Encyclopedia of Shinto Kokugakuin University
 main menu
  »New EOS site



  »Guide to Usage

  »Contributors & Translators


  »Movies List

Home » 1. General Introduction » History of Shrines and Shinto
4. Modern and Contemporary Shinto
Epochal Transformations
Shinto underwent two great changes in the modern period. The first must be called the aftermath or aftereffects of political change, while the second emerged from new currents being formed in the religious world. First let us examine the aftereffects of political change. Two political watersheds occurred in the modern period: the Meiji Restoration and the administrative reforms following World War II.
       The Meiji government's policies involving the separation of Buddhism from Shinto (shinbutsu bunri), national support for shrine Shinto, and the establishment of a modern imperial institution all had a great impact on the Shinto world. Modern Shrine Shinto started down a very different path than the Shinto of the early modern period. In addition, a new stream of Shinto sects (see Shinto-Derived Religious Groups) quickly grew in strength. Likewise, following World War II, great impact was felt from the various administrative reforms newly adopted, including freedom of religion and separation of religion from the state. The most important change was the placing of Shinto on the same footing as other religions by forcing shrines to become religious juridical persons under the Religious Corporations Ordinance and later Law (see Shūkyō Hojinrei, Shūkyō Hōjinhō). It should also be pointed out that many new Shinto sects and Shinto-derived new religions came into being from the period around the end of the Tokugawa shogunate and the Meiji Restoration (1868). The result was a great change from the religious world of the Edo period. Moreover, in the modern period shrine Shinto and sectarian Shinto both began overseas activities, another previously unknown phenomenon.
       The area of popular Shinto also began to change under the influence of urbanization and industrialization, and as lifeways began to change, so too did lifecycle rituals and annual events. At the end of the Edo period, the agricultural population comprised eighty percent of Japan's total, but in recent years it shrunk to less than ten percent. As a result, folk Shinto, which had been deeply connected to rice agriculture, is gradually losing its original substance. Festivals are losing their religious meaning and becoming civic pageants. But this does not mean that communities and regional society have ceased to function. Festivals remain one of the most significant elements of Japanese culture, and they have retained strong roots through the modern period.

