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Home » 7. Concepts and Doctrines » Basic Terms
A general term for uniquely Japanese character arrays or character systems thought to have existed in ancient Japan before Chinese characters (kanji) were introduced. Also called "kamiyo moji." According to the Kojiki and the Nihongi, in the sixteenth year of Ōjin Tennō's reign (285), Wani (Wani Kishi in the Kojiki) brought the Chinese classics from Kudara (Paekche). It is after that event that it is thought that the use and study of characters (Chinese characters) began. In addition, it is recorded in the introduction of the Kogoshui that originally there were no characters in Japan and that because they relied on word of mouth, there were many mistakes in the oral traditions. Furthermore, the idea that the kana syllabary that became Japan's unique set of characters was created from Chinese characters was widely accepted from ancient times. However, in the middle of the Kamakura period the theory that the kana syllabary originated in the "age of kami" (jindai) came into being. Urabe Kanekata declared in the Shaku nihongi that that Kōbō Daishi's (Kūkai's) "Iroha uta" was probably a reformulation of Japanese characters, also making a reference to the unclearly deciphered Komahito no fumi. In the same work, he stated that Izanagi and Izanami must have used characters (Japanese characters) when they performed scapula divination. This is probably the result of identifying tortoise shell divination, which used characters, with scapula divination (which did not). Inbe no Masamichi explained in the Nihon shoki jindai kuketsu that until the time of Shōtoku Taishi pictographic Japanese characters and Chinese characters were used together. Also, Yoshida Kanetomo claimed in the Nihon shoki jindai shō that the "Iroha" and "katakana" were creations of later generations by Kōbō (Daishi) and Kibi no Mabiki, but the fifty sounds were from the jindai (age of the kami). He claimed that there were fifteen thousand three hundred and sixty jindai moji created by Izanagi and Izanami's Heavenly Jeweled Spear, and those characters' forms were similar to the measure markings in Buddhist hymns. Yoshida Shintō claimed that the jindai moji fell into disuse after Shōtoku Taishi replaced them with Chinese characters, but were transmitted within the Yoshida family from then on. Thus, concurrent with the spread of Yoshida Shintō, the existence of jindai moji came to be believed among Yoshida Shintō families.
In the Edo period there were rumors of the existence of the Komahito no fumi, Satsuhito no fumi, and also of bamboo slips handed down in Izumo and Atsuta (see Izumo Taisha, Atsuta Jingū) that transmitted the jindai moji; jindai moji theories other than the Yoshida's also appeared. Atobe Yoshiakira of Kitsuke Shintō first presented the twelve horary signs as a concrete array of jindai moji. Calling it part of the tradition coming from Yamazaki Ansai, it was adopted into Kitsuke Shintō traditional teachings. In contrast to Yoshiakira's jindai moji of twelve characters was the Sendai kuji hongi taisei kyō, which explained that there was a forty-seven sound edict from Amaterasu to Ōnamuchi, and Ōnamuchi and Amenoyagokoro no mikoto made a forty-seven sound chart which was transmitted to the ancient shrines. The words of the edict (hi fu mi yo i mu na ya ko to mo chi ro ra ne shi ki ru yu wi tsu wa nu so wo ta ha ku me ka u o e ni sa ri he te no ma su a se we ho ke re) used words from a chant for placating a spirit, but could be lined up and converted into the "Iroha." The actual jindai moji were not recorded, but it showed the Chinese characters (which Shōtoku Taishi was said to have used to replace the jindai moji) that related to each sound. This later became the foundation of later jindai moji theory and associated doctrines, and monks and advocates for the unification of the three religions supported it. Explanatory texts appeared dealing with its relationship to the Shirakawa family and also with the arrangement of the divine words (hi fu mi ho re ke) in correspondence to Chinese characters. However, it was criticized for the fact that while arguing for the existence of jindai moji and their sounds, it did not present the jindai moji themselves. Moreover, in reality, the teachings depended on the sounds and meanings of Chinese characters. Therefore, the priest Tainin, a Taiseikyō adherent (see Shintō Taiseikyō), authored Shinkoku shinji benron in 1778. He himself possessed a secret scroll and he presented a chart of the pictographic forms of the forty-seven characters plus two types of cursive, which were all based on the transmission from the ancient shrines. He called them hifumi. Along with the previously mentioned myth of the origin of characters and the twelve horary signs, in 1779 kannushi Izeki Atsunaga (formerly Atsuyoshi) of Awa no kuni Ōmiya presented several types of divine characters in character arrays or character systems such as purification verses (haraekotoba, see harae), or in charts of fifty sounds and the like in Kanafumi (or Kannafumi). Particularly during this time, various types of jindai moji began to appear and overall interest in jindai moji theories developed.
While on the one had well-known Shintoists, Confucianists, evidential historians, and National Learning (kokugaku) scholars such as Yoshimi Yoshikazu, Dazai Shundai, Ise Sadatake, and Motoori Norinaga denied jindai moji, there were also Arai Hakuseki and others who positively refrained from making any conclusions. Furthermore, Hirata Atsutane authored the Kanna hifumi den (1819). In it he collected about fifty types of examples of divine characters. He examined and shed light on various theories, among them Yashiro Hirokata's theory that the twelve horary signs were Ryūkyū characters printed in the Ryūkyū shintō ki. His conclusion was that hifumi's two forms of true and cursive writing were to be recognized as genuine jindai moji, and this greatly affected the affirmative arguments about jindai moji from the late Edo period on. Still, within Norinaga's school lineage, arguments denying the existence of jindai moji were in the mainstream; these even included Senke Suganushi (Toshizane) of the Grand Shrine of Izumo (Izumo Taisha), a shrine which was said to have transmitted bamboo slips of jindai moji. Ban Nobutomo clarified the fact that the kana syllabary was derived from Chinese characters in Kana no motosue. He pointed out the mutual influence hifumi and hangul (the syllabary of the Korean peninsula), and he refuted the theory of the existence of jindai moji. Still, as before, the Hirata faction supported the existence theory. Also, during the Bunka era (1804-1818) Tsurumine Shigenobu dealt with the jindai moji "a na i chi" from the Seikei zusetsu compiled by the Satsuma domain. He argued that all the world's writing derived from "a na i chi." Jindai moji literature called "uetsufumi" also came out at the end of the Edo period and at the time of the Meiji restoration.
Even after entering the modern period, Tanaka Yoritsune and Ochiai Naobumi (who had inherited Atsutane's theory) argued that the kana syllabary derived from jindai moji. On top of this, there were even people from Qing China who argued that hifumi were the ancient forms of Chinese characters. In addition, coupled with the koshintō boom ranging from the Taishō to Shōwa eras, jindai moji literature drew attention, starting with "Uetsufumi" and "Amatsukyō komonjo" (Takeuchi Bunsho). Opposing this, Yamada Yoshio (1953, Iwayuru jindai moji no ron) applied the fruits of post-Meiji Japanese language research and investigated the emergence and development of jindai moji theories. He refuted them and thus a somewhat scholarly conclusion was reached. Yet even after that, jindai moji literature like Kukami monjo was "discovered" and the theory of the existence of jindai moji is even now still strongly supported by various Shintō related teachings and among the so-called koshintō adherents.

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