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Home » 3. Institutions and Administrative Practices » Modern and Contemporary
Shintō Shirei (The Shinto Directive)
The Shintō Directive. A directive issued to the Japanese government by GHQ on 15 December 1945, the full title of which was "Regarding the abolition of government protection, support, supervision and proliferation of State Shintō or shrine Shintō." It was guided by the Potsdam Declaration and the statement of 20 September 1945 setting out the US policy towards post-surrender Japan; its purport was to abolish State Shintō (Kokka Shintō), and so secure freedom of religion and eliminate militarism and ultra-nationalism. The Directive went beyond systematically severing links between the state and shrine Shintō. It ordered the removal of all rites, practices, myths, legends, and philosophy, as well as material symbols, that it deemed tainted with Shintō. As a result, the thoroughgoing separation of shrine Shintō from the state impinged upon all religions, and the Directive made explicit its intent to separate all religions from the state. This was in effect a policy conspicuously different from, and altogether more rigorous than, the separation of religion and state (separation of church and state) that was generally adhered to in the nations of the Western world.
       The application of the directive relied upon a stream of instructions from the government covering a wide range of prohibitions: of visits to religious institutions by pupils at state schools and children of pre-school age; of fundraising for shrines by local town committees; of the performance of groundbreaking (jichinsai) and roof-raising rites (jōtōsai) for public buildings; of conducting funerals and rites of propitiation for the war dead by the state and public bodies; and of the removal and/or erection of commemorative sites to the war dead. A distinctive feature of the Directive was that it was exceptionally lenient towards imperial court rites. However, the rigid application of the Directive, given its ignorance of the reality of Japanese social life, led to trouble and confusion everywhere. GHQ was bombarded with complaints and grievances from local people. And in 1949, halfway through the Occupation, the Directive came to be applied with greater discretion. Typical was the approval granted to state funerals which entailed religious rites. The funerals of Matsudaira Tsuneo of the Upper House (Shintō-style) and of Shidehara Kijūrō of the Lower House (Buddhist) were typical examples. This fact regarding the discretionary application of the Directive needs to be born in mind when interpreting the Constitutional provision for the separation of state and religion.

— Ōhara Yasuo
"Establishment of a National Learning Institute for the Dissemination of Research on Shinto and Japanese Culture"
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