Religion in Japan: a blend

Most Japanese participate in rituals and customs derived from several religious traditions. The birth of a new baby is celebrated with a formal visit to a Shinto shrine at the age of about one month, as are the third, fifth, and seventh birthdays and the official beginning of adulthood at age twenty. Wedding ceremonies are often performed by Shinto priests, but Christian wedding ceremonies, called howaito uedingu (“white wedding”), are also popular.

shinto

The Nachi Shrine, an ancient site of Shinto.

Japanese funerals are usually performed by Buddhist priests, and Buddhist rites are also common on death day anniversaries of deceased family members. 91% of Japanese funerals take place according to Buddhist traditions.

buddhist

Toshodaiji, a Buddhist temple in Nara (near Kyoto).

There are two types of holidays in Japan. Matsuri (festivals) are usually of Shinto origin and honor rice cultivation and the local community’s spiritual well-being. Nenjyū gyōji (annual events) are largely of Chinese or Buddhist origin.

Very few matsuri or nencho gyoji are national holidays, but they are included in the national calendar of annual events. Most matsuri are local events and follow local traditions. They are often associated with Shinto shrines.

Most holidays are secular in nature, but the two most significant for most Japanese–New Year’s Day and Obon–involve visits to Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples, respectively. New Year’s (January 1–3) is marked by the practice of numerous customs and the consumption of special foods. Visiting Shinto shrines to pray for family blessings in the coming year, dressing in a kimono, hanging special decorations, eating noodles on New Year’s Eve, and playing a poetry card game are among these practices. During Obon, bon (spirit altars) are set up in front of Buddhist family altars, which, along with ancestral graves, are cleaned in anticipation of the return of the spirits. People living away from their family homes return for visits with relatives. Celebrations include folk dancing and prayers at Buddhist temples as well as family rituals in the home.

Wikipedia source