“Much that is kindly and gracious in the life of the Japanese today,” wrote the eminent historian George Bailey Sansom in 1931, “can be traced to those sentiments which caused their remote ancestors to ascribe divinity not only to the powerful and awe-inspiring … but also to the lovely and pleasant.”

Gods come in many shapes and forms, endowed with myriad attributes. There are powerful gods and powerless gods, friendly and malicious gods, life-giving and life-destroying gods, gods who demand animal and human sacrifice and gods who wouldn’t dream of such a thing.

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