Very many Japanese count as both Buddhists (72 percent)
and Shinto followers (95 percent). The traditional Buddhist
sects (Jodo, Zen, Shingon) have the greatest support,
although the "new religions" (shinko shukyo) have made great
progress since 1945. Christians constitute a small minority
(about 1.5 percent), but Christian writers and intellectuals
have nevertheless played a not insignificant role throughout
the 20th century. Japan's Constitution (1946) states that
public funds cannot be allocated to religious groups.
Over the centuries, there has been a widespread belief
that shinto is a common cultural heritage for all Japanese.
This has been particularly expressed in the Japanese
cosmogony (mythical creation story) in the work Kojiki
(712), which tells of how the Japanese islands and the most
important deities were created in the morning by the god
Izanagi and the goddess Izanami. Among their offspring was
also the goddess of the Sun Amaterasu Omikami, to whom the
Japanese empire traces its ancestry. From 1868 to 1945, a
nationalist version of Shintoism was state religion in
Japan. Shinto was then not defined as a religion, but as a
moral system emphasizing patriotism and the notion of the
emperor as the descendant of the sun goddess, which all
Japanese were obliged to follow.
Countryaah data, Buddhism was introduced from Korea in the 500s. In the
following thousand years, Buddhism increasingly influenced
Japanese society. Buddhism was first developed in the
capital Nara (Nara schools). In the 800s, Tendai and Shingon
schools were introduced from China. Both were attached to
the Imperial House.
From the 1100s on and into the Kamakura period
(1185–1333), other Buddhist schools were introduced from
China, which appealed more widely to the broad strata of the
people: the Pure Land schools (Jodo and Jodo-shinshu) and
Zen. The Nichiren sect, with its peculiar lack of tolerance
of other Buddhist directions, was formed in the 13th
century. During this period, Buddhism and Shinto were
subjected to strong mutual influence.
A number of monasteries developed into fortified cities
and could mobilize armies of armed monks. The monasteries
were eradicated during Oda Nobunaga (1534–1582), but
Buddhism has since been used by state power to control the
population. In 1638, a system was introduced which meant
that each family had to be registered at a Buddhist temple,
and only Buddhist priests were allowed to perform rituals in
connection with death. After the restoration of the
emperor's political power in 1868, the position of Buddhism
was weakened in favor of Shinto.
Christianity was first brought to Japan by the Jesuit
Francisco Xavier in 1549 and quickly gained considerable
popularity. However, the Catholic missionaries were expelled
in 1587, and Christians were subjected to constant
persecution until Christianity was totally banned in 1637.
However, underground churches continued to exist until the
land was again opened for mission in 1859.
New religions are called shinko shukyo in Japan. From the
beginning of the 19th century, a number of religious
movements arose, partly with the preponderance of elements
of Shinto and partly from Buddhism. Among movements with
overweight shinto elements are Omoto; Buddhist directions,
for example, are reiyukai, Soka Gakkai and Rissho Kosei Kai;
and among directions that cannot naturally be classified in
the two major main groups are tenrikyo, PL Kyodan (Perfect
Liberty) and Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth).
For the Buddhist directions, the Tendai School in
particular, with its emphasis that everyone can "become a
living Buddha" and its strong focus on the Lotus Sutra as a
writing authority, has been particularly influential. Common
to many of the new religions is that they are founded by
charismatic individuals, in many cases women, and that they
often claim to convey a special, divine revelation.
Ancestral cult is also often a prominent feature.
Many Japanese celebrations and traditions are celebrated
by many Japanese. It is common for a home to have both a
kami altar (kamidana) and a buddha altar (butsudan) where
offerings in the form of flowers and food are made. Other
rituals apply to the cycle of life (birth and wedding are
often celebrated with Shinto rituals, while funerals are
performed by Buddhist priests) or the various stages of the
year: New Year's Eve, Midsummer's Day (Bon Fest) and the
festivities of Spring and Autumn evenings. These feasts were
originally linked to the cult of the ancestors and
confirmation of the unity of the family, but have in recent
times to a certain degree become more worldly.