The indigenous Japanese religion of Shinto is another centripetal force in Japan. It is tied to the natural landscape as well as to the Japanese sense of identity (Gerbert, 2001). Doctrine and creed are not as significant in Shinto as practice. Shinto claims over 106,000,000 followers out of a population of 127,900,000 (Swanson, 2006).
Shinto is the "Way of the Kami." Kami are Japan's revered spirits. Shintoism glorifies the principle of life and the principle of the Japanese nation. There are over 80,000 Shinto shrines (jinja) across Japan (Figures 6 and 7). The following website has excellent photos of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples listed by historical periods:http://www.art-and-archaeology.com/japan/japan.html. They form part of the cultural landscape and are a constant reminder of the presence of the kami in the everyday life of the Japanese. Kami are believed to inhabit particular features of nature, such as trees and waterfalls. Religion was not separate from the secular in early Japan because the kami lived among the people and were unique to their islands (Gerbert, 2001).
The introduction of Buddhism in the 6th Century substantially added to the religious landscape. However, Buddhism did not displace Shintoism which had prior strong geographic ties within society and contributed to the Japanese sense of place. Festivals, (matsuri) which traditionally allowed the Japanese to communicate with the divine, were frequent and continue to be significant social affairs in cities and towns throughout Japan (Figure 8).
Shinto shrines dot the Japanese cultural landscape. The distinctive torii gate marks the entrance to a shrine and the shrine itself may contain art as well as ritual objects (Figure 9). Visitors wash their hands and faces before entering the sacred spaces as a symbol of purification (Figures 10 and 11). Worshipers pull on a long cord to ring a bell to arouse the kami (Figure 12). For most of the archipelago's inhabitants, Shinto is an integral part of Japanese culture. Another useful website on Shintoism and shrines is http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3903.html.