Religious Studies Essays on The Kami of Japanese Shintoism

Shintoism, which means “the ways of gods,” is a mythological, ancestral, and nature kind of worship that originated in Japan in the late 500BC. Japanese of Shinto believe that before the earth came into existence, amorphous matter floated on water after which a sprouting reed shoot arose from the matter, and a deity came to existence on its own. The deity is what “gave birth” to what is now called Amaterasu Kami, which organized the world. The religion is mainly associated with the deification of heroes, scholars, and emperors (Kitasawa 479). Shinto doctrines believe that ancestors are not dead but live among the people who love them, unseen and they watch their descendants and protect their homes.

Shinto shrines are made up of pure wood, simple and are thatched with no painting, gilding, lacquer, nor even meretricious ornaments. The use of metallic parts was completely avoided. A plane mirror is placed on the altar which represented the heart of the humans which when pure exactly shows the image of Deity. There is no distinct way of praying in the altars, and this is for the worshippers to decide the best way that suits them (Kitasawa 481). The religion sees physical impurity as analogous to the moral impurity, which is unacceptable to their gods. This is among the main reason behind Japanese love for the cleanliness of their bodies and homes.

Kami are spirits worshipped by Shinto religion, which can be in the form of forces of nature, landscape, and spirits of the ancestors. There are six types of Kami namely human, nature, supernatural, State, ancestral, and sectarian. There are good Kami often associated with love and nurture, and there are bad Kami that brings disharmony and destruction. Shinto has been associated with festivals and ceremonies to their gods, for instance, Niiname-sai where the Emperor offered crops from their fresh harvests to Kami to receive more blessings.

Works Cited

Kitasawa, Shinjiro. “Shintoism and the Japanese Nation.” The Sewanee Review, vol. 23, no. 4, 1915, pp. 479–483. JSTOR, Retrieved from