A Look at Shinto Spiritual Practices in Anime

In its most textbook, academic explanation, Shinto defines the spiritual practices of the Japanese people outside of Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism. However, it did not arrive at a conscious title until the arrival of these other faiths. Shinto is a religion that also has been adapted towards many Buddhist philosophies through the process of religious syncretism.

Gods in Shinto, which are also sometimes identified as nature spirits, are known as Kami. Individual Shrines are dedicated to different Kami, and are identified as ritualistically pure places. This outlined ritualistic purity stems from the community with nature that the Shrine shares. Shinto Shrines are generally marked from their entrance with a Shrine Gate, called a Torii in Japanese. This Gate marks the passage of the unclean secular world into the pure world of holiness. Just about every manga and anime series focusing on life in Japan, from Bleach to Lucky Star, either will show a Shrine or a festival that takes place at one.

As was previously mentioned, Shinto has achieved syncretism with Buddhism among some believers. In Tite Kubo's Bleach, one can see elements of both religions. The concept of the reincarnation of the soul is a philosophy that stems from Buddhism, which in turn borrowed it from Hinduism when Buddhism first arose in India. Many of the principals of wandering spirits, however, are a Shinto philosophy. It is also demonstrated in the symbol of the Daruma, or the small red Buddhist statutes afforded to some worshipers. Almost one of these items is found within the Kurosaki household. Of course, among other members of the faithful, this level of syncretism does not occur.

Among more traditional Shinto systems of protection that indicate Shinto philosophy and belief alone, Ofuda are quite common. These are talismans of protection for the household. However, for the individual, a Shinto priest may protect one with an Omamori, or a personal amulet of protection. Omikuji are commonly cast at Shinto ceremonies. These are sheets of paper around which an individual fortune is cast. One reads it and wraps it around a tree. The spirit of the tree will make it come true if it is positive, and ward it off if it is negative.

One final point concerning Shinto is the incredible system of personal honor that it entails. To speak to one personally, one uses a great number of honorifics including -san, -sempai, -sensei ex cetra. Likewise, Shinto has long stressed the demand for protection of others and the willingness for personal sacrifice. Whether it be Shimada Kambei or Okamoto Katsuhiro in Samurai 7, or Ichigo Kurosaki in Bleach, anime and manga have long served as an extension for this belief.