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Home » 7. Concepts and Doctrines » Basic Concepts
Shinto Edification
Contemporary Shintō may be roughly divided into Shrine Shintō, Sect Shintō (Kyōha Shintō), Shintō-affiliated new religions (Shintō-kei shin-shūkyō), and Folk Shintō; the following discussion will focus on edification (kyōka) in Shrine Shintō. The term kyōka appears in Chinese Classics and generally means influencing through teaching and guidance. As used here, however, the term will refer to all and any activities that promote and spread belief in Shintō. The first scholar to have used this term in academic circles was probably Kōno Seizō in an article entitled "Edification activities during the first year of the Meiji era," published in the first volume of The Proceedings of Kokugakuin University in 1932. Cognate terms include missionary work (senkyō, dendō), propagation (fukyō) and others, but these words convey an emphasis on intellectual edification and promotion of dogma, and are therefore not used often as they are not really applicable to Shrine Shintō. These terms, however, are often used to refer to the activities of Sect Shintō or Shintō-affiliated new religions. If you understand the term dendō as it is defined the Dictionary of Religious Studies (Shūkyōgaku jiten) as "to transmit and spread a religious truth by means of discussion or other activities," in as much as it means religious exchange not just limited to language (both written and spoken) but also including wordless transmission and education through setting an example, it seems that it has similar nuances to the term kyōka. However, currently the word dendō is predominantly used in Christianity. In the case of the Shintō (a folk religion) with a few exceptions which will be mentioned later, there were not many examples of conscious deliberate forms of edification prior to the Second World War. Nevertheless, one reason for the continuous transmission of Shintō traditions has been "internal proselytising" (naibu dendō) that occurs in naturally occurring religions. In other words, this is where village or family elders transmit religion as part of educating the young to become adults. That is, while including introduction into family business or initiation into all kinds of discipline and training, the young are taught about participation in ritual festivities or about the yearly ritual calendar, and the seeds of belief were planted when the young watched their parents worship the family shrine (kamidana, mitamaya). In Japanese regional society, it was a principle that all young people joined the youth organization or young persons groups, and service for the village festival was part of these group's activities. Over time these youths learned the attitudes and knowledge necessary to become full-fledged members (ujiko) of their shrine communities. This kind of edification can still be seen in some parts of the country, but the relocation of many youths to large cities as well as changes in modes of thinking have made the local transmission of knowledge and lore through household initiation and youth associations problematic; furthermore, within cities there has been a break in values between the generations and it is felt that something else is needed to replace domestic instruction.



Shintō edification during the medieval and early modern periods
       Historically it is clear that there were even some Shintō edification activities. The sodality or confraternity () model of social organization created by Buddhism during the latter half of the Heian period was adopted during the Kamakura period by the Shrines of Kumano (Kumano sanzan). These sodalities were headed by oshi (masters) and sendatsu (mountain 'guides'), who contributed not only to the accommodation of pilgrimages (sankei) but also to the education of pilgrims on the topic of the various deities' transcendental efficacy (Shintōku). These types of groups, formed voluntarily for religious purposes and not concerned with regional connections or consanguinity, were sociologically speaking, new to Shintō. Starting with the Grand Shrines of Ise. they were introduced during the latter half of the medieval period and spreading to the many famous and major shrines all over the country. Also later adopted by Sect Shintō, the groups contributed to the enlargement of the scope of various beliefs. During the Muromachi period Yoshida Shintō attempted to provide a theology and worked to educate Shintō priests. From the early modern period and centered around preaching at shrines and the use of simple Shintō tracts, it educated commoners. An example of such didactic material is the "Oracles of the Three Shrines" (sanja takusen). These are in the form of oracles from the Grand Shrines of Ise, Iwashimizu, and Kasuga, and emphasize honesty, purity, and compassion. Beginning in the first half of the early modern period, the Confucian Shintō (Juka Shintō) influenced Yoshikawa Shintō and Suika Shintō schools attempted to provide a Neo-Confucian interpretation of Shintō through schools and preaching activities. They also taught commoners about the prayer and sincerity emphasized in Ise Shintō, and inspired reverence for the Emperor (sonnō). The Shingaku movement of Ishida Baigan was established on the basis of harmonization between Shintō, Neo-Confucianism, and Buddhism with the Amaterasu belief (Amaterasu shinkō) at its center. Without any relationship to European and American thought, Ishida taught a merchant ethic and became one base for the adoption of modern capitalism during the Meiji era. This tradition can still be felt in parts of the financial world of the Kansai region. During the Bakumatsu period Ninomiya Sontoku considered Shintō, Neo-Confucianism and Buddhism