- Published: Thursday, 03 September 2020 08:54
The word “Shintō” is a Japanese pronunciation of Chinese shen dao (the way of the shen or ancestral spirits); in Japanese it is usually taken to mean “the way of the gods.” The Japanese name is kami no michi, “the way of the kami,” which distinguishes it from the island nation’s other major faith, Buddhism. Shint¯ in Japan is the worship of Kami (sing. and pl.), deities whose lineage goes back to prehistoric times when they were patrons of places, communities and above all of the clans (uji) that were the major units of early Japanese society. Myths of these deities are preserved in two of Japan’s oldest books, the Kojiki (Record of Ancient Things, 712 CE) and the Nihonshoki (Chronicles of Japan, 720 CE). They tell of the descent from heaven of the Japanese primal parents, Izanagi and Izanami, of their generation of the islands and gods of Japan, of various vicissitudes of the gods in the Kamiyo or “Divine Age” of a divine council convening in the River of Heaven, and finally of the descent of the ancestors of the imperial house from heaven to earth.