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Shinto As An Element Of Culture In Japan

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While reading about Cultural Diversity, it was learned that it consisted of eight parts. In this essay, it will be broken down into four parts, “Four Elements of Culture.” This will include Health beliefs and practices, Family Patterns, Communication Style and Death and Dying Practices. Each one has its own unique place in Cultural Diversity.

Health Beliefs and Practices has three different views: religious, scientific and holistic. Family Patterns is what the family dynamics are. “Cultural values can determine communication with the family group, the norm for family size, and the roles of specific family members” (Galanti, 1991, p. 63). Communication Style shows us the different way people communicate with each other. “Communicating with the clients of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds is critical to providing culturally competent health administration” (Kozier, 2000, p. 210). Finally, Death and Dying Practices helps the professional know what to do, depending on the culture. “Various cultural and religious traditions and practices associated with death, dying, and grieving process help people cope with these experiences.” (Kozier, 2000, p. 213). These practices are going to be applied to the Japanese culture. In the next few pages, it is going to show us the answers to the questions we have about Japanese cultural ideals.

The Japanese health beliefs and practices come mostly from religious and philosophical beliefs. There are two main faiths in Japan. They are Shintoism and Buddhism. Most people in the Japanese culture believe in both beliefs. “Shintoism is an ancient religion based on the belief that the gods are represented in natural surroundings such as rivers, trees and mountains with shrines built to honor these gods. One of the most important ways to show respect for the gods upon entering a shrine is by washing your hands.” (Blanch, Lynn. 2018, June 24). According to the Shintoism beliefs, sickness and disease are considered tainted or impure. The Japanese believe that their sickness comes from a blockage of their flow of Qi. Qi is a type of energy. To release this energy, they use treatments, such as acupuncture, to release the toxins from the body. In the study of Buddhism, people see aging and illness as a natural progression in life. Many Japanese later in their lives accept Buddhism. Dying treatments and funeral rituals are often used according to the Buddhist beliefs in Japan.

Looking at family practice, a typical Japanese household usually consists of the father, mother and their children .“During the second half of the 20th century, new laws were introduced reducing patriarchal authority and awarding greater legal rights for women.” (Commisceo Global Consulting Ltd. 2019, January 1). In some houses, however, the man is still considered the head of the household. The husband/father is supposed to be the one out working and providing for his family. As for the women/mothers, the majority of mothers choose to stay home, raising the children and keeping the house clean. They care very deeply for their children and will do anything for them. Mothers try and find the best educational opportunities for their children to take to become something they want to be. The grandparents may move in with the eldest son at some point so that he and his family can help take care of them as they age. They, in return, help with household tasks and with taking care of the children.

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Japanese communication style has a very high context culture. “High context refers to cultures that rely mainly on non-verbal, implicit communication. They rely on deep personal relationships, context, and traditions to interpret messages.” (Frost, Alan. 2013). Japan uses an indirect type of communication. When you look at The Lewis Model, Japan it is one of the closest to reactive. “Those cultures that prioritize courtesy and respect, listening quietly and calmly to their interlocutors and reacting carefully to the other side’s proposals.” (Lubin, Gus. 2013, September 6). The Japanese pay more attention to the individuals physical signs rather than words. They are quite respectful when talking and react very carefully to others. They pay attention to the tones of your voice and your physical actions. Another thing to know, the Japanese do not like to look you in the eyes for very long, as it is a sign of disrespect to stare at an individual. They also view punctuality as a sign of respect and do not talk ill of their partners.

Buddhism culture is used in the practices of death and dying. After the death of an individual, the family hold a wake. “During the wake service, which takes place before the funeral, it is customary for attendees to offer small amounts of money to the bereaved and burn incense to pray for the soul of the deceased, according to ‘The Japanese Times.’ During the funeral, a priest will chant sections from a sutra – a collection of Buddhist aphorisms – and burn incense. The body is then cremated, a longstanding tradition supposedly originating with the cremation of the Buddha himself after he reached nirvana and died.” (Portero, Ashley. n.d). Buddhism emphases Nirvana instead of an After Life. Nirvana is a state where the soul can become free of all suffering it has experienced. Buddhists believe the soul can be reincarnated over and over again, until it finally reaches the stage of spiritual insight. During the mourning process, the family have a monk that comes to the family’s personal Buddhist Altar and chant sutras. Some Japanese families feel the need to keep a Buddhist altar or Shinto shrine in their household to show respect to the dead. The family holds a memorial service on the anniversary of their loved ones death. Usually by going and visiting the grave site, or lighting an incense in honor of them.

It was really exciting to take this time to learn about Japanese culture. Not only has it brought new appreciation for understanding their ways, but also to the many differences that cultures have. Even though some may find the Japanese practices strange and unusual, they have been doing this throughout the ages and with purpose. It is beautiful that through the centuries they have been able to carry out and practice their rituals.

“Communicating with the clients of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds is critical to providing culturally competent health administration” (Kozier, 2000, p. 210). It is very important to understand that people come from all different walks of life. When we take the time to realize that people have different beliefs, we can learn from the “Four Elements of Culture.” It is a great way to understand Health Beliefs and Practices, Family Patterns, Communication Style and Death and Dying Practices within a culture. Realizing different cultures have different beliefs allows people to be more understanding towards the individual’s needs.


  1. (Blanch, Lynn. (2018). Healthcare Beliefs of the Japanese. Retrieved from
  2. (Commisceo Global Consulting Ltd. (2019, January 1). Japan – Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette. Retrieved from
  3. (Evanson, Nina. (2019). Japanese Culture. Retrieved from
  4. (Frost, Alan. (2013, March 9). Japan: A High Context Culture. Retrieved from
  5. ( (2019). Shinto. Retrieved from
  6. (Kozier, B., Erg, G., Berman, A.J. & Burke, K. (2000). Fundamental of Nursing Concepts, Process and Practice (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall Health.)
  7. (Lubin, Gus. 2013, September 6th. The Lewis Model Explains Every Culture In The World. Retrieved from
  8. (Portero, Ashley. (N.D.). Death and Burial Traditions of Japan. Retrieved from

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Shinto As An Element Of Culture In Japan. (2022, February 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 1, 2023, from
“Shinto As An Element Of Culture In Japan.” Edubirdie, 18 Feb. 2022,
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