The Shinto religion was started in the Tokugawa period (1600-1868) of
Japanese history. The Tokugawa 'Enlightenment' inspired a group of people who
studied kokugaku, which roughly translated means 'nativism,' 'Japanese Studies,'
or 'Native Studies.' Kokugaku's intent was to recover 'Japanese character' to
what it was before the early influences of foreigners, especially the Chinese.
Some of these influences include Confucianism (Chinese), Taoism (Chinese),
Buddhism (Indian and Chinese), and Christianity (Western European). The
kokugakushu ('nativist') focused most of their efforts on recovering the Shinto
religion, the native Japanese religion, from fragments of texts and popular
However, Shintoism is probably not a native religion of Japan (since the
Japanese were not the original 'natives' of Japan). There really is no one
thing that can be called 'Shinto,' The name itself is a bit misleading because
it is made up of two Chinese words meaning 'the way of the gods'(Shen : '
spiritual power, divinity'; Tao : 'the way or path'). The word for this in
Japanese is kannagara : "the way of the kami ."
Many things can be said about Shinto. First, it was a tribal religion,
not a state one. However, even when the tribes were organized into coherent
states, they still retained their Shinto beliefs. Second, all Shinto cults
believe in Kami (?the divine?) Individual clans worshipped a single Kami which
was regarded as the principal ancestor of the clan. As the clan spread, it
still worshipped it's Kami, but when one clan conquered another clan-the
defeated clan had to worship the Kami of the victorious clan. What the Kami
consist of is hard to define. Kami refers to the gods of Heaven, Earth, and the
Underworld. But Kami also are all those things that have divinity in them to
some degree. Third, all Shinto involve some sort of shrine worship, the most
important was the Izumo...