Hi Karl, it’s great to hear from you!
Thank you for a very interesting question. It seems to me that Shintoism and Christianity both acknowledge that there is something divine and transcendent, and some of my Japanese friends told me that they had been wondering if there is a god (or gods). Just like Paul did in Acts 17, it might be helpful to tell them that the Bible clarifies the character and the nature of the divine being.
There is mainly two sides to what we usually call Shintoism. One is the animism side and they worship animals, stones, trees and so on as divine beings. The other side is the emperor worship. People believed the emperors were descendants of the mythical gods and therefore divine. That is why the Japanese people worshipped the emperor as a god, but he was forced by the USA to officially renounce it after Japan lost in WWII. Not many people seem to believe in their divinity nowadays so we probably don’t have to deal with this issue in usual conversations.
The difficulty is that many Japanese people seem to follow Shintoism because it is part of the tradition or culture, and they might not be aware that they are religious. The typical answer to the question, “What religion do you believe in?” is “I have no religion” although they go to Shinto shrines and worship. That is why it would be important to ask them questions to invite them to reflect on what they actually believe and why. And if they have wondered or even experienced that there is a divine being out there, that might be a great starting point for deeper conversations!
(My favorite Japanese food is yakiniku=Japanese BBQ. I don’t remember the name of the Filipino food I had last time so I need to try again someday!)