Nature & Culture of Japan

To make your trip to Japan more interesting

History Shrines & Shinto Religion

Japanese people think that everyone becomes God after death by no means

The Shinto religious facilities called shrines (jinja) worship God. God is usually the person who died.

Originally, the shrines that have continued since ancient times enshrine the ancestors of the local people. People in the old days thought that the gods of the other world and the people of this world could make contact in places where we feel the power of nature, such as mountains, big rocks and islands. Recently (probably around 6th century), many of them have developed as shrines as in the modern way. It is said that there were no buildings at the old times, and only objects of nature worship were there. So, if you look inside or around the old shrines, you may find what was the center of prayer in ancient times.

On the other hand, there are the shrines which have rather short history. Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo which was established in 1869 is one of them. It enshrines all those who lost their lives in the war for the country. War criminals who were put in trial by the victorious countries in World War II are also enshrined here. Japanese side as the defeated nation explains that those people died in the war for whatever reason and that they cannot be removed from the shrine. But internationally the explanation is not yet understood.

Hiko (=airflight) Shrine is another example of a new shrine in history. The Wright brothers of the United States are famous as the developers of manned airplanes. But it is said that a Japanese man, Chuhachi Ninomiya, was technically able to fly similar airplanes before them. However, due to the lack of understanding by the military section of the government at that time, he was overtaken by the Wright brothers.

Chuhachi was disappointed and stopped being involved in airplane development. However, since the invention of the airplane, he was deeply saddened by the fact that many people died in the aviation accident. So he built Hiko Shrine in Kyoto in 1915 by investing his own money, in order to worship the victims of the airplane accident

In Japan, there is a custom of not treating the dead people very badly for any reason. This is probably because there is the idea that all the people absolutely become Gods after the death. The same is true even for those who have been executed by the public, such as murdering many people.

Oomiwa Shrine (Sakurai City, Nara Prefecture) was originally a shrine that worships mountains.


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