Japan Religion and Language

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The history of Japanese religion is articulated in the relationships between Shintoism (➔ # 10132;) and Buddhism. This, arrived in Japan in the 6th century. not in the original form, but in that which through a complex historical development it had acquired in China, it was at first welcomed only by small minorities of the upper classes, without affecting the substantial and radical popular adherence to traditional religion and only starting from 7th century, and especially in the next two, its penetration into the country began to take shape, but on the condition of a profound shintoization that culminated with the establishment of the Shinto-Buddhist system in the so-called Ryübu-shintü (beginning of the 9th century.). Throughout the Middle Ages, Shinto-Buddhist syncretism remained in the sphere of Chinese culture to which Japan was subject, until there were movements oriented towards a return to original Buddhism. Buddhism is currently the predominant religion. Shintoism, which the Japanese do not consider a religious cult in the strict sense, is practiced by the vast majority of the population, coexisting with the Buddhist faith.

  • Confucianism appeared in the 5th century. In the 17th century, in the rationalistic-formalistic arrangement given to him by Zhu-Xi (1130-1200), he was greatly favored by the Tokugawa, who saw there a precious instrument of government. Today’s subjective-intuitive Confucianism is generally preferred Wang Yangming (1472-1528).
  • Christianity was introduced from s. Francesco Saverio and his brothers in 1549. At the end of the 16th century, the Franciscans, Dominicans and Augustinians also arrived in the archipelago, but soon (1587) the persecutions began. In 1624 the country was closed to foreigners, religious and lay, and only in 1889, with the institution of the freedom of worship, the missionaries were able to resume their work. The Protestants, who appeared in Japan after the 1859 treaty with the United States, overtook the Catholics in many initiatives, above all because they soon nationalized their churches, electing indigenous people to head them. As for the Orthodox, the Russo-Japanese war has dealt a fatal blow to them. Christians are about 1% of the population today.


According to loverists.com, the national language is Japanese (nihongo), spoken by the vast majority of the residents of the archipelago; however, the language of the Ainu ethnic minority coexist, which is considered an isolated language, and the so-called dialects of the Ryukyu Islands which, although genetically related to Japanese, show phonological and grammatical differences that make them unintelligible to Japanese native speakers. The genetic relationships of Japanese are the subject of a still open scientific debate, but the most accredited theories consider a double relationship possible: with the Altaic languages, due to syntactic affinities, and with Maleopolynesian ones, for lexical aspects.

  • The phonological system consists of five vowel phonemes (/ aiueo /), twelve consonants (/ kgsztdnhbpmr /), two semivocalic approximants (/ jw /), plus two special phonemes (/ N /, nasal syllabic uvular, and / Q /, which indicates consonant gemination), for a total of twenty-one phonemes. The accentuation is based on a system of peaks, which consists in raising or lowering the power of the phonic emission on certain prosodic units that make up the word (more).
  • The Japanese sentence follows the Subject-Object-Verb (SOV) order and its canonical structure is articulated according to the distribution: Subject-Adverb-Indirect Object-Direct Object-Verb. Some freedom is allowed in this distribution, but not for the placement of the verbal predicate, which must remain at the end of a sentence. It is a language that develops on the left, in the sense that what qualifies must always precede the qualified; therefore the attributive adjective precedes the noun, the genitive the noun it refers to, the secondary preposition the main one. There is no article and nouns are not declinable, nor do they have gender and number, although pluralization can sometimes be indicated by adding suffixes or by repeating the noun itself. The grammatical function of nouns is marked by postpositions. The distinction between the names of animate beings and the names of inanimate objects governs the choice of the verb of existence; verbs, consisting of a stem and an inflectional part, are divided into two main groups: with a consonant stem and with a vowel stem ending in -i or -e. Adjectives are, in some morphosyntactic aspects, similar to verbs and, like the latter, have an inflectional part, which changes indicating the tense (present / past), the aspect (dubitative, adverbial, conditional), the form (affirmative / negative) etc.
  • The lexicon has been influenced, at least since the 3rd century. AD, from the Chinese language; the arrival of the Portuguese in the middle of the 16th century. it extended the number of loans as well as the presence in Japan degli Olandesi (1639-1853) and, from the second half of the 19th century, the resumption of relations with the West.
  • The writing system consists of Chinese logograms (kanji) and two syllabic alphabets called kana ( hiragana and katakana ). Some words (nouns, proper nouns) are generally written in kanji, other parts of speech (propositions, functional words, auxiliary verbs) only in kana and still others (adjectives, verbs) with both systems (the root of the word is represented by Chinese characters and the inflectional part in kana); the Latin alphabet is also used for specific terms or acronyms; there are therefore four systems used in the written language. The difficulty in reading Chinese logograms, in the written Japanese language, is that each sign can be read according to two pronunciations: one of Chinese origin (on yomi), the other Japanese (kun yomi). Generally, Japanese is written from top to bottom and from right to left, although recently, especially in scientific publications, we proceed as for European languages.

Japan Religion

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