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  • More than a hundred people in Tokyo celebrated the New Year in a very unusual way by taking an ice cold bath.

  • Dressed in traditional white clothing, the men and women jogged around a shrine and chanted before lowering themselves into the freezing cold water.

  • This purification ritual is a central tenet of Shinto, a Japanese religion that is as old as the country itself.

  • So what exactly is Shinto?

  • Well, it's the largest religion in Japan, practiced by an estimated 80 percent of the population.

  • Back in the 6th century, indigenous Japanese people invented the word Shinto to distinguish their already existing faith from Buddhism, which was spreading throughout the region.

  • Over time, Shinto and Buddhism came to coexist peacefully.

  • Shinto is considered more of a way of life, rather than a specific set of beliefs or worship of a central deity.

  • Most Japanese people identify as both Buddhist and Shinto.

  • So, how can someone follow two religions at once?

  • Well, Shinto doesn't have many of the characteristics associated with religion.

  • Unlike Christianity or Buddhism, it has no official founder or sacred text.

  • Shinto does not try to explain the world in a sense of right and wrong, and thus, there are no Shinto preachers or missionaries.

  • The only goal of Shinto is to be in touch with Kamil, or spiritual energy, through sacred rituals.

  • These include weddings, funerals, worship at a Shrine or at home, and huge festivals.

  • The word 'Shinto' means "way of Kami."

  • Kami is extremely complex, but basically they are sacred spirits that exist in earthy objects, like mountains and trees, and in concepts, like fertility.

  • Kami also has an ancestral form, as humans become Kami after they die.

  • The Sun Goddess "Amaterasu" is the most important Kami.

  • In Japanese mythology, the royal family is thought to be descended from Amaterasu, beginning with the first emperor, Jimmu.

  • It is thought that prayers and offerings to Kami spirits at Shinto shrines and festivals will wash away evil spirits and thus purify a person or object.

  • This process is the lifeblood of the Shito practice, happening on a daily, weekly, seasonal, lunar, and annual basis.

  • In fact, taking part in ritualistic worship and purification is the entirety of the faith.

  • This has garnered criticism, as some liken Shinto worship to a performance rather than an act of devotion based on values and beliefs.

  • Adherents to Shinto, however, think of rituals as a religious experience, one that binds a community together even more so than shared beliefs.

  • Although Shinto is thousands of years old, it still has an active presence in Japanese life.

  • For instance, new buildings are 'purified' by a Shinto priest, and many Japanese-made cars are blessed during the assembly process.

  • Japan's national sport, Sumo, is directly derived from Shinto rituals, and symbols of purity can be found on the ring and on sumo garments.

  • Many Japanese people keep a tiny shrine-altar in their homes, and local shrines play a huge role in communities, bringing people together for festivals, and hosting weddings and funerals.

  • Whether or not they identify as religious, virtually everyone in Japan is, in some sense, a part of Shinto.

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  • Shinto is a peaceful and generally positive religion, as it regards all humans as inherently good.

  • Still, it doesn't hold the title of the World's Most Peaceful Religion.

  • So what does?

  • Find out in this video.

  • Even within the religion, violence may be used to protect oneself or one's country.

  • One Hindu god states that violence is necessary in the defense of justice and does not conflict with a spiritual life.

  • Thanks for watching Seeker Daily!

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More than a hundred people in Tokyo celebrated the New Year in a very unusual way by taking an ice cold bath.

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What Is The Ancient Japanese Religion Shinto?

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    ayami posted on 2019/10/14
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