people of Wa [Japan] dwell in the middle of the ocean on the
mountainous islands southeast of [the prefecture of] Daifang. During
the Han dynasty, [Wa] envoys appeared at the court; today, thirty of
their communities maintain intercourse with us through envoys and
scribes. ... The country formerly had a man as ruler. For some seventy or
eighty years after that there were disturbances and warfare. Thereupon
the people agreed upon a woman for their ruler. Her name was Pimiko [a.k.a. Himiko].
She occupied herself with magic and sorcery, bewitching the people.
Though mature in age, she remained unmarried. She had a younger brother
who assisted her in ruling the country. ... In the sixth month of the
seond year of Jingchu [238 C.E.], the Queen of Wa sent the grandee
Nashonmi and others to visit the prefecture [of Daifang], where they
requested permission to proceed to the emperor’s court with tribute.
The Governor, Liu Xia, dispatched an officer to accompany the party to
the capital. In answer to the Queen of Wa, an edict of the Emperor,
issued in the twelfth month of the same year, said as follows:
Prior to the influx of cultural influences from China and Korea in the sixth century, the Japanese worshiped “nature” kami directly. Mount Fuji (the tallest mountain in Japan) is one of the earliest pilgrimage sites — and remains one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in contemporary Japan.
Originally, people worshiped at sites in which spiritually charged entities called kami were believed to dwell, such as sacred waterfalls or forests.
Over time, natural objects such as a large tree or an unusual rock came to serve as yorishiro — a kind of spiritual lightning rod that was believed to attract the kami to a particular location so that the villagers could worship and/or commune with the deity.
In early spring, the mountain kami was welcomed to the fields in the form of water, an abudance of which was required to grow rice, which is still a sacred crop in Japan today. In the fall, the choicest rice was offered to thank the kami before it returned to the mountain for the winter.
Eventually, shrine buildings came to provide the focal point for the worship of particular kami, especially those associated with the tutelary kami of a particular clan, such as the progenitor and principal kami of the Yamato clan, the Sun Goddess Amaterasu ...