What is the difference between Shinto and Buddhism?


One of the frequent asked questions from foreigners are “What is the difference between Shinto and Buddhism /or Shrine and Temple?”   

This question is the first thing for the tour guides to understand, but actually even many Japanese might not exactly understand about this.

So let me explain it.

Shinto is Japan’s indigenous religion based on the worship of nature. Shinto is polytheistic and has no founder and no script.  Shinto’s most important thing is purity.  Shinto deities are enshrined in shrines.  

Buddhism was introduced through China and Korea to Japan in the 6th century, and it was founded by Buddha and has script. Buddhism teaches how to reach the enlightenment.   The statue of Buddha or various kinds of Buddhist deities are worshiped at temples.

So now you understand that Shrine is for Shinto and Temple is for Buddhism, OK!?


Meiji Shinto Shrine

Zojo-ji Temple (with Tokyo Tower as back)

The easy way to distinguish Shrine and Temple is the gate. If you see the simple gate with two vertical pillars connected on top by two horizontal bars, it is the gate for Shinto called "Torii" gate.  On the other hand, if you see the gate with roof and more ornament and like building, it is the gate for the Temple, and the main gate to the temple is often called "Sanmon".    The gates are believed to keep evil spirits out and to mentally purify those passing through the gate.


Gate to Shinto Shrine (Meiji Shrine)  
Gate to Temple (Sensoji Temple )

Many Japanese belongs to both Shinto and Buddhism, with the tolerant nature of Shinto that accepts any religions. We Japanese visit Shinto shrine for the happy occasions of this world such as wedding ceremony, ceremony of birth of baby, etc and Temple for the rituals related to the next world such as funeral and annual services for deceased.

It is probably deeper topic to talk about, but this explanation is very basic for you to understand one aspect of Japan. 

Please see and feel the sacred places in Tokyo by joining the tour.

This tour visits each one of the most popular Shrines and Temples in Tokyo!  





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