1. Koshitsu Shinto, or the Shinto of the Imperial House, which includes the rituals performed by the Emperor. Until 1945 the Emperor was considered to be the descendant of Amaterasu, the most worshipped Shinto deity. Nowadays he is referred to as the "symbol of the state and of the unity of the people" in Japanese Constitution. Shoten and Nai-Shoten, the male and female clergy help the Emperor to perform the rituals. The most important ritual is Niinamesai, the offering the first fruits from the harvest to the deities.
2. Jinja Shinto, or Shrine Shinto. The most widespread form of Shinto in Japan. Until 1945 the followers of Shrine Shinto worshipped the emperor as a living god. This form of Shinto puts the emphasis on the importance of the shrines.
Shinto is one of the most tolerant religions worldwide. Nowadays it has the elements of Buddhism, and of some other religions. Shinto accepts the elements of other religions, and Shintoists are usually very tolerable forwards the beliefs that are different from the ones they hold
What is peculiar about Shinto is that while it has been a main Japanese religion for thousands of years, it has always shared is cultural and spiritual role with other religious movements, like Buddhism and Confucianism. Some researchers eliminate the four phases of the historical development of Shinto:
Before the arrival of other religions in Japan
Shinto and other religions together in Japan
The Meiji reinterpretation of Shinto in the 19th century
Shinto after World War II (Religion and Ethics, Shinto)
Scott Littleton, the author of the comprehensive guide towards Shintoism, states that the Shintoistic iconographic evidence appears when the more complex Yayoi culture arrives (300BCE - 300CE) (2002). It is reported that before the 6th century CE there was "no formal Shinto religion, but many local cults that are nowadays grouped under the Shinto" (Religion and Ethics, Shinto). The ancient beliefs and customs were first written in the Kojiki [records of ancient matters], which were prepared under the imperial order and completed in 712 AD. (Reader, 1998)
At that times Shinto was different from the religion we know nowadays. From the scientific point of view, the sets of beliefs that existed among different tribes that inhabited the territory of contemporary Japan cannot be referred to as "religion". In the minds of the ancient Japanese their beliefs were just a part of the world that surrounded them. Their beliefs were secularized, and used in their day-to day existence.
The ancient Japanese developed Shinto to explain the world they saw around. Lots of natural phenomena were incomprehensible for people who lived at those times, thus they had to invent explanations. It's well known that the things people don't understand scare them the most. Like all the other ancient belief systems, Shinto was developed to help ancient people cope with their