Buddhism: a religion in Japan 仏教

The 6 Schools of Japanese Buddhism

Religion in Japan is often the subject of curiosity about other cultures, due to the peaceful coexistence of Shintoism and Buddhism within Japanese society. Today, approximately 75% of the population observe Buddhist practices and 90% say they also practice Shintoism, which amounts to saying that the vast majority practices two religions at the same time...

The beginnings of Buddhism in Japan

Buddhism was introduced to Japan by China, through contacts between the various territories of the Far East under the effect of the Silk Road. However, its official introduction is dated 552 AD. AD, when King Seong of Baekje (now South Korea) sent Buddhist missionaries carrying a Buddha image and sutras to Emperor Kinmei to introduce Buddhism.

In less than two centuries, under the Asuka and Nara eras, Buddhism then developed considerably, in particular, thanks to its adoption by powerful clans: in 627, there were already nearly 50 Buddhist temples in Japan as well more than 800 monks and 700 nuns. Already in the Nara period (710-794), six different schools of Buddhism had been founded in Japan: more than distinct religious currents, they could be identified as different groups of thought, settled in different temples. It was at this time that the great Asuka-dera and Todai-ji temples were erected in Nara.

At that time, the Buddhist temples were precisely places of instruction and education, strictly speaking, schools of scholars, much more powerful than today. The religion they taught then was a mixture of Buddhist, Taoist practices, with shamanic and indigenous elements. At the end of the Nara era, two new schools were born in Japan, associated with esoteric Buddhism: Shingon and Tendai, introduced respectively by the monks Kûkai (better known under the name of Kôbô Daishi) and Saichô. If the fundamental schools of Nara have disappeared today to give way to other developments of Buddhist thought, these two schools of esoteric Buddhism have survived until our time.


Todai-ji Nara

Todai-ji Temple is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Japan.


The Buddha at Todai-ji

The Buddha at Todai-ji Temple in Nara is the largest bronze Buddha in the world.

Kentaro Ohno

The Asuka-dera temple was erected at the same time as the Todai-ji, in the 8th century.


Le Temple d'Or ou Kinkakuji, l'un des joyaux de Kyoto.

The Golden Temple or Kinkakuji, one of the jewels of Kyoto.


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