Shinto coexisted with Buddhism and Confucianism and their ethical values. It is very hard to differentiate which of these ethical beliefs are Japanese. Confucianism has played a major rule in Japanese ethics.

Shinto ethics are not based on commandments or laws that tell you how to behave.
Kami are not perfect. Shinto texts have many examples of kami making mistakes or doing badly. This distances Shinto ethics from other religion’s ethics whose gods are perfect and have certain moral rules.
The main aim of Shinto ethics is to promote harmony and purity in all aspects of life. Purity is not just spiritually but also morally.
Shinto has no absolute morals, it assesses the good and bad of an action or thought in the context of the situation. This brings into account circumstances, intention, purpose, time and location to determine whether an action is bad.

Shinto ethics all start with the basic idea that all humans are good and that the world is good. Evil enters the world from elsewhere brought by evil spirits. These affect humans like a disease and reduce the ability to resist temptation. When a human acts in a bad way they bring sin upon themselves which obstructs the flow of life and blessing of the kami.

The following things are usually considered bad in Shinto ethics:
  • things which disturb kami
  • things which disturb the worship of kami
  • things which disrupt the harmony of the world
  • things which disrupt the natural world
  • things which disrupt the social order