Mention Buddhism to a Westerner, and you might be greeted with a nod, perhaps a few “facts” about the religion (likely exaggerations or errors), and maybe a notion that its something “Chinese people practice.” It’s a little mysterious, a little alien, but a tradition with awareness and (hopefully) some respect in Western society. Exaggerations aside, people know of the Buddha and can recognize the religion when they encounter it.
Mention Shinto to the same Westerner, and you might receive a shrug or a “I’ve never heard of that, is it a food?” As mysterious as Buddhism might appear, Shinto is something completely off the grid. Browsing Amazon or the internet yields equally scarce results, usually relegating the system of belief to the realms of mythology or folklore, a disservice to a tradition that still has many adherents, and a legacy stretching back over 2000 years. Little is devoted to the practice, nor the traditions associated with it- just a series of stories about gods, and possibly a brief history.
This is a shame, given how much of the anime we watch has elements related to shinto in them. Often simple things, like prayers, clapping, bowing, or a mentioning of elements and directions- innocuous on their own, but collectively a reflection of the subtle intricacies of Japanese life that often go overlooked. Much like a Westerner saying “God Bless You,” or throwing salt over their shoulders, these “little customs” run the risk of being called eccentricities or superstitions by viewers unaware of their significance or history.