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Official numbers published by the Japanese statistics bureau rank Shinto as Japan's largest religion, with a following that constitutes more than 80% of the population. Yet at the same time, questionnaires asking people for their religious identity consistently reveal that only a few percent of Japanese consider themselves as “adherents” of Shinto. Depending on one's point of view, Shinto may be regarded either as the largest religion of Japan or as a marginal phenomenon. To shed light on this confusing state of affairs, this entry will first distinguish between different layers within the broad category of Shinto and between different discourses on Shinto's meaning and essence and then present a brief overview of Shinto's historical development.

The term Shinto does not refer to a single, centralized ...

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