This is an excellent book about the indigenous spirituality of the Japanese people.
That sentence expresses the single unifying ‘fact’ about Shinto, but telling us everything yet nothing about it because Shinto is multi-layered in nature with a notable absence of dogma. It is an ancient spiritual pathway which has adapted with ease to a modern, highly urban society which is the Japan of today. While having an organised religious practice, it is more importantly an attitude of mind or a sensibility that exists below the level of consciousness, shaping an individual’s thoughts and actions.
Shinto is a nature focused faith of sacred mountains and forests, which sees the divine in rocks and streams, communing with spirit worlds through twigs of bamboo and the evergreen sakaki tree. Yet, it is also the manicured suburban garden and the blades of grass that rise between cracks in city paving stones. It is a faith based around ritual cleansing and purification, but it has no concept of ‘sin’. It reveres ancestors, but thinks little about the after-life and asks its followers to live in and improve the present or living in the now which is very much popular spiritual concept in the West at the moment. Shinto can be also be seen as a local variant of universal spiritual motifs.