, also kami-no-michi, is an indigenous religion of Japan and the people of Japan. It is defined as an action-centered religion, focused on ritual practices to be carried out diligently, to establish a connection between present-day Japan and its ancient past. Founded in 660 BC, Shinto practices were first recorded and codified in the written historical records of the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki in the 8th century. Still, these earliest Japanese writings do not refer to a unified “Shinto religion”, but rather to a collection of native beliefs and mythology. Shinto today is a term that applies to the religion of public shrines devoted to the worship of a multitude of gods (kami), suited to various purposes such as war memorials and harvest festivals, and applies as well to various sectarian organizations. Practitioners express their diverse beliefs through a standard language and practice, adopting a similar style in dress and ritual, dating from around the time of the Nara and Heian periods. The word Shinto (“way of the gods”) was adopted, originally as Shindo, from the written Chinese Shendao (神道, ), combining two kanji: , meaning “spirit” or kami; and , meaning a philosophical path or study (from the Chinese word dào). The oldest recorded usage of the word Shindo is from the second half of the 6th century. Kami are defined in English as “spirits”, “essences” or “gods”, referring to the energy generating the phenomena. Since Japanese language does not distinguish between singular and plural, kami refers to the divinity, or sacred essence, that manifests in multiple forms: rocks, trees, rivers, animals, places, and even people can be said to possess the nature of kami. Kami and people are not separate; they exist within the same world and share its interrelated complexity. Shinto is the largest religion in Japan, practiced by nearly 80% of the population, yet only a small percentage of these identify themselves as “Shintoists” in surveys. This is due to the fact that “Shinto” has different meanings in Japan: most of the Japanese attend Shinto shrines and beseech kami without belonging to an institutional “Shinto” religion, and since there are no formal rituals to become a member of folk “Shinto”, “Shinto membership” is often estimated counting those who join organised Shinto sects. Shinto has 100,000 shrines and 78,890 priests in the country. According to Inoue (2003): In modern scholarship, the term is often used with reference to kami worship and related theologies, rituals and practices. In these contexts, “Shinto” takes on the meaning of “Japan’s traditional religion”, as opposed to foreign religions such as Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and so forth.