It’s true that less than one percent of the Japanese population embraces Christianity. So what is everyone else? Most people claim to be Buddhist, but the Japanese have an older religious tradition called Shinto. In every town, there are Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. The coexistence and mixing of these religions have resulted in ancestor worship, the worship of gods in nature, and prayers to gods that have a role in determining test scores, traffic safety, or the like. We often hear people say that they “prayed to god,” but we are always uncertain as to which god they prayed. It seems that most Japanese people are not devout in their Buddhist or Shinto beliefs. Rather, they see the rituals of those religions as a way to maintain Japanese culture and harmony. We know people who pray to their ancestors and make small offerings to those ancestors on a daily basis. Others we know visit the Buddhist temple or Shinto shrine once a year during the new year’s celebration. Most will participate in a local festival that celebrates local gods, but the festival has the feeling of a county fair rather than of a religious experience. Other people are simply so busy, they don’t give much thought to religious matters or traditions at all.
Religion in Japan
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