Shintoism and Marriage
Shinto, from the Chinese, "Shin Tao," The Way of the
Gods, was established in Japan around 500 BCE. It is
characterized by nature worship, ancestor worship, heroism,
and divine expression. Shinto has no founder, no written
scriptures, and no religious laws.
By the eighth century, Shinto became the official
religion of Japan, with the imperial family being ascribed
divine origin. With the influx of Buddhism from the west,
Shinto teachings incorporated the Buddha as another of the
divine beings of nature, a "Kami." The Japanese
Buddhist teachings view the Kami as bodhisattvas.
As a religion respectful of nature, the Sun Goddess,
Amaterasu, is considered the most important deity. There
are thousands of other lesser gods and goddesses, however,
who exemplify natural objects, creatures, and abstract
natural forces; as well as the Kami of regions and groups.
There are also deities of important historical figures, most
notably early emperors and the members of the Imperial
All human life is considered sacred, and all humanity is
the child of Kami. Much of Shinto's teachings revolve around
the concept of community and shared benefit, creative power,
and the development of sincerity, "makoto."
There are the Four Affirmations in Shinto"
- Tradition and the family - The focus of
Shintoism is the family which is seen as the primary
mechanism for the preservation of traditions. This focus
is expressed by the ascribed importance of birth and
- Love of Nature - All natural things are to be
considered sacred and should be worshipped as sacred
spirits. To be in contact with these natural things is
to be close to the Gods.
- Physical Cleanliness - Shinto stresses the
importance of bathing and cleanliness of the body.
- "Matsuri" - The expression of worship and
devotion to the Kami and all ancestral spirits.
Shinto is a non-exclusive religion, and it is common for
practitioners to have other religious affiliations. In Japan
for example, most believers in Shinto are also practicing
Shinto teachings consider marriage to be one of life's
rites of passage. In the ancient customs, families report
the marriage decree to the ancestors in front of the
household Shinto altar. In a banquet held by the family,
the couple is introduced to the community. By the turn of
the last century, a more formal ceremony was performed at a
Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple. Today it is not
uncommon for marriages to be performed in a Christian church
or by civil ceremony.
Spring and autumn are the most popular seasons for Shinto
weddings and on certain days deemed auspicious, it is not
uncommon for large numbers of couples to be married at
The traditional Shinto wedding ceremony is a private,
formal event, usually attended by the immediate family and
closest friends of the couple. The ceremony symbolizes both
the union of two people and the joining of two families. In
the traditional "san san kudo" or "three times three"
ceremony, the couple exchange cups of sake. Similar cups of
sake are exchanged between members of the families to
signify the union. Following these exchanges, the couple
offer twigs of the "Sakaki" sacred tree in worship to
the gods. Today it is not uncommon for the couple to
exchange wedding rings.