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Shinto - Tradition and a Way of Life

            Shinto has many unique characteristics that separate it from other religions around the world; it has continually shown an ability to evolve and combine with other religions like no other. Beliefs and practices were passed down verbally through the generations, which enabled the religions to change over time. Since Japan's earliest days, Shinto has been the code of honor and action for the Japanese. Shinto was established long before the introduction of writing to Japan in the 5th century. It was the unwritten folk religion of Japan. In the 8th century, divine origins were ascribed to the imperial family and Shinto became the major religion of Japan. A group of Japanese warrior noblemen (samurai) took over the government and made Shinto the official state religion. The separation of religion and politics would not occur until after World War II.
             Shinto does not have as fully developed a theology as do most other religions. The Kojiki and Nihongi are regarded as sacred books of Shinto, although they cannot be compared to the Bible in Christianity or the Qur'an in Islam. It is a polytheistic religion with more than three thousand recognized gods and goddesses, which are known as kami. Ideas, outstanding people, and natural objects are all considered kami. The mysterious creating and harmonizing powers of the kami are the core of Shinto beliefs. Shintoists aspire to have sincerity or true heart, which is regarded as the way or will of the kami. According to some teachings, if one is truly purified, his heart can be the kami's abode. There are no concepts that compare to the Christian beliefs in the wrath of God or the separation of God from humanity due to sin.
             According to Shinto mythology, Izanagi-no-mikoto and Izanami-no-mikoto were the first kami. They gave birth to the Japanese Islands. Amaterasu Omikami (sun-goddess) is their daughter and the ancestress of the Imperial Family. She unified the country and all the gods.

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