back to Gallery Mainpage    


     Shinto means 'the way of the gods' (also known as 'kami no michi'). It is a spiritual tradition distinct to Japanese culture. The 'gods' (i.e. 'shin' or 'kami') are spirit powers residing in heaven and earth. In ancient times, the idea of these spirits was similar with other animistic traditions (see the gallery section, Shamanism in Korea). By the 5th and 6th centuries, Shinto became strongly influenced by Buddhism and Confucianism as introduced from China and Korea. According to Japanese tradition, Father Sky and Mother Earth spirits gave birth to Amaterasu Omikami, the Sun Goddess who is considered to be the ancestor of the emperor.
      During the Meiji period (1868-1911), the government gave the emperor special importance and emphasized his divine ancestry. Shinto was formalized and employed as a state supporting ideology. In 1945, partly under influence of the Allied Occupation, Shinto was disestablished as a state religion and regarded as a religion alongside others, such as Buddhism. Shinto continues as a pervasive influence on Japanese customs, rituals, and artistic expressions regarding spiritual help for people during turning points of seasons, village festivals, life transitions and crises.  For most people, Shinto practice is more closely related to their personal efforts to keep harmony with nature and health and success for themselves, family, and business rather than to imperial ideology.
      In this section of the Gallery, one folder shows images from the House of the Sun, located outside Tokyo. The House of the Sun is a residential center for youth and adults with developmental disabilities. The site was converted from a traditional samurai home that now provides facilities for social welfare workers from various Asian countries who come for a residential learning experience. Contemporary buildings provide a dormitory for people with disabilities, some of whom also work in the nearby town, as well as a pottery studio where ceramic artists teach residents and local people how to make pottery.
      The other folder shows some places from the Kamigamo Shinto shrine in Kyoto. People can stand in front of the sand cones, clap their hands in respect to gain the spirits' attention, and pray for blessings from the Thunder Spirit. A small shrine is detailed, dedicated to a snake (dragon) spirit of the nearby mountain. This spirit is associated with the stone enshrined there.