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AsianInfo on Japan

Japan's Religion and Philosophy   

 

 

 

 

 


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Two major currents of religion in Japan are Buddhism, which was brought to Japan in the sixth century, and Shinto, which developed a the nation's folk religion.  As of the end of 1994, there were 231,428 religious institutions, including Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines and Christian churches.  Culturally, historically, and politically Buddhism has had a great influence on the Japanese mentality.  Buddhism is divided into a number of sects with the major sects being Jodo Shinshu, Nichiren, and Zen.  As of the end of 1994, there were over 78,000 Buddhist temples in Japan.

Shinto has survived in the form of traditional beliefs and customs and in such practices as individual prayers and a variety of ties and festivities.  Unlike such imported systems as Buddhism and Confucianism, Shinto embodies an indigenous religion and philosophy.  Under the present Constitution Shinto has no official status of any situation, however, Shinto has no official status of any kind.  Statistics show that there are 117 million followers of Shinto and 90 million adherents of Buddhism in Japan.  In customary practice, Shinto rites are observed to celebrate such occasions as birth and marriage, while Buddhist ceremonies are used for funerals and memorial services.

Christianity was brought to Japan in 1549 by Spanish Jesuits and propagated until it was officially banned in 1612.  The ban was lifted in 1873 after the Meiji Restoration.  In 1994 there were 6,574 churches in Japan, divided about evenly between Catholic and Protestant.  The number of Japanese Christians totaled 1,519,396.

Alongside the main faiths, many other religious groups have come into being or reached Japanese shores since the Meiji era.  They include Buddhist-influenced faiths, Shinto-type faiths, and hybrid faiths  combining Buddhist and Shinto elements.  As of the end of 1994, these religious groups had a bout 42,176 missions nationwide and 11,112,595 followers.

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