Reforms in the Administration of Shrines and Rites
       The Meiji government was established by the Ōsei Fukkō edict of 1867 (ninth day, twelfth month). Thereafter, a string of policies was promulgated, aimed at perpetuating and expanding the late Edo-period movement to re-establish the Department of Divinities (see Jingikan) and to promote Shinto thought. In the first month of 1868 the Shinto Section (Jingi Jimuka), which can be considered the prototype of the Meiji Department of Divinities (Meiji Jingikan), was established as one of the official offices of the new government. In the second month of the same year, the Shinto Section was expanded into the Bureau of Divinities (Jingi Jimukyoku), led by the heads of the Yoshida and Shirakawa families, the traditional lineages of kami ritualists (jingidōke). In addition, the Hirata faction of National Learning (kokugaku) was represented by Hirata Nobutane, and the Ōkuni faction was represented by Fukuba Yoshishizu. The Jingi Jimukyoku worked on implementing the separation of Buddhism from Shinto and instituting a policy of unified administrative control of nationwide shrines. This centralized system of control based on linkage between the Jingi Jimukyoku and provincial government offices greatly changed the traditional system of shrines that had been in place up through the early modern period. According to the separation order, all Buddhist elements were to be removed from shrines, and "shrine monks" (shasō) and supervising Buddhist priests (bettō) were removed from shrine leadership. Honji suijaku and other forms of "non-Shinto" thought and doctrine were eliminated from shrines. Also, the Meiji government had aimed at the restoration of the Department of Divinities based on the political ideal of "unification of rites and rule" (saisei itchi), with the result that the earlier form of nationwide shrine control through the issuance of official licenses by the noble Yoshida and Shirakawa houses was reformed; henceforth, the Jingikan assumed unified oversight of all these matters, and this resulted in a loss of authority and privilege for the Yoshida and Shirakawa houses.
       In 1868 the Jingi Jimukyoku was upgraded again and given status on a par with the Department of State (Dajōkan). This amounted to a revival of the Jingikan of the ancient Ritsuryō period, but the ideal of "unity of rites and rule" could not be sustained in the new age. The Jingikan leaders came to believe that the true form of "unity of rites and rule" should mean not merely that the Jingikan and Dajōkan would stand side by side with separate functions, but that Dajōkan officials would actually conduct rituals as part of government. In the background to this was the fact that the Jingikan had taken charge not only of performing traditional rituals instituted under the ancient Ritsuryō, but also new imperial rites, as well as of using Religious Instructors (senkyōshi) to indoctrinate the people with Shinto (see taikyō senpu)—both activities which were intimately related to the issue of governing under the new imperial system. It would have been most appropriate for the emperor to perform the imperial rites himself, and even if indoctrination of the public was to be conducted, the grasp and control of the local shrines forming the focal point of the indoctrination work would be impossible for a Jingikan that was unrelated to government, a fact that the Jingikan officials themselves came to realize. This point of view gradually became the general consensus within the government, and on the eighth day of the eighth month of 1871, the Jingikan was demoted to the status of a ministry called the Jingishō, and thus below the Dajōkan; in the ninth month, the spirits of the imperial ancestors that had earlier been enshrined in the Jingikan were transferred to the palace. As a result of these measures, the move accelerated to concentrate rites within the palace, while placing national indoctrination under the purview of government agencies specializing in religious affairs, including Buddhism. In the third month of 1872, the Jingishō and Office of Indoctrination (Senkyōshi) were abolished, and national rites were separated from indoctrination activities, with rites being transferred to the Office of Ritual (Shikiburyō). As a prelude to this transfer to the Shikiburyō, reforms of the systems of shrines and ritual were implemented from the latter half of 1870. Then in the fifth month of 1871, the practice of hereditary succession by shrine priests (shinkan) was prohibited, and an integrated system of shrine ranks (kindai shakaku seido) was implemented, under which shrines were declared to be "ritual fundaments of the state." Based on this new shrine system that lacked the earlier system of hereditary priestly succession, a new set of uniform laws for ritual liturgies was instituted for shrines nationwide, the Shiji Saiten Teisoku (Rules for Imperial Rituals of the Four Seasons) and Chihō Saiten Teisoku (Rules for Regional Rituals), thus laying the basis for the modern system of rites at shrines and the imperial palace.
       In this way, by 1871 the shrine and ritual systems were greatly changed, establishing the first step of modern shrine Shinto.

The Debate over Whether Shinto Is a Religion, and the Movement to Revive the Jingikan
       Thereafter shrines were administered by the Ministry of Religious Education (Kyōbushō), while National and Imperial shrines (kankoku heisha, see kindai shakaku seido) were supported by public funds as "ritual fundaments of the state." Shrines ranked as Prefectural Shrines and below, however, were ordered to return their lands to the throne by the shrine lands edict (Jōchirei) of 1871, thus losing their independent bases of economic support. Moreover, previous tax-relief measures directed toward shrine lands were eliminated over a period of ten years. Priests' salaries were abolished in eliminated in 1873, and the economic situation of shrines at the prefectural level and below became increasingly desperate. At the same time, the Ministry of Religious Education (Kyōbushō) had responsibility not only for shrine administration, but for overseeing the Office of Preceptors (kyōdōshoku; see taikyō senpu), consisting of unpaid religious teachers affiliated with Shinto shrines, Buddhism, and some unaffiliated with any religion, and appointed them to pursue indoctrination of the people. The idea emerged from Shimaji Mokurai (1838-1911) and others on the Buddhist side, however, that from the perspective of the separation of Buddhism and Shinto it was inappropriate for shrine priests, particularly those of imperial shrines, to be undertaking the same religious activities as Buddhist priests. Gradually the government also began to take the position that from the perspective of separation of religion from state and the freedom of religious belief, it was contradictory for shrine priests to be involved in such religious activity. The result was that in 1877 the government abolished the Kyōbushō and transferred its work to the Bureau of Temples and Shrines (Shajikyoku) within the Home Ministry. As a result, Shimaji Mokurai and others increasingly accepted the idea that Shinto is not a religion, but what really accelerated this trend was the so-called "pantheon dispute" (saijin ronsō) that arose within the Shinto Office (Shintō Jimukyoku). The government took the position that it was socially and politically embarrassing to have priests of high-ranking shrines like Ise Jingū and Izumo Taisha endlessly embroiled in religious debate at the same time shrines were being promoted as "ritual fundaments of the state." In January 1882 priests of national and imperial shrines were prohibited from working jointly as religious preceptors (kyōdōshoku) and were also prohibited from participating in funerals. As a result, priests like Senge Takatomi, gūji of Izumo Taisha, and others who wanted to further develop Shinto as a religion, broke away from the ranks of Ise Jingū and other imperial and national shrines, and determined to promulgate Shinto through sects of their own devising.
       Having adopted the position that Shinto was not a religion, the government divorced shrine priests from the office of moral preceptors (kyōdōshoku; see taikyō senpu) and turned toward policies that further weakened the relation between shrines and the state. In 1885, it abolished fixed expenditures from the national treasury for imperial and national shrines, with the provision for an endowment of "maintenance funds" for ten years; it was assumed that shrines would apply their endowments so that public funding could come to an end from the eleventh year. The system was implemented in 1887, with an agreement to extend the system of maintenance funds from ten to fifteen years (in 1890 the period was reextended to thirty years).
       It was clear that the government intended the system of "maintenance funds" as a means of cutting the relationship between the state and imperial and national shrines, and that position was reinforced by the 1887 decision to abolish the special status of "imperial-national shrine priest" (kankoku heisha shinkan) and reduce such priests to the status of regular government employees.
       In this way, the government moved to cut off all shrines—not merely prefectural and lower shrines, but even imperial and national shrines other than the Grand Shrines of Ise—from the state. However, fierce opposition was expressed from the side of certain high officials and politicians who were aligned with shrine priests and Shinto, and this opposition became linked to a nationwide movement to reinstitute the Jingikan. On April 27, 1900, the government abolished the Bureau of Shrines and Temples (Shajikyoku) and in its place established a Bureau of Shrines (Jinjakyoku) alongside a Bureau of Religion (Shūkyōkyoku), a development that basically represented a success for the movement to revive the Jingikan.

