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Home » 3. Institutions and Administrative Practices » Ancient
§ Policies and Institutions of the Classical Period
The policies and institutions of Shintō were first established during the formation of the ritsuryō polity (a system of punitive and administrative legal codes based on the Tang Chinese model) in the latter half of the seventh century. The existence of Shintō systems and organizations prior to the late seventh century cannot be confirmed. The Nihon shoki (Chronicles of Japan, 720) contains only fragmentary references to the administration of Shintō rites, and the reliability of these records remains in doubt.
       The ritsuryō system of kami worship was formulated during the reign of Emperor Tenmu (r. 673-686), and it is possible that codes pertaining to the worship of kami existed in the Asuka Kiyomihara Code (not extant). The Jingiryō (Laws Concerning Deities) established the ritsuryō government's official provisions concerning the fundamentals of the system of kami worship. The extant version of the Jingiryō is twenty articles found in chapter six of the Yōrōryō (Yōrō Code, promulgated in 757). The first line of the first section of the extant Jingiryō chapter of the Yōrō Code states: "The Jingikan (Council of Kami Affairs) is responsible for venerating the deities of heaven and earth in accordance with prescribed protocols," thereby making the ritual activities performed by the Jingikan the central element of the ritsuryō bureaucracy's laws. The administration of kami worship in the ritsuryō polity, centered upon the Jingikan (as established in the Jingiryō), came to strongly display its character as the organization at the center of the main concentration of power; the emperor's personal rituals that were performed within the palace were also eventually excluded from the Jingiryō provisions. Since the Jingiryō only provided the general outline of kami worship, officials referred to Jingikan records and precedents for actual implementation of the laws. In the Heian period, supplementary compilations of protocol such as the Kōnin shiki, the Jōgan shiki, and the Engishiki (Procedures of the Engi Era, 967) were produced to create canons of detailed rules and procedures.
       By the ninth and tenth centuries, strict observation of rites according to the Jingiryō protocol became difficult, and unavoidable alterations were made to the ritsuryō ritual system. The Jingikan was relegated to a position within the imperial court, and a ritual structure was established beneath the Dajōkan (Council of State). Additionally, accompanying the expansion of the tenjō ranking system at court in the Heian period, emperor-centered rites came to hold a preeminent position in the ritual establishment. In the administrative area as well, the execution of court rituals, hitherto the jurisdiction of the Jingikan, came to be overseen by the Dajōkan. Although the two thereby took on a two-council structure, the Dajōkan assumed control of the administration of court-centered rites. Also, in the Jingikan's internal personnel and administration, the Nakatomi clan gradually overshadowed the Inbe clan. Inbe no Hironari criticized this situation in detail in his Kogo shūi (Gleanings from Ancient Stories) a collection of episodes connected with kami worship submitted to the sovereign in 807. Also, the rise of the Urabe clan, which specialized in tortoise shell divination (kiboku), and which became increasingly known for ritual performance and administration, came to have an important influence on the history of Shintō (see jingi shizoku).
       Fundamentally, the classical system of worship was observed according to ritsuryō forms, although some traditions from pre-ritsuryō times continued to be followed. These include, for example, rites and food offerings (shinsen), as well as the system for offering local food items to the kami (minie). In the Heian period, as the ritsuryō system began to deteriorate, some additional extralegal offices (ryōge no kan) were created, complementing the system itself. From the mid-Heian period onward, the court also enacted new protocols known as kuge shinsei, some of which were pertinent to kami worship, and some of which promulgated prohibitions as well.

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