Recently, I started visiting shrines as a member of a historical walk club and I’ve realized that I don’t know anything about Shintoism. It might sound like an excuse but, for me, visiting shrines is just about the same as visiting historical sites and I didn’t need to think about exactly what Shintoism is.
However, It seems that it’s about time for me to touch the headwater of our culture.
What is Shintoism?
Minoru Sonoda (1936~), a professor of religion and a priest in Chichibu shrine said: “Shintoism is a religion in which you feel the existence of gods in nature.”
Saigyo(1118-1190), a famous poet and a monk from the Heian period (8th c) composed a poem when he visited Ise shrine.
“I don’t know exactly what there are in the air but I somehow shed tears because they are very grateful and respectable.”
Nobuhiro Nishitakatsuji(1980- ), second primary priest at Dazaifu Tenmangu said; “The principle of Shintoism is that you feel and appreciate the beauty of four seasons.”
Shintoism, unlike other major religions, does not have a founder, nor a certain bible, but if there are some texts that we can find the heart of Shintoism, they should be “Kojiki” or Record of Ancient Matters, “Nihon Shoki” or The Chronicles of Japan, and “Manyo-shu” or the oldest collection of Japanese poems.
Especially, Manyo-shu is important when it comes to seeing how the ancient people perceived the nature and felt like one with it.
In Manyo-shu, for example, a deer and bush clover get married. Sea and mountains die as if they were mortal. There was no clear distinction among human beings, animals, plants, mountains, river and such.
It seems like that all the objects on the earth are living in the same level without any hierarchy.
When ancient people sing as “mountains laugh,” the word “laugh” isn’t a metaphor. People think mountains are really laughing.
In here, everything on the earth is unified one.
（to be continued）