The Implementation of the Shrine System and Establishment of the Jingiin
       The shrine world formed alliances with politicians to promote a movement to abolish the system of "maintenance funds" at national and imperial shrines, and to introduce a system of official offerings (see shinsen and heihaku) to improve the situation of shrines at the prefectural level and below. The system of "maintenance funds" was finally abolished on April 7, 1906, and the rites at imperial and national shrines were thereafter funded from the national treasury. In the same year a system was established for shrines at the prefectural level and below to receive offerings from their respective prefectures and metropolitan governments. Together with the establishment of the Jinjakyoku (Shrine Bureau), the implementation of these two ordinances furthered the completion of the modern shrine system, leading to the passage of two other laws, the first regulating rites at the Grand Shrines of Ise and the second regulating rites at other shrines (both enacted January 26, 1914). In the shadows to these developments, however, lay the government's desire to advance a policy involving both respect for shrines and economic rationalization. The upshot was an unprecedented program of nationwide "shrine mergers" (jinja gōshi) that resulted, from the end of Meiji through the Taishō periods, in the closure of about one-half of the 200,000 shrines that had previously existed.
       With the furbishing of a modern shrine system, a legal basis was laid for the concept of shrines as representing "ritual fundaments of the state." In fact, however, the shrines below the imperial and national level—so-called "people's shrines (minsha)" —were in straitened circumstances and forced to maintain themselves by engaging in the same sort of religious activities as other religions. This situation emboldened organizations like the Buddhist sect Jōdo Shinshū to press the government to enjoin shrines from engaging in religious activities, based on the official position that "shrines were not religious," thus provoking further debate on the religious nature of Shinto shrines. This situation motivated the government to investigate the current shrine system, leading to the 1929 establishment of the Shrine System Investigation Committee (Jinja Seido Chōsakai), which conducted discussions on the relation between the shrines and religion, and also investigated the establishment of a system of shrines for war dead. Consensus was not achieved, however, and the only results of the committee's work were to petition the government to rename previous shōkonsha shrines ("shrines to invite the spirits of the dead") to gokoku jinja ("shrines for national protection") in 1939, and to establish the Institute of Divinities (Jingiin) in 1940. Through the newly established Jingiin, the government hoped to effect a complete reform of the shrine system, but war had already begun, and the hoped-for revisions had still failed to materialize when defeat came in August, 1945.

