TokyoCityTOUR Culture & Travel Tips

Religion

Buddhism

Buddhism came to Japan in the middle of 6 century. Supporters of Buddhism won a victory in the political power struggles of the time.
Building temples in every area under government patronage, it spread throughout the country. In the Kamakura period- 1185 to 1333-, as a number of new leader appeared and deepened its philosophy, Buddhism made clear its position of saving the weak. Zen Buddhism was brought to Japan in the Kamakura period by priest who studied in china, and it flourished principally as the religion of Samurai.
At present, a culture in Japan that has Buddhism as its backdrop has laid roots deeply in the lives of the people and, together with Shinto, Forms the spiritual culture of the Japanese people. Also, even today now sects of Buddhism keep emerging and gaining believers.

Temple

Buddhist temple is place where priests and nuns reside to practice ascetic exercises and hold Buddhist ceremonies and where Buddhist images are enshrine.
At the entrances is two-story temple gate, then come buildings such as the main temple, an auditorium, a pagoda, a bell tower. Almost all the roots are titled.

Also, people graves in Japan are generally located on temple grounds.
People go to temples during Bon festival and equinoctial week for making visit to grave of their ancestors, and relatives gather on the anniversaries of the dead and have priests recite sutras in the temple. On the other hands, there are numerous temples in Kyoto and have been identified as places as place of sightseeing interest.
People visit such temples for the pleasure of appreciating the structures and the Buddhist images.

Juzu -Buddhist rosaries-

Juzu -Buddhist rosaries- are held in the hands when praying to Buddha or who counting number of times, by fingering the beads, those Buddhist prayers are recited. It is similar to the Catholic rosary. Juzu are held in the hands when worshipping Buddha and also when paying respects to the spirits of the dead upon visiting their graves. There are usually 108 Juzu beads which are said to remove the 108 worldly desires cited in Buddhist teaching.

Jizo -guardian deities-

Jizo -guardian deities- are though to protect all living thing in the world from the time when Buddha died until the Benevolent Bodhisattva appears.
In Japan, storn Jizo statues, usually about one meter high, are erected as boundary gods at the boundaries of towns and villages and at crossroads.
Jizo are said to rescue the spirits of children when thy die and have even been erected at the actual spot where traffic accidents with children have occurred.
Most people today feel closeness to Jizo, fondly calling them - OJIZOSAN-

Shinto -Buddhist synthesis-

In Japan long times ago, Buddhism which came from abroad, and Shinto, which is a folk religion, occasionally came together in a synthesis.
Because Buddhism is not a theistic doctrine and Shinto principally worships nature, there are no contradictions in synthesizing them.
This is called Shinbutsu-shugo. This tendency continued for a long time after Buddhism was introduced in the 6 century, with Shinto shrine supporting the constriction of Buddhism temple.
When Japan was began to function as modern nation state in 1868, Shinbutsu-shugo was prohibited because the government set a policy of strengthening Shinto, but now, it is quite common to set up both Buddhist family alters and Shinto family alters in the same house or to have wedding with Shinto rituals funerals with Buddhism rituals.

Shichifukujin -The seven gods of good luck-

Shichifukujin are the seven gods that bring good luck. They are representative of gods and holy person in Buddhism, Shintoism and Taoism and are often drawn riding in a treasure ship.
It has been said that people in Japan, following the story of seven holy men in ancient China, put together seven gods of good luck and came to believe in them.
Shichifukujin became widely known in the Muromachi period- 1333 to 1573.
Nowadays, at temples and shrine with Shichifukujin connection, people pray for long life and family well-being, and a merchant, hoping for business success, displays Shichifukujin pictures.

Zen

Zen buddhism was introduced to Japan by Japanese monks who studied zen buddhism in China in early 12th century.
It emphasize to gain enlightment through zazen (meditation while sitting still on floor) and daily work called samu such as raising vegetable, cleasening, cooking etc.

Thoughts of zen such as "to know one has enough" deeply influenced Japanese customs, ways of lives and culture such as tea ceremony, ikebana(flower arrangement), Japanese garden etc.