Buddhism was brought to Japan from China at different periods by various individuals whose studies and practice differ widely. Buddhism as practiced in Japan has been shaped by Japanese cultural practices and values and has developed differently from Buddhism practiced elsewhere in Asia. In Japan, Zen Buddhism has become one of the major forms of Buddhist practice and is the most well-known form of Japanese Buddhism outside of Japan.
Buddhism was first introduced into Japan from Korea in the year 522. As a foreign religion, it first met with resistence but it was recognized in 585 by emperor Yomei. During the period of government of Prince Shotoku (593-621) it was the official religion of Japan. Shotoku fostered the study of Buddhist scriptures and founded Horyu-ji in Nara among other temples. During this period it was primarily the Sanron school that spread.
During the Nara period (710-794) there were already six schools of Buddhism in Japan: Kosha, Hosso, Sanron, Jojitsu, Ritsu and Kegon. It was firmly established in the imperial house which expecially took the teachings of the Kegon school as the basis of its government. The "Sutra of Golden Light "was of particular importance.
During the Heian period (794-1184) the Tendai and Shingon schools gained influence and became the dominant forms of Buddhism in Japan and became the de facto state religion.
Around the middle of the 10th century Amidism began to spread and in the Kamakura period (1185-1333) it was organized into the Jodo-shu and Jodo-shinshu. In 1191 Zen came to Japan and has remained until today the most vital form of Japanese Buddhism, two main schools are Soto and Rinzai.
In the 13th century the Nichiren school emerged. In the 19th century Shintoism was elevated to the state religion. After the Second World War there was a renaissance of Buddhism in Japan and a whole series of popular movements have arisen: Soka Gakkai, Rissho Koseikai and Nipponzan Myohoji, to name a few, which have adapted Buddhism to modern times.
Buddhism began with the experiences of a man who is known mainly as the Buddha (Butsu - the enlightened one, Shakyamuni 窶 the sage of the Shakya clan, Siddhartha Gautama 窶廃ersonal name) (b 563 B. C. died at age 84). The philosophy/religion is based on his teachings after his experience of being enlightened [satori 窶 (kenshﾃｴ jobutsu "seeing one窶冱 own true nature") enlightenment 窶 awakening 窶 an understanding of the entire universe, emptiness and phenomena are one. satoru 窶 to know.] It is often not considered a religion because there is no god. There are powerful beings who are petitioned for assistance in reaching this goal but they are not identified as gods.
The term butsu or buddha is used to refer to anyone who is aware or enlightened as to the true nature of existence. All people are hotoke 窶 buddhas. Shakyamuni is the historical buddha for this age. Kﾃ｢shyapa 窶 buddha of past ages (there are 6 buddhas of earlier epochs). Maitreya (Miroku) 窶 future buddha, associated with the attribute of wisdom.
The main ideas of the philosophy are to be found in the Taishﾃｴ issaikyﾃｴ (Tripitaka, three baskets). The Japanese is a modern version of the Buddhist canon which consists of 1) Vinaya 窶 pitaka accounts of origins of Buddhism, 2) sutra-pitaka 窶 teachings of the Buddha, 3) abhidharma-pitaka 窶 compendium of buddhist psychology and philosophy.