The Establishment of the Association of Shinto Shrines ( Jinja Honchō ) and Contemporary Shrine Shinto
       The Occupation established many democratic policies designed to rid Japan of militarism and extreme nationalism, but these were applied as well to Shrine Shinto, with the result that the Shinto Directive (Shintō shirei) was issued on December 15, 1945, decreeing the separation of shrines from the state. The effect of this Directive was to abolish all shrine-related laws issued since the 1871 declaration that "shrines are the ritual fundaments of the state."
       Shrines reconstituted themselves under the newly established Religious Corporations Ordinance (Shūkyō Hōjinrei), and on February 3, 1946, the Association of Shinto Shrines (Jinja Honchō) was established, absorbed a number of former shrine-affiliated organizations that were being abolished, including Dai-Nihon Jingikai, Kōten Kōkyūsho, and Jingū Hōsaikai. Thereafter, shrines were required to operate under a completely different system than before the war, and for a time their economic situation was very dire. In 1953, however, the entire shrine world devoted its collective efforts to the fifty-ninth Regular Removal of the Grand Shrines of Ise (shikinen sengū), and its successful completion led to a sense of revival for shrines as a whole. Japanese living conditions were stabilized by 1955, and many shrines were able to prosper beyond their prewar levels. Also, shrines were enabled to engage in Shinto funerals (shinsōsai) and other religious activities that had been severely restricted before the war. The renewed popularity of Shinto weddings (shinzen kekkon) and assorted intercessory rites (kitō) allowed shrines to enjoy greater fortune than before the war. In addition, goals shared by the entire shrine world were advanced by the Jinja Honchō, through campaigns to confirm the official character of the Grand Shrines of Ise, to reinstitute the National Founding Day (Kigensetsu), and to codify the system of dating based on imperial reign names (gengō hōseika). Based on their results, one can say that all of these campaigns achieved some measure of success.
       In these ways, the era of high economic growth beginning around 1955 exerted many positive effects on shrines, but at the same time, shrines were forced to confront the "other side" of the effects of urbanization accompanying these high rates of growth, namely, advancing depopulation of the rural countryside. Shrines in depopulated areas had serious problems, such as decrease of parishioners (ujiko) and difficulties replacing elderly priests. In urban shrines the extreme mobility of residents led to a fluidity of the parishioner population resulting in instability. Related problems lay in worsening environmental conditions for shrines and the gross swelling of the parishioner base for famous shrines. Thus contemporary shrines face a variety of problems.

Sectarian Shinto and Shinto-Derived New Religions
       Up through the early modern period, shrines had little systematic organization in comparison with Buddhist sects. The tendency was strong for shrine traditions to be transmitted secretly within particular lineages, and Restoration Shinto (Fukko Shintō) had developed entirely as an intellectual movement. The organization of Shinto effected in the Edo period by the Yoshida and Shirakawa houses, especially Yoshida Shintō's development, prepared the way to a certain extent for the shift to Shinto sectarian organizations, although neither lineage developed made the transition to such clear-cut organizational forms at the time. Numerous Shinto religious sectarian organizations appeared with the coming of the modern period, however, and the basis for these organizations had been laid by several prefiguring developments of the Edo period. First, it is significant that in the areas of doctrine and ethics, discussion of Shinto teachings was carried out widely among the samurai and merchant classes and among regional leaders, through the influence of National Learning (kokugaku) and Restoration Shinto. It is also significant that in terms of organization, cults devoted to mountain worship, such as Mounts Fuji (Fuji shinkō), and Ontake (Ontake shinkō) led to the establishment of "confraternities" (see ) like Fuji-kō or "Ontake-kō," and thus sank deep roots into provincial society as organized religious groups. It was upon this foundation that people like Kurozumi Munetada, founder of Kurozumikyō, Inoue Masakane, founder of Misogikyō, or Nitta Kuniteru, founder of Shintō Shūseiha, were subsequently able to build religious organizations that also had a variety of influences on later religious movements. These religious historical developments, together with the orientations of government religious policies during the Meiji period, led to the quick establishment of a framework for sectarian Shinto.
       The expression "Sectarian Shinto" (kyōha Shintō) is conventionally used to refer to "the thirteen sects of Shinto" (see Shinto-Derived Religious Groups), but recent proposals have been made to divide Shinto-based religious groups into "sectarian Shinto" and "Shinto-derived new religions." Within this framework, "sectarian Shinto" would refer to a type of Shinto organization developing in the modern period based on Shinto thought influenced by Restoration Shinto and other Shinto thought of the Edo period, and with deep connections to the conventional Shinto practiced at shrines (so-called shrine Shinto). By contrast, Shinto-derived new religions, while clearly influenced by Shinto traditions, are more typified by the uniquely charismatic character of their founders, and thus display more the nature of creative "founder religions." Follow this typology, "sectarian Shinto" would be composed of most of the thirteen sects plus several sects not included in the original thirteen, such as Jingūkyō and Izumokyō. Meanwhile, of the thirteen, Konkōkyō and Tenrikyō should more appropriately be considered Shinto-derived new religions. While sectarian Shinto reached its peak in the early Meiji period and its groups developed widespread organizations, by late Meiji most groups had either stagnated or greatly declined, losing their social influence. By contrast, from the late Meiji period the Shinto-derived new religions gained in social influence.
       The appearance of Shinto-derived new religions was the greatest change in the modern history of Shinto. This change was based on the many transformations of modern society, such as changes in industrial structure, urbanization, the spread of public education, as well as the existence of many social contradictions arising from the process of modernization. These elements were factors in the appearance of new religions in general, and the Shinto-derived new religions in specific, of which there are a large number. The Shinshūkyō jiten (Dictionary of New Religions) lists over 300 new religions, and about half of those are derived from Shinto. Since most of the entries deal with existing religions, there is no way of knowing how many movements existed at one time but later died out. According to typical stories, many founders of Shinto-derived new religions had distinctive religious experiences, and became aware of their missions through revelations from kami or spirits, miraculous manifestations, dream revelations and the like. Since these religions develop on the basis of the founder's distinctive religious experiences, they have a strong character as revelatory or "founder religions."

