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Qwiz5 Quizbowl Essentials - Shintoism

Shinto is a religious practice involving the worship of kami, practices of ritual purity, and the “natural order”. Its earliest texts, the Nihon Shoki and the Konjaku monogatarishui, date back as far as the eighth and eleventh centuries, respectively. Originating in Japan, Shinto has an estimated 4 to 5 million followers. Its festivals (matsuri) are largely seasonal -- spring planting, fall harvest, and winter celebrating the new year and welcoming spring.

A torii gate - an important element in the Japanese practice of Shinto.  Part of the Qwiz5 series by Qwiz Quizbowl Camp, written to help quiz bowl teams power more tossups!

By analyzing questions, you can see patterns emerge, patterns that will help you answer questions. Qwiz5 is all about those patterns. In each installment of Qwiz5, we take an answer line and look at five of its most common clues. Here we explore five clues that will help you answer a tossup on Shinto.


Kami is a word that can be both singular and plural. Kami are omnipresent spirits, existing in all things around us, living and nonliving. However, there are also specific kami who might be seen as the equivalent of gods. These include Susano-o, the god of seas and storms, Raijin, the god of lightning and thunder, and Tsukuyomi, god of the moon.


Kami are often venerated at shrines called honden, where offerings may be made and visitors ritually wash from wooden basins. Honden also contain a special religious gate, a torii, and often contain special mirrors that are sacred. The most famous of the shrines is the Ise Shrine, which is dedicated to Amaterasu, and is destroyed and rebuilt every 20 years.


Izanagi and Izanami are sometimes known as First Man and First Woman. They were responsible for the creation of the earth using a jewelled spear. Because the wedding ritual between them was performed incorrectly the first time, their first child was born boneless, and is sometimes referred to as a “leech child”. After Izanami died while giving birth, Izanagi went to Yoma, the land of the dead, to bring her back, but when he saw her body rotting, he fled. He then purified himself in the river, and as he washed, Amaterasu and other deities were formed.


The sun goddess, Amaterasu, was created or “washed” from Izanagi’s left eye. One of the most commonly mentioned clues in quizbowl for Amaterasu is the story of her brother

Susano-o, who, in anger at losing a contest with her, destroyed her rice fields and threw a flayed horse at her loom. Amaterasu, angry, hid in a cave, plunging the world into darkness; she only emerged when Uzame danced outside her cave.


The royal family of Japan is said to be descended from Amaterasu. According to the Nihon Shoki, Amaterasu sent her grandson Ninigi to earth to plant rice and to bring three celestial gifts to the Emperor. These were the sword Kusanagi, the sacred mirror Yata no Kagami, and the jewel Yasakani no Magatama. These three gifts became the Imperial Regalia of Japan, and symbolize the connection between the Royal Family and the divine.


Quizbowl is about learning, not rote memorization, so we encourage you to use this as a springboard for further reading rather than as an endpoint. Here are a few things to check out:

* Intrigued by the stories you’ve read here? Want to read more about Shinto Kami? You can start by checking out what Mythopedia has to say on the subject. They have a nice array of articles on Shinto myth here.

* Maybe you’re more of a visual arts person. If so, this site is for you! View a collection of slides of artistic representations of Shinto myth, with explanations, and learn more about the distinctive features of this art.

* In recent years, more emphasis has been seen on environmental awareness as part of the Shinto faith. “The Shinto Faith Statement on the Environment”, presented as part of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation, can be viewed here, along with other statements from different faiths.

* A video that explains the creation myth from Shinto can be viewed here, as part of the Ancient History online encyclopedia. For the record, however, the correct pronunciation of the word is Dee-ih-tee, not DIE-eh-tee. You can read the full story of Izanami and Izanagi here.


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