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In this chapter:

  • Buddhism arrived in 552 AD in a Japan that already had a national religion
  • Buddhism was easily accepted by the Japanese because it complemented their original religion, Shinto
  • The new religion was not adopted by the masses until the thirteenth century. Today 75 percent of the Japanese population is Buddhist
  • There are two dominant Buddhist schools in Japan today, Zen and True Pure Land
  • Buddhists worship at temples, which are grander and more complex structures than Shinto temples

Introduction

Buddhism arrived in Japan in 552 AD. It was introduced by monks from the Korean Peninsula to the Imperial Japanese Court. The uptake of Buddhism was slow in Japan and initially limited to members of the Imperial Court. Buddhism became popular with the masses around the thirteenth century. Today, around 75 percent of the population of Japan is Buddhist. 90 percent of the population of Japan is Shinto, which means that a large percentage of the population follows both religions. This is possible because the religions complement each other. See image 1.
 
Buddhism is a religion and a philosophy. It is based on the teachings of Buddha, who came from India. Faith is an important element in Buddhist teachings. Buddhist faith requires trust, confidence and belief that the teachings of Buddha can lead one to spirituality and salvation. Buddhist teaching says that if you lead a good and healthy life you can escape being born over and over again. This means that one could escape the pain and suffering that can come with life.
 
In Japan today there are two schools of Buddhism that are particularly popular. These are the school of Zen and the school True Pure Land. See image 2.

Zen

Zen developed in medieval times. Zen teaches that the way to inner peace is through meditation and self-control. Zen Buddhism was adopted by the samurai warriors. The samurai meditated before going into combat as a way to prepare mentally. From the Zen Buddhists  Japan has the tea ceremony and meditation gardens.

True Pure Land

Buddhists who follow the True Pure Land school of thought believe that salvation can be achieved through simple prayer. The monks of True Pure Land differ from other Buddhist monks in two distinct ways. The monks of True Pure Land are allowed to eat meat and get married. Marriage and eating meat is forbidden to the monks who follow other schools of Buddhism.

Worship

The Buddhist place of worship is the temple. The architecture of Buddhist temples is much more complex than that of the Shinto temples. Buddhist temples often have several structures. A temple can include a pagoda, large hall, lecture hall and living quarters for the monks or nuns. See image 3.

The Buddhist temple in Nara, which is on the island of Honshu south of Tokyo city, is the oldest structure in Japan. This temple, called Horyuji, was built around 600 AD. The temple was rebuilt after a fire in 670 AD. See image 4.

See animation 1.

Chapters: Shinto Buddhism Christianity

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1. Who introduced Buddhism to the Imperial Japanese court?

Samurai from the Korean Peninsula

Diplomatic consulates from China

Shogun from China

Monks from the Korean Peninsula

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