Japan is a country with a rich spiritual history. Many religions call this country home but some have been practiced on this island longer than others. Most off these religions have their own special places or shrines around which pilgrims or adherents can gather.


It is hard to classify Shintoism as a religion in the same way that Westerners see religion. Shinto is really the indigenous spirituality of Japan. It is not necessarily incompatible with other religions in the way that Christianity might be. It is a belief system that focuses on making connections with the past. As in other religions, there are festivals, legends and certain precepts. However, strict adherence to these things is not necessary to stay in the good graces of any particular body of believers.

The Izumo Taisha shrine is so old that there are no records explaining its erection. This shrine is equally famous for its architecture, which is also the oldest of known styles on the islands. It is located in the Shimane Prefecture.


Buddhism did not arrive in Japan until apparently the 6th century CE. There are allegedly as many as 90 million Buddhists living in Japan. However, it should be remembered that this is not necessarily incompatible with Shinto beliefs and many people have beliefs that mingle the two.

The Buddhist temple of Kinzan Kozan-ji is located in the Yamaguchi Prefecture. It was first built in 1327. This pilgrimage destination is now treated as an official National Treasure of Japan.


The Christian religion did not arrive in Japan until 1542, when Jesuit missionaries from Portugal landed on Kyushu. Christianity spread slowly until 1638, when a national persecution wiped out the entire population. In 1873, restored freedom of religion allowed Christianity to return. Less than 2% of Japanese consider themselves Christian today. The 26 Martyrs Monument in Nagasaki is the location which commemorates the execution of hundreds of thousands of Christians centuries ago.


Confucianism first developed in China as a way of life rather than a religion. However, it acts as a spiritual belief for many even today. The form of Confucianism that survives in Japan is known as Edo Neo-Confucianism. Like Christianity, this Neo-Confucianism has a shrine in Nagasaki. The Confucius Shrine in this city is believed to be the only shrine in this belief system that was built outside of China by Chinese builders.


This is perhaps the youngest of the new religions in Japan. Muslims may have arrived singly in Japan prior to 1853. It was that year, though, which saw the first established presence of Islam in the country when Muslims arrived aboard British ships. The Osaka Masjid is one of the established mosques in this country.

Religious shrines are scattered all over the countryside and through the cities of Japan. Wherever you travel in this country, you will be sure to find a shrine to one religion or another.