Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools
You are here: Home > 244 Japan > A Ridiculously Brief History of Japanese Religion

A Ridiculously Brief History of Japanese Religion

by Barnhill, David L. last modified Feb 11, 2011 09:18 AM

You have to be kidding....


I. Pre-Historical Japan (to 550 c.e.)

Shamanism : seers (those who can understand the spirit world, the cause of illness, the future, etc.); mediums (those who can communicate with the spirit world); witch doctors (those who can manipulate the world by virtue of their spiritual powers)

Nature animism : belief in KAMI, spiritual forces and powers in nature

Myths : different tribes have different myths of origin of world, etc.

II. Early Japan (approx. 550-800)

ASUKA PERIOD: ca. 500-710. NARA PERIOD: 710-784

Introduction of continental Buddhism, first in the form of magical or shamanistic Buddhism (esp. concerning healing), then philosophic Buddhism (with little original development).

Buddhism kept from the masses.

"Shinto" is defined as a single native religion distinct from Buddhism. The two are largely assimilated.

III. Heian Religion (approx. 800-1200)

Development of Tendai and Shingon as Japanese forms of Chinese Buddhism. Ritual magic. This-worldly philosophy.

Introduction of Pure Land Buddhism (theistic Buddhism concerned with the salvation of sinners).

The spread of Buddhism to the masses, especially in the form of a syncretic blend of Buddhism and native Shamanism.

Belief in "goryo," spirits of those who died frustrated or angry. They remain on the earth until they are satisfied.

The assimilation of Buddhism and Shinto continues.

IV. Medieval Japanese Religion {approx 1200-1600}

KAMAKURA : 1185-1333. MUROMACHI: 1338-1573. MOMOYAMA: 1574-1600

Zen (stressing meditation and enlightenment) and Pure Land (stressing salvation through faith in the saving Buddha Amida) dominate.

Native belief in goryo spirits continues.

Philosophic basis for Buddhism and Shinto assimilation developed.

Buddhism expressed in art forms such as poetry, painting, gardens, and Nō drama.

V. Tokugawa (Edo) Period: Early Modern Japanese Religion (approx. 1600-1868)

Confucianism dominates early part of the period.

Buddhism continues but declines in importance.

Shinto revival, and increased concern about the past, from 1700-1868.

VI. Modern Japanese Religion (1868-1945)

State Shinto and the rise of Shinto nationalism.

Other religions strictly controlled or repressed.

VII. Contemporary Japanese Religion (1945 To Present)

State Shinto disestablished by the American government.

Freedom of religion.

The rise of "New Religions" which adapt traditional popular religion (including shamanism) to modern urban life.

Document Actions
by Barnhill, David L. last modified Feb 11, 2011 09:18 AM