While Japan appears to us from the outside world as an ultramodern, urban and westernized country, but during your cruise you will discover, the genuine Japanese culture. A life imbued with a genuine cult of nature and its forces, a Shinto or Buddhist living mystic and an art of living together coming from mutual respect and work in community service.
Shintoism & Buddhism
Most Japanese have a neutral view of religion and practice several in their lives, mainly Buddhism and Shintoism. Although these religions share some common aspects, A few important points differentiate them, especially in terms of architecture. Thus we talk of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. Most of the time, the entry of these religious buildings is recognizable: for shrines by a torii 鳥 居 (“Portal”) and for the temples as a mon 門 (“door”) to the substantially more complex structure
Shintoism was born in Japan from a mixture of animism, shamanism, and the cult of the ancestors. Little by little, all these cults of fertility, these adorations of a sometimes-capricious nature (earthquakes, typhoons, tsunamis, etc), were amalgamated and codified to form the Shinto. The origins of Shinto go way back in the past, may be to the Jomon Culture (about 15,000 BC to 300 BC) or perhaps to the Yayoi Culture (about 300 BC to 300 AD). The introduction rice cultivation seems to have brought with it rites associated with planting and harvesting, probably very close to the Shinto rituals still practiced today in the Japanese countryside.
Buddhism was imported from China and Korea from the fifth and sixth centuries, therefore it is strongly influenced Chinese and Korean Buddhism but also by Shintoism. In 592, after power struggles with Shinto, Buddhism was declared the state’s religion. Buddhism was introduced by the “top” in the dominant social classes, before reaching the people because its relatively difficult teachings could not yet be understood by the general, not literate, population of Japan.
The history of the Todai-ji Temple of Nara illustrates particularly this symbiosis. When the Big Buddha statue was erected, an oracle from the Shinto god Hachiman was reported to want to protect the Great Buddha under construction. It is even said that the oracle would have allowed the discovery of the gold deposit, which helped gather enough ore to gild the colossal statue. Hachiman thus became a protective deity of the Buddhist temple and its worship was moved to Nara, on the very site of Tōdai-ji.
A same person may go pray at the Shinto shrine on New Year’s for a good year, or prior to school entrance exams to implore Its success, and later have a Western style wedding in a church rather than a Shinto wedding, and finally a funeral at a Buddhist temple. Funeral rites, of Buddhist and Shinto origin, consist of a cremation of the body and then the burying of the ashes in the family tomb. Then they celebrate December 25 with the family around a good Yule log.