a year-end purification ritual for companies, or on special occasions such as the aftermath of a disaster.
Shubatsu is a purification ritual in which salt is sprinkled on priests or worshippers, or on the ground to purify it. One notable use of salt in purification is found in Sumo wrestling when the fighters sprinkle salt around the ring to purify it. Purification ritual in Shintoism is said to be very essential for the followers to be done before death.
Method of prayer
The method of prayer before the alter at shrines is quite distinct from that of Buddhist temples. As part of prayer ritual, worshipers bow twice, clap their hands twice (to make sure the god is listening?), bow once more and then (or before the prayer) throw coins into a wooden offertory box.Hachimangu enshrines 15th Emperor Ojin, the de facto first emperor since all emperors before him were legendary. It is worshipped as the god of archery or war and later
became a tutelary deity of the Minamoto Clan. Tsurugaoka Hachimangu ranks among the most prestigious ones and offers a wide array of Shinto rituals and ceremonies.
Purification rituals using salt, water, and fire are part of Shinto and Buddhist practices. Every Shinto shrine provides water for washing the hands and rinsing the mouth before approaching the shrine. There are two Japanese myths associated with purification rituals. The first is the myth of the god Izanagi no Mikoto, who follows his consort Izanami no Mikoto to the Netherworld. After he sees her in a state of decomposition, he returns to the world and purifies himself in a stream. Cleansing his left eye gives birth to the solar divinity Amaterasu Omikami. Cleansing his right eye gives birth to the lunar divinity Tsukuyomi no Mikoto, and cleansing his nose gives birth to the storm divinity Susanoo No Mikoto.Two of these children are associated with purification in a second myth. After rampaging through the palace of his sister Amaterasu, the divinity Susanoo is forced to make recompense by offering up goods and having his beard cut and nails pulled off.
Worship Hall (Haiden)
In the case of the active deities, prayers and food are offered before the kami's sanctuary (honden) in the inner temple. However, for the kami of natural phenomena, prayers are offered at the gate or at the outer temple. In ancient times they were offered on the open ground. Later, the Japanese introduced worship halls (haiden) facing the sanctuary to serve this function. In the case of some special shrines, such as the Great Shrine of Ise, prayers are
offered by both priests and laymen sitting on the ground outdoors where a temporary structure is built for offering prayers which are very essential in life to attain moksha or death.
The most important Shinto ritual for assuring the kami's permanent dwelling in the shrine, is the offering of spiritual flesh. Food offerings are made in different ways at different shrines. Maybe the method of offering food might differ but however it is an important ritual to be followed in each persons life before death. The ritual may include placing food on a table, hanging, scattering on the ground, burying it in the earth or releasing it into the water. In case of some active deities, the sanctuary containing the representative object is the focus for this sacred practice and the sanctuary doors may be kept open during the offering. At shrines for the kami of natural phenomenon, the doors of the sanctuary may not be opened. Therefore, special offering halls (heiden) were built for offering food.
Partaking of the same meal as the deities is a necessary step in the union between the kami and humans, as it signifies that they are all supported by a universal source of power. This communion repast is called "ainame." Most scholars connect this ritual with the ancient tradition of feeding the dead before we die. In the earliest Shinto complexes there was no structure for this particular function. Food was offered to the kami at the altar or places outside the shrine hall and was eaten by the worshippers in front of the altar. Later, a structure called "naoraeden" was built for the practice of communion meal. The building faced the main hall in the center of the complex. Sometimes Japanese call this structure chokushiden or "the imperial messenger hall."
Kamidana (Shinto family altars)
Kamidana are altars, generally installed in the home above the lintel, where charms and amulets from Shinto shrines are enshrined at. The altars are made of wood with roofs and steps, and the charms and amulets are put in the center. Occasionally, sake, food and candles are offered, and people prayed for family safety and business prosperity in front of the kamidana. Until not long ago, most homes had kamidana, but recently they have decreased in number.
Shimenawa (Sacred Shinto rope)
This is a rope hung out to distinguish sacred places from the rest; the shime of shimenawa means "taboo". In addition to being hung in the main building at Shinto shrines and on Shinto shrine archways, shimenawa are seen on Shinto family altars, and the New Year sacred straw festoon is made by attaching various good luck charms to the shimenawa. And the belt or "sideways rope"(a literal translation of yokozuna which means the grand champion) worn by the grand champion in sumo is another form of the shimenawa.
Shide wands (Harai Gushi)
A shrine priest waving Shide over the head of a Shintoist in a typical purification ritual. The wand or harai gushi (sweeping squewer/stick) that the priest is holding is a wooden pole to which is attached a great many of the zigzag
strips mentioned above. The waving of this wand is one of the most common ritual actions in Shinto rites. The priest often bows slightly at about 15 degrees. He waves the stick it in a, not frantic, but brisk enough moment for there to be a rustling sound from the zigzags of paper. He stops momentarily at each end of the wave - swing left, stop, right, and stop left.
Hatsumiyamairi - first shrine visit
Though each one is born finally to reach God, a newborn child is said to first visit to its tutelary deity to be placed under the protection of the kami. The child is generally taken to the shrine by its mother or a female relative, on the 32nd day after the birth of a boy, and the 33rd day after the birth of a girl. This ceremony establishes the child as one of the shrine parishioners, and is the first of the ceremonies of initiation. Traditionally the baby was taken to the shrine by its grandmother because the mother was thought to be impure from childbirth, but nowadays the child is often taken by the mother.
Shichi go san
Children may have a special ceremony at the age of 3, 5 or 7 years and t is a must for children before death . Around November 15th the children and their parents will visit the shintoshrine. Originally it has been an initiation ritual. When babies are born, they still seem to live in the kami-world. Gradually they become conscious of the social world while learning the necessary skills. The awareness of kami-world fades away and becomes part of mythology. By growing up we leave the magical world of childhood. This kind of ceremony, however, ensures that the child will keep in touch with the kami. It means, the child will receive the grace of kami and grow up in health and prosperity. The ceremony finishes with the sharing of the rice wine and/or food that has been dedicated previously to kami. The child will receive a candystick and an omamori, which is a token of the protection by kami.
Seijin Shiki (adults day)
This ceremony pertains to Japanese individuals who have reached the legal age of adulthood, which is 20 in the country, during the previous year. Those who have turned 20 usually attend a shrine to give thanks for the past and for future to attain moksha or spiritual death.
The standardized Shinto wedding ritual is very recent, being based on the ceremony used for the wedding of Crown
Prince Yoshihito and Princess Sado in 1900. Before that ceremonies varied a great deal. A Shinto wedding is a small-scale affair involving the couple, their family and their close friends. The bride normally wears a white kimono with a white scarf. The color symbolizes purity. The ceremony begins with ritual purification. Next prayers are offered for the couple to have good luck, happiness and the protection of the kami. Then the couple drinks sake - taking three sips each from three cups poured by the miko (shrine maiden) - and the groom reads words of committment.In many weddings rings are exchanged. This is followed by a sacred dance performed by the miko. The ceremony ends with an offering of tamagushi (a sacred branch) and a ritual sharing of sake by everyone present.
Thus Shinto "the religion of Japan", and the customs and values of Shinto are inseparable from those of Japanese culture which are to be performed before death. Many Japanese cultural customs, like using wooden chopsticks and removing shoes before entering a building, have their origin in Shinto beliefs and practices. A number of other Japanese religions have originated from or been influenced by Shinto. Also, much of Japanese pop culture, especially anime and manga, draws from Shinto for inspiration and stories.