The Way of the Kami

Top-down view of an architectural complex of buildings with walls studded with decorative trees, painted alongside vertical lines of Japanese calligraphy.
  • Dates

    May 11–November 3, 2019

  • Location

    Freer Gallery of Art | Gallery 8

  • Collection Area

    Japanese Art

The Japanese islands were formed when the gods reached down from heaven and stirred the earth with a jeweled spear, according to the Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters), written in 712. This text thus lays the mythical foundations for a key part of Japanese religious practice: Shinto, or “the Way of the Deities.”

The Shinto religion long predates the compilation of the Kojiki: it may have originated from shamanism on the Asian mainland. Alongside Buddhism, with which it became tightly entwined, Shinto is one of Japan’s main belief systems.

Shinto centers on worship of kami (deities) that reside in the landscape, natural phenomena, and deceased ancestors. This exhibition highlights the rich artistic culture of Shinto belief.

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