Book Review of Shinto: The Kami Way by Dr. Sokyo Ono

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Title: Shinto: The Kami Way

Author: Dr. Sokyo Ono

In collaboration: William P. Woodard

Review by: Dani Hoots

Rating: 5/5

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Back cover:

Shinto, the indigenous faith of the Japanese people, continues to fascinate and mystify both the casual visitor to Japan and the long-time resident. Relatively unknown among the religions of the world, Shinto: The Kami Way provides an enlightening window into this Japanese faith.

In its general aspects, Shinto is more than a religious faith. It is an amalgam of attitudes, ideas, and ways of doing things that through two millennia and more have become an integral part of the manner of the Japanese people. Shinto is both a personal faith in the kami—objects of worship in Shinto and an honorific for noble, sacred spirits—and a communal way of life according to the mind of the kami. This introduction unveils Shinto’s spiritual characteristics and discusses the architecture and function of Shinto shrines. Further examination of Shinto’s lively festivals, worship, music, and sacred regalia illustrates Shinto’s influence on all levels of Japanese life.

Fifteen photographs, numerous drawings and Dr. Ono’s text introduce the reader to two millennia of indigenous Japanese belief in the kami and communal life.

Chapters include:

  • The Kami Way
  • Shrines
  • Worship and Festivals
  • Political and Social Characteristics
  • Some Spiritual Characteristics

About the Author:
Dr. Sokyo Ono was a professor at Kokugakuin Daigaku, a Shinto university in Tokyo, and has lectured for the National Association of Shinto Shrines. He also served as Executive Director of the International Institute for the Study of Religions and the Japan Religious Cooperative Council

William Woodard directed the research unit of the Religious and Cultural Resources Division, Civil Information and Education Section, SCAP from 1946 to 1952.

I asked for this book for Christmas to help with my research for two different YA Japanese Fantasy novels I am working on. I felt that this gave some good insight of what it is like at Shinto shrines and how Shintoism is engrained in a lot of daily life actions in modern Japan. I found it to be quite fascinating, as we don’t learn much about this religion in schools or while looking at cultures in general. A lot is said about Buddism, but not much is said about Shintoism, and this book goes over a bit of why that is. I wished it went a little more on the changes throughout history and what actions changed or didn’t with a timeline, as my novel takes place in different periods through Japan.

I highly recommend to anyone who wants to learn more about this religion, whether it be because they are interested in Japanese culture, research for something they are writing, or if they want to visit shrines in Japan and understand what is respectful and what is not. I can’t wait to visit Japan and pay my respects to the kami at various shrines.

~Dani