At the presentation in front of 50 Meiji priests and employees, Ito gave a detailed introduction of the Church and showed a video of the missionaries working at Yawata.
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Shinto Symbols (Continued)
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Temple Square is always beautiful in the springtime. Gardeners work to prepare the ground for General Conference. All rights reserved.
Regionality of Shinto religious practice accounts for great diversity in Shinto, while those different instances share certain basic beliefs and values. It is impossible to consider the topic of Shinto and ecology without making reference to the broader issue of Japanese cultural attitudes to the natural environment. This is because what one might describe as Shinto beliefs are often values that are entrenched in Japanese folk culture in general, and which find expression in other areas beyond religion, from sociopolitical organization to aesthetics, and so on.
Yet, as Conrad Totman has noted in his work on the history of forestry in Japan, 1 the destruction of the natural environment gradually increased to such proportions that the archipelago came to stages of severe environmental degradation several times, only to be barely saved by systematic, usually centrally managed, programs of reforestation.
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Indeed, it is an irony that a country in which the boundaries between culture and nature are so fluid should have undergone such a degree of environmental degradation. Some would argue that historically religions, including Shinto, have played a part in the wanton exploitation of forest resources.
On the other hand, Japanese indigenous religion and its orientation to the world, which are interconnected with nature and aesthetics, have a great deal to offer in the struggle to conserve the environment. The Shinto beliefs and attitudes toward nature which are relevant to the problem of environmental preservation include three key points. First, great value is accorded sacred space and time, generally as shrines in groves, the boundaries of which are demarcated as distinct from the secular world. The location of Shinto shrines in local landscapes is an important dimension of their sacredness.
As Japanese folklorists have often emphasized, the traditional Japanese village, in close proximity to a community shrine, is focused on agriculture, with seasonal worship of deities offered the fruits of production. The agricultural cycle provides the rhythms of ritual activities that punctuate the year. Cyclical time, periodic time repeats itself as an eternal process.
The second point notes a close relation between nature, deities kami , and human beings. The interactivity of those three is such that human beings also act upon the world they inhabit with nature and deities.
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Preventing the natural world from devolving into a state of chaos is the goal of certain ritual action. Discretion towards nature and the kami is essential, since they nurture human life.
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In Shinto, and in Japanese folk beliefs more generally, the natural and social environments are interrelated. In spatial and topographical terms, this is manifested in the arrangement of traditional residences in relation to fields, mountains, and rivers. The community shrine, situated in a forested grove, is the very expression of the community itself in a Durkheimian sense that sacralizes itself in the demarcated domain of sacred space.
Finally, the idea of purification is a key aspect of all ritual activity in Shinto.