Shinto's Overseas Advance
       Lastly, let us address the overseas advance of shrine Shinto and Shinto churches, beginning in the mid-Meiji period. We begin with shrine Shinto. In the prewar period, many shrines were constructed on the Korean peninsula, Sakhalin Island (Karafuto), and in Taiwan and China. These shrines were built in accordance with the shrine system at the time as it operated in areas controlled by Japan. In 1900 the Imperial Taiwan Jinja was constructed, and thereafter dozens of shrines were built there, including unranked shrines (mukakusha). Many of these shrines on Taiwan enshrined Prince Kita Shirakawa Yoshihisa as their object of worship (see saijin). This is because he died of illness there while heading the Konoe Division and directing the invasion of Taiwan. In 1918 the Chōsen Jinja was built in Seoul, and in 1925 it was elevated to the status of an Imperial Shrine. Thereafter more than fifty shrines were built in Korea. On Sakhalin the Karafuto Imperial Shrine was constructed in 1910 in Yujino Sahalinsk, and by 1925 a number of other shrines had been built. In 1905 the Antō Shrine was built in Manchuria, and shrines there increased rapidly after the Manchurian Incident of 1931. After the First World War, many areas of Micronesia and Melanesia were put under Japanese jurisdiction, and shrines were constructed on the islands of Saipan, Palau, Yabu, and Truk. Thus the construction of shrines in Asia was directly connected to the expansion of Japanese-controlled areas. In the same way, shrines were constructed in Hawaii, in North America, and South America before World War II, many in response to Japanese immigrants' requests. The earliest case was in Hawaii, where the Japanese government signed an agreement with the Hawaiian court in 1895 leading to a large wave of immigration. From around 1900 a number of shrines were built on the major Hawaiian islands of Maui, Kawai, and Hawaii. This took place at the same time as the movement of Jōdo Shinshū, Jōdo-shū, and other major Buddhist sects to Hawaii, and was thus largely in response to Japanese immigrants' desire to preserve the customs of their lives in Japan. The Shinto sects and some of the Shinto-derived new religions also conducted overseas proselytization. Of the original thirteen sects, Tenrikyō, Konkōkyō, Shinrikyō, Kurozumikyō, and others had overseas footholds. Those that attempted to proselytize not only in Asia but also in North America and Hawaii included Tenrikyō, Konkōkyo, and Seichō no Ie. Tenrikyō was especially active in this regard, and its second-generation leader Nakayama Masayoshi became personally involved. See also Shinto-derived religious organizations.

— Inoue Nobutaka and Sakamoto Koremaru
"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/
Copyright ©2002-2006 Kokugakuin University. All rights reserved.
Ver. 1.3