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Home » 3. Institutions and Administrative Practices » Modern and Contemporary
State Shintō
(kokka Shintō)
In the narrow sense, kokka Shintō refers to shrine Shintō as supervised until 1945 by the state and as administered separately in law from other forms of Shintō. In the wider sense, it has been conceptualized as the state religion manifest in the merging of the Shintō of the imperial court and shrine Shintō. Again, others have defined it as "the religion that provided the basis for Japanese state ideology from the Meiji restoration of 1868 until Japan's defeat in World War Two in 1945. To all intents and purposes it was the state religion of Japan." In brief, there is little consistency in the conceptualization of State Shintō among scholars. Historically, the term acquired common currency only with the Shintō Directive (Shintō shirei) of December 15, 1945. State Shintō is clearly defined therein as "the branch of Shintō distinguished in state law from "sect Shintō." This conceptualization or definition of state Shintō accords with understandings in pre-war Japan. The edicts and administrative arrangements that prompted the creation of State Shintō were 1) the separation in 1882 of the roles of state evangelists and shrine priests, which was predicated upon the idea of shrines being non-religious entities and 2) the creation of the Shrine Bureau (Jinja kyoku) in 1900 which disaggregated administration of shrines from that of other religious institutions. As a consequence of these two administrative initiatives, shrine Shintō came to be understood as State Shintō or national Shintō, and the supervision and administration of shrines and shrine rites became an important dimension of national affairs. Concrete administrative measures involved the funding of national and imperial shrines (kankoku heisha) from state coffers, the presentation of offerings (shinsen) to municipal, prefectural and other shrines, and the systematization of rites and priests at Shintō shrines.
       These various state shrine systems were maintained through the promulgation of laws and administrative measures of various sorts, but it is vital to remember there existed no over-arching, systematic legal framework. Rather, the systems came about through the promulgation of a series of individual laws and administrative strategies. As a consequence, State Shintō was, in terms of its system, extremely unstable. Indeed, the government sought frequently to unify the different shrine systems and set up an over-arching legal framework for shrines but in vain. As part of their efforts to create a unified system, the government also convened numerous research committees. The largest of these was the Shrine System Research Committee (Jinja seido chōsa kai) convened in 1929, which sought to conduct a drastic overhaul of the administrative arrangements for shrines. It got no further, however, than advocating the joint administration of Yasukuni and other related shrines on the one hand, and the creation of the Institute of Divinities (Jingiin) on the other. The war ended without a national organization of shrines ever being implemented. With the Shintō shirei, however, all the laws that had shaped the state shrine system were cast aside and State Shintō as a system ceased to exist.

— Sakamoto Koremaru
"Establishment of a National Learning Institute for the Dissemination of Research on Shinto and Japanese Culture"
4-10-28 Higashi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-8440, Japan
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