Origins of the Universe in Shintoism: An Ancient Religion of Japan

Md. Abu Taher

Assistant Professor, Department of World Religions and Culture, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh.


Almost all religions have ideas and beliefs about the origin of the universe. Some religious traditions, such as Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma) and Buddhism, see the universe as eternal, without beginning or end. The first books of the Bible contain an account of the creation of the universe, which some Christian faiths hold to be allegorical, and others regard as an expression of literal fact. Other religious traditions have other views, but each attempts to explain this ultimate question of where we came from and how it occurred. In this context,the Shinto people believe that the universe was created for them by their gods. The creation myth of Shintoism contains some general traits of the religion itself and is also influenced by some aspects of ancient Japanese culture. The mythical story also played an influential role in designing the religion’s fundamental beliefs. In the Shinto creation myth, we will find various components; as power politics, division of labour, dimensions of relation, the importance of purification. Therefore, having some knowledge of Shintoism’s basic features will help understand the influence of the myth of the origin of the universe. Shintoism or Shinto is the indigenous religious belief and practice of Japan. It is a polytheistic and animistic faith and involves the worship of kami or spirits. Shinto has no founder or sacred canon. It has no official scripture compared to the Bible in Christianity or the Quran in Islam. However, it has few highly venerated groups of texts, which are very ancient and preserve a record of the myths on the origin of ancient Japan’s universe and religious life. The Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters), the Nihon Shoki (Continuing Chronicles of Japan), the Rokkkushi (Six nationals Histories) and the Jinno Shotoki (a study of Shinto and Japanese politics and history) may be considered the sacred books of Shinto. According to the Agency for Cultural Affairs statistics, in 1982, there were 79,700 shrines (places of worship), and the number of Shinto believers stands at 74,660,000. In this paper, an attempt has been madeto describe the Shinto’s general description and mainly focus on its mythology or stories of origins of the universe and the sources are mainly based on relevant secondary books and articles.

Keywords Shintoism . Hinduism . Buddhism . Japan’s ancient religion .