posted on January 19, 2014

Buddhism was introduced to Japan from mainland Asia, chiefly from China and Korea, in the 6th century.

Today, about 93 million Japanese are said to be Buddhists, which is the second largest number next to about 105 million of Shinto believers, and the total number of Shinto and Buddhist believers is twice the number of the population of Japan. It’s mainly because Shinto, the indigenous religion of Japan, is polytheistic, so Shinto and Buddhism have long coexisted in Japan and Japanese people are allowed to believe two religions.




Main Hall and Five-story Pagoda (National Treasures) of Horyuji Temple in Nara: photo by 663highland
Japan’s first World Cultural Heritage


There are about 75,000 Buddhist temples and more than 300,000 Buddhist statues in Japan. Among them, the buildings in Horyuji Temple in Nara constructed in the early 7th century are very famous as the oldest surviving wooden structures in the world. Buddhism has taken deep root in Japanese culture and people’s daily life.

At present, there are about thirteen main Buddhist sects and many minor sects, and all sects are Mahayana Buddhism, whose teachings preach people that all the people can be rescued and reach enlightenment by worshipping Buddhist gods like Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.



Kondo Hall (National Treasure) of Toji Temple (Shingon Buddhism) in Kyoto
World Cultural Heritage


Among the 13 main Buddhist sects, believers in  Shingon Buddhism, Jodo Buddhism, Nichiren Buddhism and Zen Buddhism account for a large percentage of all the Japanese Buddhists. Shingon Buddhism, along with Tendai Buddhism, is one of the old Buddhist sects, and was imported from China.




Main Gate (National Treasure) of Chion-in Temple (Jodo Buddhism) in Kyoto: photo by hashiphoto


In the time of disunity and violence from the 12th to 13th century, when pessimism deepened among people and they searched for salvation, Jodo and Nichiren sects of Buddhism were created by Japanese people and Zen Buddhism was imported from China.

Jodo Buddhism, or Pure Land Buddhism, emphasizes salvation through faith in Amitabha (Amida Buddha) by chanting “Namu Amida Butsu,” which means devotion to Amitabha. It is believed that Amitabha protects us and leads us to “Jodo (the Pure Land in the West)” when we die.




Strolling Pond Garden of Tenryuji Temple (Zen Buddhism) in Kyoto: photo by oskaosaka
World Cultural Heritage


Zen Buddhism emphasizes liberation through seeing one’s true nature by practicing zazen (seated meditation). Nichiren Buddhism emphasizes devotion to the Lotus Sutra, one of the most popular and influential Mahayana sutras.



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