Religion in Japan
In Japan today, religion is freely practiced and, at least in small numbers, a multitude of religions are present. The religious beliefs of Japan’s populace breakdown to 91% Shinto, 72% Buddhist, and 13% other (less than 1% is Christian). Although in the West religious faiths are viewed as mutually exclusive, in Japan it is common for a person to adopt beliefs from more than one theology. The majority of the population therefore is both Buddhist and Shinto. Both of these faiths center upon nonmaterial, group values. Buddhism stresses oneness; people are not isolated, but are instead part of a network of souls. Buddhists traditionally eschew material possessions and strive to reach nirvana, becoming one with the universal spirit and thus throwing off the yoke of their individual identities. Similarly, Shinto beliefs hold that all things possess spirits; Shinto stresses the importance of nature and ancestral bonds. A nationalistic religion, it too values the group over the individual. Buddhist and Shinto beliefs fuse well with one another and, since they have coexisted for more than 1,500 years, much cross-fertilization has occurred between the two religions, resulting in what is often referred to as “Ryobu-Shinto,” or “Double Shinto.” However, many unique traits still separate the two. Japan is a nation widely associated with the practice of “cultural borrowing.” The Japanese have liberally borrowed culture traits from their geographic neighbors (particularly China) over the course of their history, adapting the traits that suited them while always altering them to make them distinctly Japanese. In this way, the Japanese have acquired many of their defining culture traits, including one of their major religions. Buddhism arrived in Japan in the sixth century. Although it originated in India, Buddhism came to Japan via China and Korea, so much of the religion retained a distinctive Chinese flair (as evidenced still today in the architecture,...
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