Japanese culture is based on Shinto and Buddhism.
The meaning of Shinto in Japanese culture and lives.
Japanese people believe in the existence of spirits and divinities in their lives, surrounding them and in nature. Shrines are places that are part of the spiritual world and a focus for heavenly light. These shrines were an important part of peoples spiritual lives in the past but have become less respected in recent years. However many people still enjoy visiting shrines and giving thanks for their happiness, prosperity and to feeling close to the spirit of Japan.
The manner of entering a shrine.
When you visit a Japanese a shrine, there is a polite and respectful way of entering.
First, you bow in front of the Torii; the gateway at the entrance to a Shinto shrine. In your mind, ask: please let me enter your divine territory.
Next, walk near one of the poles of the Torii, either right or left of the centre is good.
Then, you should clean your hands and mouth at a fountain near the shrine entrance.
First, take a dipper and scoop plenty of water with your right hand.
Next, using only this one dipper of water, pour some onto your left hand and then pass the dipper to the left and pour water onto the right hand, and next pouring some water into your cupped left hand, and wash and rinse your mouth.
Finally, using the remainder of the water, wash the handle of the dipper by raising the dipper upright.
To make a prayer, go up the steps to the entrance of the shrine building. Throw a single five yen coin into the box.
Bow twice, then clap your hands twice, then pray for something what you want or hope to happen, and finally bow.
Shinto traditions in martial arts and dance
Chiyo Hanayagi（花柳千代）Photos from The Basis of Japanese Dance（日本舞踊の基礎）
Sumo wrestlers clap their hands and stamp on the ground before every match, the reason is a tribute to the god of the earth.
In martial arts --Karate (空手), Judo (柔道), Kendo (剣道), Aikido (合気道} and so on, before training or before every match, students make a bow to god and then, they make a bow to each other face to face. At the end of the match, they make a bow to other again and finally to god. It is said that what begins with a bow, ends with a bow.
Dance is the gift to the gods.
When Japanese classical dancer plays on the stage, she puts a sensu (扇子, a holding fan) in front of her holding her legs under herself. The meaning is that sensu expresses a line (Kekkai, 結界) between the world of the gods and human beings. Because primarily dance had been dedicated to the goddess, Amaterasu-Oomikami (天照大神).
If you want to read more about Japanese dance, please visit the dance section.
The meaning of Buddhism in Japanese culture and lives.
Launching a floatable lantern on the river at the end of the Obon festival. These lights lead spirits to their world. It is called Shoro-nagashi（精霊流し）.
Praying at a family grave.
Japanese people believe the existence of lives and spirits even though it is a stone or a mosquito, surrounding them in nature.
Obon（お盆, Urabon-e 盂蘭盆会）
In every summer, on July or August, big nationwide events are held with festivals at Temples, and at every home in Japan. This is a special event in wich the descendants have warmhearted welcome for a short stay of ancestors’ spirits. In addition Temples hold events for any spirits they have already died. People lead them to light with lanterns, are hospitable to them, having food, vegetables, fruit, sweets, flowers, incense and so on. And later people lead them with light back their spirit world.
The origin came from India. It was the event for monks to save spirits they have already died and have been suffering in hell, through holding a memorial service for them on the 17th of July.
Paying one’s respects at the family grave.
During the event or the festival, Japanese people visit and pay their respects at the family grave. The family grave is cleaned and an offering is made of flowers, incense and water on the grave by the family.
From these events, Japanese people understand the existence of spirits and respect their ancestors and all animate beings.
Praying to ancestors’ spirits
The people who have a household Buddhist alter in their houses, pray for their ancestors’ spirits every morning. This is an ordinary act to put a glass of water, incense sticks, flowers on the alter. This action shows respect to them and hope for future peace. And in the evening, they pray to show a feeling of gratitude to their ancestors for watching over them.