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Home » 7. Concepts and Doctrines » Research on Shinto
2. History (Middle Ages) Research
We encounter very difficult problems related to the history of medieval Shintō when we try to comprehend the Middle Ages as a time of jinbutsu shūgō (the fusion of kami and Buddha). The problem is whether it is possible to discuss Shintō history in opposition to the history of Buddhism in the same way that we discuss the history of the shrine in opposition to that of the temple. It is better to instead discuss the problem centered around the identity of Shintō history.

—The domain of the history of Medieval Shintō—
In the area of medieval Shinto history, in the prewar period there was Miyaji Naokazu's work and after the war the field was further opened by people such as Kubota Osamu, Nishida Nagao, and Hagiwara Tatsuo. An overview of the domain of the history of medieval Shintō will likely include the following: (1) state festivals and officiators, (2) shrines, (3) Shintō doctrine, and (4) Shintō art. Below we will examine the problems regarding each of these.

(1) State festivals and officiators
This can be situated in the Ritsuryo system ceremonies and the genealogy of the officials, but after the concepts of ōbō (secular law) and Buddhist law became universally accepted, the connection between the state and esoteric Buddhist became much closer, and even the Senso Daijōsai became an esoteric Buddhist ritual of ascension by anointing (see Ueyama Michio's 'Chūsei no sokui girei to Bukkyō ' ['The Ascension ceremonies of the Middle Ages and Buddhism'] and Tennō-dai gawari gishiki no rekishiteki tenkai [The historical development of the ceremony of changing the reign of the emperor]), and Shintō declined, hidden behind the shadow of exoteric-esoteric (kenmitsu) Buddhist thought. In the "Struggle for the Right of Ceremony" between the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and Emperor Gokomatsu during the Muromachi era, Yoshimitsu organized Meguri kitō, which was esoteric Buddhist practices and Onmyōdō festivals (see Imatani Akira, Muromachi no ōken [The Right to Ruler-ship in Muromachi]).

(2) Shrines
With regards to medieval shrines, the topics of research have been foundation ceremonies, festivals, beliefs, territory, and shrine households. Regarding the organization of beliefs, topics of discussion are miyaza (shrine guilds) and (a group of people of the same religious group), and also subjects relating to the practice of those beliefs, such as kanjō (pacification of the spirit of a kami that has separated and moved to another location) and sankei (a procession to a shrine or temple). However, as Kuroda Toshio stresses in Jisha seiryoku [The Power of Temples and Shrines], in the medieval state power (or kenmon) was held by temples or shrines under the jurisdiction of a temple, and not by shrines with jurisdiction over a temple. Iwashimizu Hachimangū, which was called the second ancestral temple of the state was called a miyadera, which shows that the union of Buddhism and Jingi (Shintō) had progressed on various levels. Even the Ise Shrine which professed to be off limits to Buddhism was not an exception to this movement.

(3) Shintō doctrine
Regarding Shintō doctrine that prospered from the Kamakura era, these can be divided into Tendai (Sannō), Shingon (Ryōbu), Ise, and Urabe (Yoshida Yuiitsu). It is common now to discuss the transition from the Honji-Suijaku doctrine (which viewed the Buddhist Bodhisattva as the honji or original deity and the Shintō deities as the suijaku or manifestation) to the Han-Honji-Suijaku doctrine (which says the exact opposite). What one must be aware of is the fact that whichever doctrine we are talking about, it is impossible to discuss Shintō doctrine without remembering there is a connection to exoteric-esoteric Buddhism. Kuroda Toshio, in "The historical perspective of exoteric-esoteric Buddhism" (in Nihon chūsei no shakai to shūkyō [Japanese Medieval Society and Religion]) mentions the chroniclers (kike) of Hiei-zan, and within his argument about Hiyoshi Sannō Shintō, he states that Shintō doctrine is one form of exoteric-esoteric Buddhism. Thus Shintō doctrine can be said to have ended up as exoteric-esoteric Buddhism in the medieval period.

(4) Shintō art
Shinzō (depictions of Shintō deities) and Shintō mandala are the major mediums of Shintō art. It is self-evident that the creation of Shinzō was heavily influenced by Buddhist statuary and it is not necessary to explain again how the Shintō mandala was drawn as a depiction of Honji-suijaku. The concept of Shintō mandala used extensively by Keizan Haruki (in Shintō Art and elsewhere) has not been referenced much recently, but rather scholars often use the concept of Suijaku pictures based on the idea of Buddhist influence (cf. Sekiguchi Masayuki, Suijaku-Ga [Suijaku Pictures]). The Suijaku-ga artworks are from exoteric-esoteric Buddhism controlled shrines such as Kumano Sansho Gongen, Hiesha, Kasugasha, Iwashimizu Hachimangū. If we only examine these Suijaku-ga, then the truth of the latter idea is obvious.

—Medieval Shintō Historical Topics—
Looking at the topics it becomes clear that those problems revolving around medieval Shintō history deal with Shintō and the identity of its history. Namely, does the concept of Shintō history exist on the same level as the concept of Buddhist history? Traditional historians of Shintō have only taken a very vague stance regarding the question whether the phenomenon of the research domain of medieval Shintō history actually should be interpreted as confined within the framework of Buddhist history.
If we concern ourselves only with medieval history, then it can be said that we need to critically reexamine the concepts of Shintō and the history of Shintō. But while it seems contradictory, this reexamination does not necessarily have to deny the existence of Shintō and Shintō history. This is because the various domains that scholars deal with—or should deal with—regarding Shintō history are extremely important areas for the future study of medieval history. Even if we take the example of the anointing ceremony when medieval emperors ascended the throne, various esoteric teachings and "Shintō" legends have been condensed in a world like a medieval Nihongi. The research domain of the history of medieval Shintō is required to rid itself of the fixed conception of Shintō history, and build a new framework for the history of Shintō.

Nishiyama Shigeru
"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
URL http://21coe.kokugakuin.ac.jp/
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