Religions in Japan


Religions in Japan are not exclusive.

In Japan, there are about 112 million Shintoists, 93 million Buddhists, 2 million Christians and 10 million believers of other religions, which is more than the Japanese population itself. Out of 127 million inhabitants, the census counts 217 million believers… irrefutable proof of the non-exclusive religion in Japan.

Percentages of religions in Japan may not be easy to find out as such numbers of believes are counted on a declaration base by religious organizations.

In Japan, religions are not exclusive and beliefs are more lived as social rituals. The Japanese life is organized around rites and religious dates, which are anchored in the Japanese way of life.

The main ceremonies around birth take place in Shinto shrines, weddings in Christian chapels and funeral rites organized by Buddhist monks.

Beliefs are non-exclusive, and Japanese people are not attached to a single holy book or god. Thus, different religions mix and mingle with folk beliefs, Taoism and Confucianism.


Shinto, the way of the gods, is the oldest religion in Japan. It is the veneration of the kami, superior spirits.

The sanctuaries have a torii, a portico separating the sacred world from the profane world. After purifying their hands and mouths with a ladle and water located near the shrine, the faithful ring a bell, then clap their hands twice while bowing to pray and implore the kami.

It is above all the deep expression of the ancient Japanese culture, and the will to maintain the harmony of the life of the country. Thus, Shintoism impregnates the daily life of Japanese people.


Born in India, Buddhism in Japan essentially arrived through China in the 6th century.

The temples, identifiable by their suffix -ji or -dera, include a main building, a cemetery, buildings for the monks and sometimes a pagoda, gathering relics of Buddha. It is after removing one’s shoes and kneeling before the altar that the faithful pray. It is thanks to meditation that a being can reach awakening and liberate himself to reach Nirvana. Mahayana Buddhism insists on the importance of Botsatsu (bodhisattvas in Japanese), beings on the path to awakening who renounce Nirvana in order to devote themselves to the salvation of humanity. For example Kannon, Botsatsu of mercy.

One of the characteristics of Japanese Buddhism is the multiplicity of sects and schools that have appeared over the centuries.

Zen Buddhism:

A school of Mahayana Buddhism, Zen affirms the possibility of attaining enlightenment by oneself. It is about taking care of one’s body and mind in order to live in osmosis with the universe. Pronouncing sobriety, Zen Buddhism has a strong influence on the Japanese culture and way of life.


Chinese Taoism is found in Japanese culture through the theory of yin and yang, astronomy and the prediction of the future.


A major player in the samurai code, Confucianism contributed to the establishment of a moral code based on social harmony and the virtues of obedience and loyalty.

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