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Ethics and Community

Community Organization

A typical shrine will exist for the worship of one or more specific kami. Shrines are supported and maintained by community groups, and often serve as centers for community life. The larger shrines are members of national shrine associations, and certain shrines such as Ise, the main shrine of Amaterasu, have significance for the Japanese nation as a whole.


Shinto priests are ranked both within a shrine and nationally. They are typically male, although there are a few female priests. Today, many Shinto priests attend a Shinto university and then train at one of the larger shrines. Some rituals also involve miko, or shrine maidens; these are typically young women who serve until they marry.

Principles of Moral Thought and Action

Shinto moral principles are strongly influenced by Confucianism. It is believed that humans have an innate moral sense, and can be motivated by shame to avoid doing wrong. Acts of wrong-doing are cleansed through acts of purification. Sincerity, which is the harmony of thought and action, is a prized human characteristic.

Vision for Society

The Shinto vision for society has varied in different eras, but at its core is the idea of harmony—harmony between humans and kami, harmony within social groupings, and harmony between humans and nature.

Gender and Sexuality

Ethics in Shinto are cultural and situational; there are no Shinto commandments or precepts forbidding certain actions. Male homosexuality has sometimes been socially acceptable, and at other times it has been frowned upon. Marital infidelity by men has often been overlooked, but women are almost always expected to be faithful. Until the last century, men were allowed to divorce their wives, but the reverse was not the case.