to be [different manifestations] of a single substance; he taught people to devote themselves to labor and to the production of clothing, food and housing as a response to the bounty of the kami and the Buddhas. Furthermore, he preached a work ethic and life discipline and his efforts had conspicuous effects on the economy of agricultural villages that had gone to ruin. Spread mostly in the Tōkai region by his disciples, this merging of ethics and economy evolved into a movement which merged with the Meiji government's agricultural policy and edification of the people and thus came to be known nationwide. Prior to this, however, the Fukko Shintō (Restorationist Shintō) movement, which was one area of the Nativist Studies Movement (Kokugaku) developed by Motoori Norinaga, stressed an empirical analysis of the Shintō classical texts, and emphasized the independent character of Japanese culture as well the blessings of the kami. It succeeded in gaining many adherents among village headmen and Shintō priests (kannushi). Motoori's disciple Hirata Atsutane evolved a vision of the afterlife based on views of the other world held by the common folks and this vision went on to form the philosophical ground for Shintō funerals (shinsōsai) and, in combination with ancestor worship (sosen sūhai) and family rituals, contributed to the development of religions feelings. The Nativist Studies dogmas of respect for the kami and reverence for the emperor went on to permeate the various social strata and became one of the intellectual driving forces behind the Meiji Restoration. Separately, during the last years of the early modern period, activities connected to what was subsequently called Sect Shintō became conspicuous. A relatively early example thereof is the activities on the part of the Mount Fuji sodalities; however, in the political and social conculsioins surrounding the fall of the Tokugawa shogunate and the Meiji Restoration, there arose charismatic leaders of various powerful religious movements. Most of these engaged in converting commoners through their personal examples of pilgrimages to temples and shrines, mountain ascents, and also fasting asceticism and other types of austere mental and physical practices that enabled them to claim to have supernatural and healing powers. However, one can detect a strong Fukko Shintō influence on the development of the philosophical teachings of these movements.



Shintō edification prior to the Second World War
       The Great Promulgation Campaign (taikyō senpu undō) which took place between 1869 and 1885 was a large-scale Restorationist Shintō elightnement movement which the government undertook in order to enhance the resistance by popular beliefs to Christianity (which remained banned up to 1873) and also to publicize the significance of the Meiji Restoration. The men in charge of this campaign were mostly disciples of Hirata and were called religious instructors (senkyōshi) until March 1872, when they were renamed National Evangelists (kyōdōshoku). These were supervised by the Ministry of Rekigious Education (kyōbushō) and were composed of Nativist Studies members as well as some Shintō priests (shinshoku), and also assisted by various Shintō specialists as well as by many Buddhist priests. From August 1872, all Shinto priests were included in the ranks of the kyōdōshoku. As an educational institution for the kyōdōshoku, the Great Teaching Institute (daikyō-in) was established in Tokyo, while each prefecture established a Middle Teaching Institute. Important regional shrines and Buddhist temples also served as Small Teaching Institutes and became involved in teaching the local people. Sermons were to be given six times a month at the Great Teaching Institute, and at least three times a month in the Middle and Small Teaching Institutes. As the creed of the movement, the "Three Great Teachings" was promulgated in April 1872 and in 1873 the "Eleven Principles" (jū-ichi kendai), centered on Hirata Shintō doctrine, was promulgated. These principles were: divine virtue and gratitude to the emperor; immortality of the human spirit; creation of the universe by the kami of Heaven; separation of the visible and invisible realms; nationalism; ritual acts; pacification of the spirit; proper relation between lord and subject; proper relation between parent and child; proper relation between husband and wife; and ritual purification. The same year a list of seventeen points of knowledge of civilization and enlightenment deemed essential for citizens of a modern state was promulgated as well. These were: The Imperial polity; the reform of imperial rule; foreign relations; rights and responsibilities; the various kinds of government; national law and civil law; rich country, strong army; taxation and labor levees; and others. From this we can see that this movement was adult education, aimed a populace that in the past did not have high rates of literacy. Although the Great Promulgation Campaign had some success in edification of the populace, it did not fit the national mood or conditions immediately followed the opening of the country and as there were immature features in this modern Shintō as well, after May 1875 the campaign collapsed. In particular after 1883 this campaign was dealt a severe blow when the separation of Shintō shrine priests and kyōdōshoku led to the banning of the priests of Government Shrines (kansha) from engaging in to engage in proselytising activities. The campaign ended completely in 1885. Soon thereafter, school teachers had to take over the edification job of the kyōdōshoku. Centered on elementary schools, a strict and narrow Shintō education was undertaken; this was abolished by order of the occupation Army after the end of the Second World War.



