The religion in Japan and the religion from China
: SHINTO :
Shinto is Japan's original religion. It is said that Shinto's origin comes from worshipping nature such as trees. Different from most religions such as Buddhism and Christianity, Shinto values festivals and divine services, rather than sacred books or scriptures. Shinto is, so to say, beliefs rather than a religion. God is the founder of Shinto, nature is the sacred book, and believers perceive and educate themselves.
Shinto is a polytheism. Because there are so many Gods for Shinto: from the God written in the "Kojiki", to the God from a different religion, they are generally called as the "Yao Yorozu no Kami", meaning "Many Gods".
There were places to worship God from ancient times. Though, there were no shrines like they do today from the beginning.
In ancient times, people believed that God lived in big trees, big rocks, or mountains. Therefore, in and around those places were said to be sacred. Presently, buildings were built in order to protect the place from wind and rain during rituals. This is why most shrines are built in forests, near lakes, rivers, and oceans, where there are a lot of nature. Finally, shrines were influenced by the Chinese Buddhist architecture, and formed into the buildings we see today.
Besides the shrines, God is worshipped at the household's Shinto altars, or at small shrines on the roadsides or yards.
: BUDDHISM :
Buddhism was founded by Sakyamuni. The birth of Sakyamuni is said to be about 2500 years ago. It is told that he was the son of the Shaka tribe's royal family, in a small country in the Himalayas. At the age of 29, he became a bonze, leaving his father, wife, and children. When he was 35, he was spiritually awakened and Buddhism began.
Buddhism in Japan
About 552 years ago, Buddhism came to Japan. It was Prince Shotoku who changed Buddhism into a form so that it would fit the Japanese spiritual climate. He wrote three explanations for the Buddhist sutra, on the basis of the Japanese ways of thinking. "It is important to get along well with others." These words are on the constitution he made, and is the Japanese way of explaining Buddhism.
In the Heian era, Buddhism became much more popular, and started to influence the Japanese manners, customs, culture, and so on. Saicho, the founder of Tendai-shu sect, and Kukai, the founder of the Shingon-shu sect are the representative Buddhists of this era.
In the Kamakura era, the Japanese way of interpreting and developing Buddhism came to its peak. Many sects formed, by developing each field of the Buddhist sutra. The founder of Jyodo-shu sect, Honen, and the founder of the Jyodo-shin-shu sect, Shinran taught, "If you pray the words, 'Namuamidabutsu', you can go to paradise." in an easy way so that even the populace could understand.
Also, Dogen, the founder of the Soto-shu sect taught people to Zazen, without having any emotional thoughts. Eisai, the founder of the Rinzai-shu sect, are of the same Zen genealogy. Many Japanese people were attached to their teachings, and many became believers of these two sects.
Nichiren, the founder of the Nichiren-shu sect, taught that the "Hokekyo" in the sutra are the real words of Sakyamuni, and you will feel peace if you pray the words "Namu-myo-ho-ren-ge-kyo". He also participated in the social activities, for he thought that true peace comes from peace in the country and society.
On the basis of the sects written above, many other sects formed, which made the Buddhism in Japan.