To begin with, you must realize that Japan’s native religion is Shintoism. Shintoism teaches that the emperor is a god and that the Japanese are descended from the gods and destined to take over the world. That is why they were fighting WW 2, and that is why they were so hard to beat in WW 2. The reason why the kamikaze pilots used to plow their planes into American aircraft carriers killing everyone on the aircraft carrier and well as themselves, is because they thought they were descended from gods and destined to rule the world. Their belief made them a formidable enemy. However, WW 2 ended with two big bombs being dropped on Japan. The Japanese were in shock! They were not destined to take over the world, and that means that perhaps they weren’t descended from gods, and perhaps the emperor wasn’t a god. The emperor came right out and told them he wasn’t a god. They were totally disillusioned, and you would think it would do away with Shintoism, but it didn’t.
Now a days, they still go to the Shinto shrine. They still practice Buddhism too. However, it isn’t because they believe either of them. They do those things because they are Japanese. A new kind of “religion” has come out of losing WW 2. It is called by experts “Japanism.” It means they do it because it is Japanese, not because they actually believe it. They believe in Japan.
The last time I was in Japan, I went into a Buddhist temple and happened into a Buddhist service, so I stayed to learn. The Buddhist preacher was telling them in Japanese that they needed to practice Buddhism because it was Japanese, and that Japanese had always practiced Buddhism, so they needed to continue. He didn’t talk about belief or any reasons why he thought it was true, just that they should do it because it is Japanese. That is why they do many things now a days, not because they actually believe, but because they believe in Japan.
What they do seems very mixed up to people from the west. When I was a student in Japan, I used to attend chapel at school. I met a girl in chapel who told me that she was a Christian. She sat next to me every time in chapel. After a while, she invited me to her home. She had a god shelf in her home as many Japanese do. It is a place where they put the picture of a dead relative, and every day, they put rice and tea there and pray to the dead relative. If they are Buddhist, they clap their hands three times when they pray. If they are Shinto, they just put their hands together silently. She began praying at the god shelf.
I asked the girl who took me home with her why she was praying at the god shelf because she had told me she was a Christian. She told me her dad was a Christian, and that she was praying to her father at the god shelf. She said she was practicing Christianity to honor her father. She was doing it the Japanese way, mixing religions.
They mix their religions. For one event, they will show up at the Shinto Shrine, but for the next event, they will be at the Buddhist temple. They don’t actually believe any of the religions. They only practice them because they are Japanese, and they believe in Japan just as that girl didn’t actually believe in Christianity, but she was practicing it because she believed in her father.
Their mindset is that they know they aren’t descended from gods now. They know the emperor isn’t a god. However, they believe in Japan and the Japanese way, so if it is Japanese, they will do it. Someone asked me once what threat I thought could come out of Japan. They only threat I see is if they actually began believing in Shintoism again, but at this point, they practice it without believing it.