Japanese Culture


Statistics show that 66.8% of Japanese people are Buddhist, 1.5% are Christian and 7.1% belong to another religion. However, an overwhelming number of Japanese people (79.2%) also believe in Shintoism, often in conjunction with another religion (such as Buddhism).

Almost all Japanese observe customs that have origins in Buddhism or Shintoism, yet many may define themselves as atheists. This is common as the religious traditions of Shintoism, in particular, have started to be considered as more ‘cultural’ than ‘spiritual’. The 2011 Australian Census showed that of the Japan-born population in Australia, 52.6% identified with no religion. Of those who did identify with a faith, 26.3% were Buddhist, 4.1% were Catholic Christians and 12.4% belonged to other religions.

Shinto is the indigenous religion of Japan. It has no founder or sacred scripture but has been rooted in Japanese belief and traditions since the origins of Japan. Its philosophy is grounded in the value of man’s relationship to nature. The main belief of Shinto is that the world is full of spirits, ‘kami’, that symbolise certain concepts of life or the physical world (e.g. wind, water, fertility). When treated properly, these kami intervene in people’s lives to bring benefits.Many Japanese people worship at shrines of specific kami or locations where kami are thought to reside, to be supported throughout their life. It is an optimistic faith that believes humans are inherently good and all evil is the manifestation or effect of evil spirits. Shinto also emphasises the reverence of ancestors, ritual purity and respect for the beauty of the natural world.

Not all Japanese believe in the mythology and philosophy of Shinto. However, most people in Japan participate in its practices as part of social tradition. In some ways, Shinto can be regarded as an aspect of culture (instead of a religion) by some Japanese. It isn’t monotheistic and can coexist with other religions, such as Buddhism, fluidly.

Buddhism is a philosophy built around the belief that people can reach a state of enlightenment in which they obtain the love, wisdom and clarity to see reality clearly and exist in it purely. Many teachings are based on a set of truths about reality known as “The Four Noble Truths”. These are the following: firstly, that there is suffering; secondly, that suffering has a cause; that suffering has an end; and finally, that there is a path to the end of suffering (The Eightfold Path). To be a Buddhist is to follow a path towards leading a moral life. One also seeks to develop wisdom and understanding and be mindful of one’s thoughts and actions. This is achieved by practising methods such as meditation to gradually overcome negative mindsets. Buddhism views human life as a continual repetitive cycle of birth and death as a being moves towards enlightenment.

A Japanese development of Buddhism is Zen Buddhism. This emphasises a close connection to nature and the role of a teacher as opposed to deities in guiding one towards spiritual knowing. Zen teachings value the stimulation of one’s intuition through poems and conundrums and exercising expressive thinking through painting. Zen Buddhists represent a small minority of the larger Buddhist community in Japan. However, its ideology is relevant to understanding and appreciating many examples of Japanese architecture (such as temples and gardens).

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  • Population
    [July 2016 est.]
  • Languages
    Japanese (official)
  • Religions
    Shintoism (79.2%)
    Buddhism (66.8%)
    Christianity (1.5%)
    Other (7.1%)
    [2012 est.]
    Note: Total adherents exceeds 100% because many people practice both Shintoism and Buddhism.
  • Ethnicities
    Japanese (98.5%)
    Chinese (0.5%)
    Korean (0.42%)
    Filipino (0.16%)
    Brazilian (0.15%)
    [2012 est.]
    Note: The Ministry of Justice in Japan correlates nationality with ethnicity; they have no official data on the actual ethnic breakdown of people in Japan.
  • Cultural Dimensions
    Power Distance 54
    Individualism 46
    Masculinity 95
    Uncertainty Avoidance 92
    Long Term Orientation 88
    Indulgence 42
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  • Australians with Japanese Ancestry
    65,708 [2016 census]
Japanese in Australia
  • Population
    [2016 census]
    This figure refers to the number of Australian residents that were born in Japan.
  • Average Age
  • Gender
    Males (68.3%)
    Females (31.7%)
  • Religion
    No Religion (52.6%)
    Buddhism (26.3%)
    Catholic Christianity (4.1%)
    Other (12.4%)
  • Ancestry
    Japanese (82.7%)
    Australian (5.1%)
    English (3%)
    Chinese (1.2%)
    Other (7.9%)
  • Language Spoken at Home
    Japanese (79.1%)
    English (17.4%)
    Mandarin (0.6%)
    Other (2.3%)
    Of those who speak a language other than English at home, 79.5% speak English fluently.
  • Diaspora
    New South Wales (34.2%)
    Queensland (29.2%)
    Victoria (19.3%)
    Western Australia (10.1%)
  • Arrival
    Prior to 2001 (42.1%)
    2001-2006 (25.1%)
    2007-2011 (26.3%)
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