If you ask young Japanese people, “What is your religion?” They might answer, “I don’t have one.”
They celebrate new years by going to see the first sunrise of the year, then they go to a shrine and pray for happiness in the new year- It’s Shinto.
They also enjoy Halloween, and Christmas as a foreign festival- It’s Christianity.
They celebrate at Shrines, Churches, or Temples, even they don’t actually think they are religious.
It’s confusing for foreign people to understand what religion Japanese people follow.
But actually, most Japanese people naturally follow traditional customs, which contains the basic ideas of the Shinto and Buddhist faiths.
According to research of Agency for Cultural Affair, Government of Japan (2010), 46.8% of them follow Shinto beliefs, 42.6% of them believe in Buddism, 2.5% of them believe in Christianity, and 8.2% of them believe something else.
Shinto is basically the idea of respecting nature. Animism. They believe in the Gods of Sun, Sea, Wind, Kitten and the power of word…, they believe there’s eight million Gods that exist around us. It might make someone angry, but for us, foreign Gods can also a God we can respect, so we’re generous about other people’s Gods.
Shinto is not like other religions. No bible, and no strict rules. It more like a way of living, and the events are based on the seasons. Shinto has long history. “Kojiki” (Records of Ancient Matters), edited 712, “Nihon Shoki” (the Chronicles of Japan), edited 720, so Shinto already existed before this time.
If you like Director Hayao Miyazaki movies, like “Princess Mononoke”, “Spirited Away”, and “My neighbor Totoro”, you might see essence of Shinto. Mind of awe and respect nature. “You can see the Shinto beliefs of respecting nature and the idea of perceiving what Shinto is and not just being taught” Buddism arrived in Japan from India, through China and Korea around 538. After Buddism came to Japan, it kind of mixed with Shinto ideas, and they developed a new school of Buddism. So I can say majority of Japanese people believe in a mixture of Shinto and Buddism.
Christianity is also familiar for them too. For example, there’s many Christian schools in Japan.
Learning languages is fun. You can communicate with people who speak that language. But if you want to know deeply what their basic principles, morals and beliefs are I think it’s a good idea to study about their religion.