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Home » 7. Concepts and Doctrines » Research on Shinto
5. History (Contemporary) Research
Murakami Shigeyoshi's Research on State Shintō
       The research on state Shintō begun by Murakami Shigeyoshi with his 'religious studies' approach, and inherited by scholars such as Nakajima Michio, Miyachi Masato, Yasumaru Yoshio, Haga Shoji and Akazawa Shiro, is defined above all by its readiness to tackle the reality of imperial ideology. This was a dimension lacking in the writing on the modern emperor system as typified by the Kōza School. Murakami's pioneering work maps out the following scenario for the development of state Shintō in the modern period. First came fanatical attempts to create a state religion of Shintō in the aftermath of the Meiji Restoration with the attack on Buddhism and its institutions (haibutsu kishaku) and the promotion of the Unification of State and Ritual (saisei itchi). There then emerged in 1872 the Preceptors (kyodoshoku) and their promotion of the Ministry of Religious Eductiona (Kyobusho) policies. In 1880-81 the pantheon dispute (saijin ronso) erupted which led to the separation of rites and religion and the establishment of the principle underpinning State Shintō that 'shrine Shintō is not religious.' This principle was continued by the fraudulent assertion of religious freedom in Article 28 of the Meiji Constitution of 1889. However, state Shintō, a 'state religion' if ever there was one, began now to rule supreme over other creeds such as Buddhism, sect Shintō and Christianity thus creating the state Shintō structure. Hereafter, state Shintō infiltrated society through such measures as the shrine mergers that followed the Russo-Japanese war, eventually undergoing a fascistic restructuring. (see the book State Shintō)

The establishment of State Shintō
       In the saijin ronso, the Izumo faction Shintōists' insistence that the deity Okunitama-no-mikoto be venerated at the shrine in the imperial palace was dismissed and the Ise faction Shintōists, supported by imperial order, were able to reaffirm the theological supremacy of Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess. (Fujii Sadafumi, Meiji kokugaku hasseishi [History of the Origins of Meiji National Learning]) In the following year, 1883, in an attempt to define shrine priests in law as 'non religious', the Meiji government banned them from serving as state evangelists (kyodoshoku). Nakajima Michio sees these two developments as essential in the creation of emperor system ideology. ('Taikyo senpu undo to saijin ronso,' [The Great Teaching Proselytic Movement and the Pantheon Dispute] Nihon rekishi Vol. 126.) Nakajima has also analysed the real implications behind the conditional provision for religious freedom in Article 28 of the Constitution ('Meiji kokka to shukyo', Rekishigaku kenkyu, Vol. 413.). His conclusions on state Shintō in the period after the establishment of the Constitution differ from those of Murakami. Nakajima sees possibilities for a religious freedom not bound by state Shintō, in that he sees it as possible for people to be free not to worship State Shintō; he also finds in the Shrine Revision (Jinja kaisei no ken ) of 1886 evidence that, with the exception of the Grand shrines of Ise, the Meiji system of shrine administration as a whole was in a parlous state. This position is further developed with much attention to empirical detail by Sakamoto Koremaru in ('Meiji jūnendai no shukyo seisaku to Inoue Kowashi,' [Inoue Kowashi and Religious Policy in 1878-1888] Kokugakuin zasshi Vol. 87:10). Miyachi Masato has criticised Nakajima for discussing emperor system ideology uniquely in the context of Shintō-related sects. He sees the development of Ministry of Religious Education policy as linked intimately with government anti-Christian concerns and the proselytical activities of the Kyodoshoku as essential to the legitimation of imperial rule. Miyachi argues the real significance of the separation of religion and rites, as established after the pantheon dispute, is to be found in the 'ancestral dimension' it gave to state Shintō, with the intimate connection that ancestral worship has for the 'household (ie)' system. This has little to do, he suggests, with questions of personal belief or the salvation of the soul. (Tennosei no seijishiteki kenkyu [Research into the Political History of the emperor system]) Further, while Nakajima Michio locates the establishment of state Shintō in the stage of Japanese imperialism after both the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars, Miyachi argues that the heart of state Shintō was already 'beating' after the shrine reorganisation of early Meiji and that the outcome of the pantheon dispute clearly marks the onset of state Shintō.
       Yasumaru Yoshio proposes that the authority of the modern emperor derived from 'a traditional myth-embedded charisma.' This same authority served to restructure the lives of the common people; it was, moreover, a Meiji invention. From this perspective, Yasumaru has tracked the process whereby state Shintō retreated from the early promotion of Unification of State and Ritual (saisei itchi) to a system of rites and general ethical principles. With regard to the pantheon dispute outcome that redefined Shintō as 'non-religious,' Yasumaru argues this was not a one-sided imposition by the state, but rather it was sought by reformist religionists, especially those of the Shinshu (True Pure Land) sect of Buddhism. With his conclusion that the religious freedom of Article 28 was a direct outcome of this dispute, Yasumaru further develops the perspectives earlier established by Nakajima Michio. (see Kokka to shukyo [The State and Religion] and Kindai tennozo no keisei [The Construction of the Modern Emperor Figure]). Research by historians on state Shintō of the post Taisho periods is extremely limited. Akazawa Shiro's Kindai no shiso doin to shukyo tosei [The Mobilization of Modern Thought and Religious Control] is one of very few studies to explore shrine activity after World War I.

