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Home » 8. Schools, Groups, and Personalities » Modern Sectarian Groups
Tenshō Kōtai Jingūkyō
A Shinto-based new religion founded by Kitamura Sayo (1900-1967). Kitamura was born into a farming family in Kumage district in Yamaguchi Prefecture, but married into the Kitamura household, where she experienced a very strict mother-in-law. After one of family's outbuildings was destroyed in 1942 due to suspected arson, Kitamura began to conduct religious austerities under the guidance of a shamanistic practitioner (kitōji) to discover the person responsible for the crime. She discovered her own unique area of religious experience in 1944, when she experienced voices that issued from her "belly."
       In August 1945, just before the end of the Pacific War, she consciously experienced the descent of the absolute, universal god, Tenshō Kōtaijin (another reading for the same characters also read Ameterasu ōmikami). Her home was converted into a place of practice (dōjō) where she gave fiery sermons. In response to the sense that Japanese values had been badly shaken in the postwar period, she preached to people to "become true human beings" (maningen ni nare). In 1947, her sect was registered as Tenshō Kōtai Jingūkyō under the Religious Corporations Ordinance (Shūkyō Hōjinrei), and in 1953, it became incorporated under the Religious Corporations Law (Shūkyō Hōjinhō.
       In Tokyo, the media took notice of Kitamura's sermons and the "Dance of no-self" practiced by her followers. Beginning around 1947, coverage of Kutamura and her followers appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines and TV. The terms "Dancing Religion" and "Dancing Kami" were often used to describe the group. In 1951 they began to conduct overseas missions, starting with Hawaii. Small-scale branches were established around the world, in North and South America, Europe and Asia.
       Upon the death of Kitamura Sayo in 1967, her granddaughter Kitamura Kiyokazu (1950-) succeeded to religious leadership of the group, a decision Sayo had made while still alive. Day-to-day management of the group, however, was conducted by Sayo's son, Kitamura Yoshito (1922-). Kitamura Sayo's memoirs, entitled Seisho, are considered sacred scriptures. Even today, listening to tapes of Sayo's sermons are considered by believers to constitute an important religious practice. Because Sayo despised both the accumulation of wealth in the name of religion and authoritarianism, meeting fees were never collected. Another rule was that sect officials pay their own expenses while serving. The group also avoided any hierarchical system of teachers, and believers consider each other as equals. Since the group's vigorous growth had been based on the strength of Sayo's charismatic leadership, the membership has grown little since her death.
       Headquarters: Yamaguchi Prefecture .
       Nominal membership: approximately 450,000 (M)

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