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Shinto is sometimes called Japan's "indigenous" religion, but it may have originated in an animistic tradition that may be older than the Japanese islands themselves. Its beginnings are difficult to trace, as its original forms have been obscured by later forms that were shaped by political forces.


Shinto was probably influenced by all of the cultures from which people came to populate the islands we now call Japan millennia ago. These include the east Asian continent, the islands of the Pacific, and areas in what is now Russia. Later, Chinese culture and Buddhism in particular had considerable influence on Shinto.


Shinto has no founder in the sense that Buddhism or Christianity has a founder, nor is there an individual or group of individuals who were responsible for developing Shinto as a religion. The institution now called Shinto was initially created by the Yamato clan in their bid to assume rulership of the Japanese islands.

Sacred Texts

While regarded as histories, the Nihonshoki (Chronicle of Japan) and Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters) are texts that include records of ancient mythology and deal with religious matters. A number of esoteric texts detailing ritual and religious matters of the shrines, and discussing the relationship between Shinto and Buddhism, are also among the sacred texts of Shinto.

Historical Perspectives

Recent scholarship has focused on unpacking the effects on Shinto brought about by various modern movements in Japan—from the "National Learning" movement that began in the 17th century, to the restoration of imperial rule in 1868, to the "State Shinto" that dominated in Japan until the end of World War II.