Buddhism in Japan has a long history. It has arrived through Korea and China and was synonymous of civilization. Now it permeates Japanese society. The beauty of Japan would be very different if it hadn't been influenced by Buddhism and the Zen school.
Japan's native religion, Shintoism, was unique among the religions of the world as it allowed other Gods and beliefs to be incorporated in it's already complex cosmology. Buddhism has thus lived alongside, and many times in fusion with Shintoism and it really gave it a local color. Today, it is said that you live a Shintoist and die a Buddhist. This is why Japanese funerals are usually Buddhist.
Take also into account that the warrior cast, called samurai, was encouraged to pursue an aesthetic and an artistic life in combination with the martial arts. A true gentleman was equally apt at poetry, calligraphy, painting, tea ceremony and slaughtering his enemies. Zen was the favorite sect among the warriors and brought a whole level of complexity to life that shows even today.
Through Japanese history, Buddhism took such a central role, that some temples were stronger, richer than most warlords. They had their own land, their own army and a caste a warrior-monks called the sohei.
The lower castes were not without their own movements and many schools of Buddhism were developed for them such as the Pure Land sect.
Through all this mix of religions, many teachers coming from the main land or prominent Japanese monks started schools or sects of their own. These schools of Buddhism focus on a different text (okyo) or have a very different way of seeing things.
Anyone who comes to Japan can experience first hand the magic of this land through its various temples, shrines, sacred mountains or pilgrimage routes.
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