Shintō edification after the Second World War
       From before the war until the present day, Shintō figures they themselves have been the centre of Shintō edification activities. The leaders of Jinja honchō (an institution that has represented 99% of Shintō shrines since 1946) have stated that the goal of edification was "the concrete diffusion of Shintō principles" (Shōmoto Mitsumasa, An Outline of Shintō Edification), and in the revised edition of this book, Shōnomoto Mitsumasa and Shibukawa Ken'ichi put it this way: "To inherit properly the beliefs of our people, which originated with the myths of Takamagahara, and, while adapting and expanding them to fit a complex society, to transmit them to following generations." The aims of current Shintō edification may be said to cover the three following, interrelated fields. First, on the domestic level, the promotion of Shintō-like character and development of peaceful and warmhearted homes; this requires an awareness that life is connected to the kami and is due to their blessings, which in turn requires a lifestyle of humble gratitude and devotion. Second, on the regional level, the coexistence and co-prosperity of the people is aimed at through the invigoration of local society and the protection of tutelary kami. This includes the maintenance and promotion of upright religious traditions that foster regional character. Third, at the national and international social levels, it is assumed that ordinary shrines should cooperate and that public and private institutions should be closely aligned with the planning and direction of the part of the Association of Shintō Shrines (Jinja Honchō) and influential shrines,. In this respect the goal is the elevation of the spiritual life of the nation and the establishment of Japanese political and cultural identity. Also, Japan should act in a manner befitting it as a as a member of the world community in the areas of mutual assistance between nations, international cooperation and coexistence. On the national level, this means the maintenance of the imperial system (tennō-sei) which is supported by religiosity, as well as the rediscovery and reappraisal of old and outstanding wisdom or modes of living. A unique cultural character, combined with an international outlook, make a significant contribution to the development of world culture. At the same time, recently there has been the rise of problems related to the environment, natural resources, development, and human rights, which are not limited to any nation in particular, but represent a serious global crisis. What thinking people expect from religions is an education that fosters a series of changes that would enhance the 'quality of life': to be thrifty with resources and food; to protect those in need; to harmonize with nature by protecting the environment; and to promote peaceful coexistence by being materially frugal whilst being intellectually rich. One possible response in accord with these issues is adult education by such means as reports or lectures that would appeal to shrine members (ujiko) or devotees.
       The field of systematic reflection on edification is but a part of practical theology, but it does involve the deeply interrelated fields of descriptive and normative fields of study. First, there are 'principles of edification' that may be termed "proselytistic theology." It may consist in pointing out the conceptual stipulations and theological structure of Shintō edification or edification, the significance of 'divine messenger' (mikotomochi), fundamental objectives, universality versus particularity, and the scholarly character of edification. In regard to this is the 'History of Shintō Edification,' which is the descriptive historical reflection on edification activities, the main elements of which have been pointed out earlier in this article. Next is the 'Shintō Edification Magazine,' which attempts to comprehensively report and analyse various contemporary issues. Examples of this are introductions of organic and multifaceted edification activities on the part of shrines in cities, suburbs and agricultural and fishing towns; concrete examples of successes or failures of group activities such as youth associations or associations performing morning visits to shrines, and the like. Also included are legal, sociological, geographical, and statistical studies of the various fields of edification activities and organizations. The "Edification methodology" or general edification viewpoint to these issues has a normative character. One may place among activities where individuality is put to best use the maintenance of shrines and shrine precincts, the organization of believers or the formation of central groups, religious counseling, the fulfillment of individuality and public good, the nurturing of the cultural identity of regional society and the nation, community service, and international aid. The activities of members of every kind of commissions or committees, such as welfare commissioners, social education commissioners, educators, probation officers, human rights defence commissioners and administrators of public halls together form a social space where Shintō priests can nurture relations of trust with important citizens, and also represent one target for potential evangelical activities. Since the end of World War II, the Association of Shintō Shrines has inaugurated the National Association of Shrine Delegates as well as the Shinto Association of Spiritual Leadership, and has maintained six national associations: the Confederation of Shrine Child-care Groups, the Conference of Shrine-related Scouts, the Conference of Parishioner and Youth Associations, the Conference of Shintō Youth (aimed at junior priests), the Confederation of Pious Women, and the Conference of Education-related Priests.

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