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Spirit of Japan: Shinto & Gagaku

Photo Courtesy of Meiji Jingu

Shinto and Gagaku – Japanese traditional religion and music

You may think Japan is the country of Buddhism. There are various Buddhist temples in Kyoto, Nara, and everywhere in Japan, and the concept of “Zen” is also familiar. However, many Japanese also enjoy Christmas and Halloween, and visit Shinto shrines from time to time.

Shinto is the Japanese indigenous religion, which does not have a founder, dogma, or a holy scripture. However, it has been kept as a part of Japanese life and custom for more than a few thousand years. Millions of people visit Meiji Jingu Shinto shrine in Tokyo for at New Year’s Day to make prayers.

Photo courtesy of Meiji Jingu

Shinto priests of this Meiji Jingu will come to Portland Japanese Garden and present an introductory talk about Shinto, the concept of relation with nature as you can see in the forest surrounding Meiji Jingu, and the connection to the life of Japanese people.

Gagaku –traditional music- has an important role at Shinto ritual ceremonies. Slow and mellow music will lead you to feel Japanese culture, rooted in the ancient times of the country. In this event, music will be performed on three musical instruments (Sho, Hichiriki, Ryuteki). Furthermore, performers (Shinto priests) will give you instructions if you want to try to play the music yourself!