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Shinto is an ancient Japanese faith that dates back thousands of years but it is quite unlike most other religions. Shinto has no major scripture, no predetermined code of ethics or religious conduct and no founder.

The Shinto faith does not concern itself with separating heaven from earth or defining divisions between finite earthly life and supernatural life. People who practice it tend to think of Shinto as a lifestyle rather than a religion. This is probably because Shinto ties into almost every facet of Japanese culture including art, politics, social structures and family life.

The actual term Shinto means ”the way of the gods” and practicing the Shinto faith means constantly working towards establishing a connection with sacred spirits called kami.

Kami tend to take the form natural things and concepts that are important to human life such as trees, rain, wind and even education and fertility. Rituals that allow humans to communicate with kami are paramount to the Shinto faith.

Kami are thought to be quite concerned with the happiness of humans. If a kami is treated properly it can bring health, success, luck or whatever else a person strives for. Humans are also thought to become kami when they die and as ancestral kami the Shinto dead are often worshipped by living members of their families.

People who practice the Shinto religion tend to believe that human nature is fundamentally good, but they also believe that evil spirits exist which may corrupt this good nature. In order to keep away evil spirits Shinto followers believe it is necessary to perform purification rituals and make offerings to specific kami.

It is believed that different kami dwell in shrines that are dedicated to them. These shrines are places of worship and it is believed that the kami actually live in the shrine’s inner center where they cannot be seen. When followers visit Shinto shrines they are usually expected to wash their hands and mouths in a washbasin on the shrine grounds, make offerings to the kami and pray to them for good fortune.