Shinto: The Kami Way by Dr. Sokyo Ono

Date of Publication: 1962, Tuttle Publishing

Number of Pages: 112

Synopsis (from 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. 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 and numerous drawings introduce the reader to two millenia of indigenous Japanese belief in the kami – the sacred spirits worshiped in Shinto – and in communal life, the way of the kami.

Review: As someone who is interested in all things Japanese, I was really excited to read Dr. Sokyo Ono’s Shinto: The Kami Way. This book is held as the standard introduction to Shinto for Western readers, and for the most part, I wasn’t disappointed. The author, a recognized expert on the subject, presents Shinto to the reader in plain, simple language. The bare essentials of Shinto are explored, including the architecture and layout of Shinto shrines and the rituals and festivals that are celebrated within. Unfortunately, I was seeking a more philosophical discussion of Shinto, and the author really only includes a short chapter in the back of the book that delves into the actual beliefs of Shinto. Still, the influence of Shinto on the daily life of the Japanese is addressed throughout the book and gives Western readers a glimpse into the way the Japanese have evolved along with their indigenous beliefs. I would recommend this book to all readers interested in world religions and philosophies. This is definitely a must-read for anyone who hopes to understand the Japanese people even a little bit.

Rating: 7/10

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2 comments

  1. I am not fond of Prof. Ono’s book, published in 1962. I think it has reinforced a fair amount of Western misunderstanding about Shinto (not surprising with a religion that has been through so many historical changes.)

    You may be interested in a recent book about philosophy and practice of Shinto, written by the 79th Grand Master of Yamakage Shinto, Motohisa Yamakage.

    The Essence of Shinto: Japan’s Spiritual Heart
    Kodansha International 2006
    ISBN 978-4-7700-3044-3

    Amazon:
    http://www.amazon.com/Essence-Shinto-Japans-Spiritual-Heart/dp/4770030444/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1268598724&sr=8-1

    Another very interesting book: Shinto, the Way Home, by Thomas P. Kasulis. Univ. of Hawaii Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0824828509

    Amazon:
    http://www.amazon.com/Shinto-Home-Dimensions-Asian-Spirituality/dp/082482850X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1268598873&sr=1-1

  2. Thanks for your comment! I’ve had The Essence of Shinto on my wishlist for a long time. From your recommendation, I’m definitely going to be getting it soon!!

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