Research into the Development Shintō as State Religion Policy
Empirical research on State Shintō development is most advanced in the area of early Meiji system of state rites centring on the revived Jingikan and the significance and function of those rites. Haga Shoji adopts an institutional, political and intellectual approach to the development of state rites and the state-religion question between the revival of the Jingikan in 1869 and the promulgation of the Meiji constitution in 1889. (See 'Meiji Jingikan sei no seiritsu to kokka saishi no saihen' [The Establishment of the Meiji Jingikan System and the Revival of State Ritual], Jinbun gakuho 49 and 51; 'Shintō kokkyosei no seiritsu' [The Establishment of Shintō as State Religion], Nihonshi kenkyu 264; 'Meiji kokka keiseiki no seikyo kankei' [State-Religion Relations in the Period of the Formation of the Meiji State], Nihonshi kenkyu 271). With regard to the Tsuwano faction headed by Fukuba Yoshishizu who dominated early Meiji Shintō policy, there is Takeda Hideaki's analysis ('Kindai tenno sei saishi keisei katei no ichi kosatsu,' [An examination of the formation of early modern Imperial system rites] in Nihongata seikyo kankei no tanjo). Sakamoto Koremaru has reappraised the role of kokugakusha (nativists) in the modern emperor system state, which is defined for Sakamoto by its adherence to the Unification of State and Ritual (saisei itchi). (Meiji Isshin to kokugakusha [The Meiji Restoration and Nativists]) For long, the view was that the Hirata faction defeated their Ōkuni and Tsuwano faction rivals in the Jingikan to dominate shrine administration before their own eventual downfall. Sakamoto demolishes this view and in so doing has set new standards of empirical research.

The development of state Shintō
       In sum, research in recent years on the modern development of state Shintō holds that Murakami's perception of a continuous, unchallenged state Shintō system that suppressed other creeds and forced their subservience is no longer tenable. In the early Meiji Era (1868 onwards) and from 1930 until 1945, there were two periods in which there were efforts to establish the religious credentials of state Shintō, and to accord divine attributes to the emperor. Scholars now argue that, apart from these two periods, the idea of Shintō as non-religious was functional and there were various possibilities for "freedom of religion," corresponding with the modernisation experiences of the different creeds.
Finally, the modern Daijosai enthronement rite, as manifestation of State Shintō and exemplar of the modern emperor state, has received much attention by historians. Representative are Takagi Hiroshi, who searches for similarities with the royal households of Europe ('Meiji Isshin Daijosai,' [The Meiji Restoration Daijōsai] Nihonshi kenkyu 300; 'Nihon no kindaika to koshitsu girei,' [Japan's modernisation and Imperial Rites] Nihonshi kenkyu 320), Miyachi Masato ('Tennosei ideorogi ni okeru Daijo sai no kino' [The role of the Daijōsai in Inperial ideology]) for whom the Shintō-theological dimensions are critical, Iwai Tadakuma who sees in the offering of rice as the rite's key dynamic ('Niiname sai kenkoku no soshutsu to tenkai' [the origin and development of the rice offering at the Niinamesai], Nihon bunka ron: hihan) and Nakajima Michio, for whom the role of the rite in creating a sense of national solidarity is paramount (Tenno no daikawari to kokumin [Imperial Succession and the People]).

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