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Shintoism Beliefs and Holidays

By: Jessica MousseauDiversity Insights
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Shintoism Beliefs and Shintoism Holidays

Shintoism, the oldest Japanese religion, centers around nature, worshiping ancestors, and kami — sacred powers in the cosmos that are worshiped in shrines. This animistic and polytheistic faith believes in the sanctity of all living beings, from humans and animals to trees and oceans.

Shintoism doesn’t have founders, prophets, gods, or any major texts outlining its beliefs. Its influence is deeply ingrained in Japanese culture, emphasizing purity, harmony, fertility, solidarity, reverence for nature, and the belief that the souls of the dead can impact the living.

Important Shintoism Holidays

Nara Yamayaki

In January at twilight, the grass of the Naga hillside is burned by people wearing warrior costumes to celebrate the resolution between two local temples. This signals the beginning of Spring.

Kasuga Matsuri

Held in March to honor the Kasuga shrine, this festival features ritual dances and music.

Kanda Matsuri

Taking place in May, floats filled with dancers and portable shrines are paraded throughout Tokyo to honor deities or kami at the Kanda shrine. It commemorates the victory at the Battle of Sekigahara. It’s celebrated in odd-numbered years.

Sanno Matsuri

Occurring in June in even-numbered years, this festival honors the nation’s new rulers. The Shinkosai, a procession that begins and ends at the Hie-jinja Shrine, weaves throughout Tokyo for nearly nine hours.

Gion Matsuri

Throughout the entire month of July, Kyoto celebrates Gion Matsuri with large floats accompanied by musicians. It started as a purification ritual during a plague outbreak, which people believed was caused by spirits.

Aomori Nebuta Matsuri

Taking place in early August, this summer festival features paper floats of famous people along with singing and dancing. It’s believed that its origins come from the parade float figures used to attract enemies to the front of the battlefield.

Chichibu Yomatsuri

Each December, Chichibu deities are celebrated with parades followed by fireworks.

Final Thoughts

We hope that this list of important Shintoism holidays is helpful when considering the scheduling needs of your staff. In addition to this list, we also have an Interfaith Calendar 2024, which includes highlights of religious holidays and festivals for all world religions. For all 200+ religious holidays, try out our Online Diversity Calendar.

FAQs

What are the major holidays of Shintoism?

Some of the major religious holidays in Shintoism include Matsuri and Rei-sai. Matsuri, which means festival or holiday in Japanese, encompasses a wide range of celebrations dedicated to various kami (deities or spirits). Rei-sai is a grand festival often held at Shinto shrines to honor a specific kami, featuring rituals and ceremonies that strengthen the bond between the kami and the community.

What do Shinto festivals celebrate?

In the spring, they celebrate a bountiful harvest while the fall festivals thank the deity for the past season’s crops. In summer, they pray for a safe season without misfortune or disasters. These festivals reflect the deep connection Shintoism has with nature and the cycles of the year, embodying gratitude and reverence for the kami.

What are some of the major beliefs of Shintoism?

The main beliefs of Shinto include respect for nature and one’s family and the importance of being pure. Shintoism emphasizes living in harmony with the kami and the natural world, highlighting the sacredness of all life. Ritual purification, or misogi, is a key practice, symbolizing the cleansing of impurities and the renewal of the spirit.

What isn’t allowed in Shintoism?

Anything that would disturb kami or the harmony of the world is prohibited. This includes acts that pollute the environment, disrupt social order, or violate moral principles. Shinto practices encourage mindfulness and respect in interactions with both the natural world and fellow humans to maintain balance and purity.

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