Buddhism & Shintoism, What are the Differences ?

Buddhism & Shintoism

We wanted to clarify the differences between these two religions, that are often confused by people who do not know about them.
Torii #1
As you know, the Japanese draws many of their beliefs and traditions in two main non-exclusive religions:
  • Shintoism : which is more about a set of traditions and customs. It is an animistic religion because the followers believe in the spirits of Nature, "Kami", which can be in a tree, a stone or a waterfall. The followers of Shinto do not follow any set of formal rules, as it is the case for Christian with the Bible.
  • Buddhism : which is a religion that encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and spiritual practices largely based on the teachings attributed to the Buddha. Practices of Buddhism include taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, study of scriptures, observance of moral precepts, renunciation of craving and attachment, the practice of meditation (including calm and insight), the cultivation of wisdom, loving-kindness and compassion.
For the little story, Shintoism was born in Japan, while Buddhism was imported from China and Korea from the 5th century. They were officially separated at the end of the 19th century.
Each of them has its own places of worship and, in our point of view, for some people the boundaries might not be necessarily obvious. Although Shintoism and Buddhism share certain resemblances, we met a lot of Japanese who "practice" both religions very naturally and without distinction.
But there are important marks which make it possible to differentiate them, for example with their architecture. 
Most of the time, the entrance to these religious buildings is recognizable for the sanctuaries to a 鳥居 torii "portico", and for the temples to a 門 ("door") which is a more complex structure.
Kaminari 門 : Door

Despite the fact that sometimes temples and sanctuaries share the same space, it is very rare to find a Torii at the entrance of a temple. Also if there is a Shimemawa, a braided rope, it indicates that you are in a sanctuary. While the most recognizable mark of a temple is of course the statue of Buddha.
In Japan, they do not hesitate to mix elements of Buddhism and Shintoism with each other, so it is very difficult to say whether this or that element belongs to one or the other.
But still, there are different ways to pray in sanctuaries and in temples.
Fushimi Inari Torii 鳥居

How to pray...

Before going to pray in a sanctuary or in the temple, you have to rinse your hands and mouth with a pure water, to purify the body. 
  1. First take the ladle in your right hand.
  2. Draw some water with and pour it on your left hand.
  3. Pass the ladle in your left hand and rinse your right hand in the same way.
  4. Draw a little water that you will pour into your palm.
  5. Take a sip of water to rinse your mouth.
  6. Wash your left hand again.
  7. Replace the ladle pointing down on the basin.

In sanctuaries ...

Here a "What to do" that was told from a japanese friend. In a shinto sanctuary, prayer follows a precise pattern. At first, put a coin in the trunk (a big box at the entrance) and make the bell ring. bow down twice then tap your hand twice to signal your presence to the local deity. Once the moment of meditation is over, bow down one last time.

In temples...

In which I am more familiar with, as a buddhist.
The approach is similar in a Buddhist temple for the water purification. When you are in front of the altar, place coins in the entrance box, then if you find incense sticks, join your hands, place 3 of the incense sticks between your hands, and pray quietly. When it is over, bow down and place your incense sticks in the incense holder. Do not hesitate to approach the incense smoke, it is supposed to have therapeutic and purifying virtues.
It can be different, depending on where you are from.

Dr Nozman -
Youtube channel (some videos on our Japan Trip - In french) : https://www.youtube.com/DrNozman

Dr Nozman & Lilly