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Early Developments

In the 8th century C.E., the Nihonshoki (Chronicle of Japan) and the Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters) were written to legitimate the rule of the Yamato clan as descendants of the gods. Using elements of an earlier mythology, the Yamato rulers created a unified Japan, sanctified by their claims to divinity and supported by a system of shrines.

Schisms and Sects

Buddhism was introduced to Japan from Korea, and later, China, in the 6th century C.E. Along with Buddhism, Japan adopted many elements of Chinese culture, including its written language. The name "Shinto" is derived from the Chinese (shen dao, or way of the gods), and its emergence as a formal tradition was a native response to Buddhist influence.

Missions and Expansion

Buddhism and Shinto developed side-by-side for many centuries. While Shinto was, in a sense, a state religion, there were many occasions in which Buddhism also received state support. Systems of equivalency between Buddhas and kami were developed, and worship of both was normally conducted in the same temple complexes.

Exploration and Conquest

By the end of the 11th century, there were only twenty-two "official" Shinto shrines, and even at these, Buddhist deities regarded as the same as specific Shinto kami were worshipped. The imperial line continued but had little power. Toward the end of the 12th century, the first of the shogun governments was established.

Modern Age

During the Edo period (1600-1868), efforts were made to redefine Shinto as a tradition separate from Buddhism, and a "National Learning" movement emerged. In 1868, the Meiji emperor was restored to power and Buddhism and Shinto were forcibly separated. An aggressive, militaristic attitude was supported by "state Shinto," buttressed by the ancient notion of the emperor as a direct descendent of the deity of the sun, Amaterasu.