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Shinto: The Kami Way by Dr. Sokyo Ono is one of the widely distributed books on the Shinto faith. If any book is to be found in a popular bookstore chain, your local library, or some educational institution that covers the topic of the Shinto faith, it would undoubtedly be the work of Dr. Sokyo Ono.
The first edition of Dr. Ono’s work was printed in 1962. This was shortly after the ban on Shinto was lifted, which began at the close of World War II with the Unites States occupation of Japan. Still even today, Japanese officials have been criticized by the United States government for engaging in religious activities indigenous to their nation.Some want to restore Shinto as a state religion to counter juvenile rebellion against traditional ways of life. This includes Shinzō Abe, the prime minister of Japan, who is a protagonist of the re-institution of state-Shintoism and the imperial worship. In 2013, he visited Yasukuni Shrine, which drew criticism from the United States.
One can only imagine that since the Western world’s view of the Shinto faith was very limited during and after WWII, Dr. Ono’s work definitely raised some eyebrows in what appears to be one of the world’s most transformative forms of spiritual technology, Shinto. The United States has been at war with the Arab world for more than a decade and there has been no discussion about the legality of Islam, not criticism about the leaders of these nations engagement with this religion. Why is it different for adherents of the indigenous religion of Japan?
Shinto: The Kami Way is a book that explores some of the principles, rites and meaning found in State Shinto. It is written in a very clear and concise language. The book opens with a Foreword written by Hideo Kishimoto, who served as a Director for the International Institute for the Study of Religions. This is followed by ac beautiful Preface, which was written by William P. Woodard. Woodard gives us an overall them of the work in the following words:
“In The Kami Way Dr. Ono out of his rich experience has given the reader a very brief explanation shrines and some basic concepts of the kami-faith.”
The Kami Way is a very good introduction into many of the concepts and principles the underline Shinto practice. It is not a work that explores the deeper esoteric values behind some of the well-known Shinto practices, but I personally find its worth in how it defines some of these subject simplistic. One example of this can be found in Dr. Ono’s observations in Chapter Five of this work:
“Man is a child of kami, he also is inherently good. Yet there is no clear line of distinction between himself and the kami. In one sense men are kami, in another they will become kami. man owes his life, which is sacred, to the kami and to his ancestors. he is loved and protected by them. He is endowed with the life and spirit of the kami, but at the same time he receives his life from his parents, grandparents, and ancestors through countless ages. Man is dependant for his continued existence on both nature and society. He is a social being. he cannot live in isolation.
Man owes gratitude to the kami and his ancestors for his life, ad for their all-encompassing love. He also owes much to his present family, his community, and the nation. his life is full of blessings and so he must accept his obligations to society and contribute to the vital development of all things entrusted to him.”
There is much wisdom in the writings of Dr. Ono, and while this work is written in a simplistic format, it is a classic work of the modern era. For those who are looking for some wise sayings to mimic, a deep profound saying or two, this book isn’t for you. However, for the layman who seeks to gain a basic understanding of Shinto spirituality and for the practitioner of this paradigm itself, you will find this work of value to have amongst your collection of educational tools.
I highly recommend this book for all who have embraced the path of Shinto. Thee is a great history that should be appreciated by all who read Dr. Ono’s work.