Shinto in popular culture

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Statue of Ebisu, the god of fishermen and working men, in Tsu, Mie

Shinto is frequently a theme in Japanese popular culture, including film, manga, anime, and video games. Shinto religion is at the core of Japanese culture and history and as such greatly affects the outcome of pop culture in modern Japan. The references are pervasive and have significant relevance to modern life in Japan amongst the new generations.[citation needed]

This page follows discussion of each genre with a list of works in Japanese or international popular culture that borrow significantly from Shinto myths, deities, and beliefs. It is not an exhaustive list of the many games, movies, manga and other cultural products that mention the religion or the names of its deities.

Shinto as popular culture[edit]

Shinto itself features in popular culture as folk Shinto or Minkan Shinto.[1]

Anime and manga[edit]

Shinto motifs and themes such as kami (gods or spirits) are particularly present in anime and manga.[2][3][4][5][6]

  • In Dream Saga, the earth is destroyed and recreated whenever humans have polluted it. This is done when Susanoo, the shinto god of the sea and storms, (the brother to Amaterasu) consumes Amaterasu, the sun goddess. The two main characters, Yuuki and Takaomi, are given key roles in the process.[7][non-primary source needed]
  • In the manga Urusei Yatsura, a parody of the famous story of Amaterasu hiding in Ama-no-Iwato cave is performed, which ends when the gods decide they enjoy the burlesque spectacle outside the cave so much, they lock Amaterasu inside.[8][non-primary source needed]
  • Susanoo the Brawler is an episodic comic by Elizabeth Watasin, appearing in Action Girl Comics, in which many members of the Japanese pantheon are incarnated as teenage girls.[9][better source needed]


Some Japanese films feature themes from Shinto religion or characters based on kami.[10] This is especially the case in animated films, such as Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke or Spirited Away,[10] but can also be seen in live action and tokusatsu (special-effects driven) films.[citation needed]

Video games[edit]

Video games may relate to themes or characters from Shinto, as well as Buddhism, Christianity, and other religions.[16][17] Such games may present a heterodox or alternative take on religion, or even parody traditional practice or belief.[18] In addition to Shinto stories or kami, themes such as the sacredness of nature or the place of magic in everyday life are also visible in such games.[17]

Other works of popular culture[edit]

Shinto stories or kami also appear in other works of popular culture, including work set in Japan but produced outside of the country.


  1. ^ Picken, Stuart D.B. (2010). Historical Dictionary of Shinto. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-7372-8. Retrieved 21 April 2013. 
  2. ^ Dani Cavallaro Magic As Metaphor in Anime: A Critical Study 2010- Page 8 "While in the Judaeo-Christian creed, the divinity is thought of as external to both time and space, in Shinto, spiritual forces (kami) are ... "
  3. ^ Josef Steiff, Tristan D. Tamplin Anime and Philosophy: Wide Eyed Wonder 2010 "For those of us not familiar with Shinto, its difficult to come to terms with a spiritual belief system that is not quite a religion and not ... Whether we comprehend the complex aspects of Shinto and its many evolutions—from its earliest origins to its ..."
  4. ^ Tze-Yue G Hu Frames of Anime: Culture and Image-Building 2010 Page 48 "Shintō scholar Muraoka Tsunetsugu identifies the creative musubi kami with "the power of growth and reproduction" (1964: 55) and tells us ... Interpreting Shintoism in view of the supernatural world, supernatural elements "
  5. ^ Marion Gymnich, Imke Lichterfeld A Hundred Years of The Secret Garden: Frances Hodgson Burnett's 2012 Page 111 "Shinto basically provides thousands of stories and ancient myths which Japanese become familiar with from an early age."23But this is not the only aspect of Shinto which is important for studies of anime. Cavallaro states "in Shinto, spiritual ..."
  6. ^ Susan J. Napier Anime: From Akira to Princess Mononoke 2001 Page 113 "The film's haunting theme song is also clearly inspired by Shinto liturgy,15 in its invocation to the gods to come and dance ... In fact, Oshii states that the "net" can be equated with the myriad gods of the Shinto religion,16 underlining the notion ..."
  7. ^ Tachikawa, Megumi (2005). Dream Saga. San Val, Incorporated. ISBN 978-1-4176-8374-1. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  8. ^ Takahashi, Rumiko (1999). The return of Lum, Urusei Yatsura: Ran attacks!. Viz Communications. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  9. ^ "Elizabeth Watasin: The Adventures of A-Girl!; Flying Girl; Susanoo the Brawler". Bob's Comics Reviews. September 1996. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  10. ^ a b Mazur, Eric Michael (31 March 2011). Encyclopedia of Religion and Film. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-0-313-01398-0. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  11. ^ Onmyoji 2 at the Internet Movie Database
  12. ^ Simpson, Scott; Sheffield, Jessica (2008). "Neocolonialism, technology, and myth in the Stargate universe". In John R. Perlich and David Whitt. Sith, Slayers, Stargates, and Cyborgs. Peter Lang. pp. 73–99. ISBN 978-1-4331-0095-6. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  13. ^ Nippon tanjo at the Internet Movie Database
  14. ^ 日本誕生("The Birth of Japan") Toho's official website (Japanese)
  15. ^ Pitts, Michael R. (2010). Columbia Pictures: Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy Films, 1928-1982. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-4447-2. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  16. ^ Picard, Martin (2009). "Haunting backgrounds:Transnationality and intermediality in Japanese survival horror video games". In Bernard Perron. Horror Video Games: Essays on the Fusion of Fear and Play. McFarland. pp. 95–120. ISBN 978-0-7864-4197-6. Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  17. ^ a b Ong, Alicia. "The Religions Behind Final Fantasy" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-02-02. 
  18. ^ Bainbridge, William Sims; Bainbridge, Wilma Alice (2007). "Electronic game research methodologies: Studying religious implications". Review of Religious Research. 49 (1): 35–53. 
  19. ^ Walsh, Doug (2008). Okami: Official Strategy Guide for Nintendo Wii. Brady. ISBN 978-0-7440-1035-0. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  20. ^ "Gods - Smite Wiki". Retrieved 2016-09-14. 
  21. ^ "Perfect Storm - Smite Update 3.8". Retrieved 2016-05-13. 
  22. ^ "Weapon Trivia – Susanoo and Tlaloc". Retrieved 2016-09-28. 
  23. ^ "Susanoo". Retrieved 2016-09-28. 
  24. ^ Fisher, Burton D. (2005). Puccini's Madam Butterfly: Opera Classics Library Series. Opera Journeys Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9771320-3-4. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  25. ^ Kirino, Natsuo (2012). The Goddess Chronicle. Edinburgh; New York: Canongate. ISBN 9780802121097. 
  26. ^ Barth, John (1966). Giles Goat-Boy, or, The Revised New Syllabus. New York: Anchor Books, a division of Random House, Inc. ISBN 0385240864.