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Home » 3. Institutions and Administrative Practices » Introduction: Institutions and Administrative Practicesministrative Practices
Introduction: Institutions and Administrative Practices
This section offers explanations of terminology relating to Shintō systems, institutions and administration. The main focus falls on shrine systems, their state foundations and other closely related institutions. An extremely general overview of the characteristic chronological changes in the shrine systems might go as follows: A structured shrine system emerged in the ancient period, but from the medieval period it gradually transformed before exhibiting signs of decline. In the modern period, the shrine system was reconstructed, but this was dissolved immediately after World War Two, when shrines were placed on the same footing as other religious institutions.
       The establishment of the ancient shrine system proceeded apace with the development of the ritsuryō system (a system of administrative and legal codes based on the Tang Chinese model, established in the late Asuka and early Nara periods). The fact that shrines in the Engishiki "Register of Deities" are generally referred to as shikinaisha (roughly, "registered shrines of the Engishiki") indicates that a structured and countrywide shrine system was already in place.The shrine system was fundamentally connected to national shrine rites as well as being intimately linked with imperial rites.The system of twenty-two shrines ( Nijūnisha ) symbolizes the intimacy of this connection between shrines and the imperial court. The major shrines in the Kinai area, of which twenty-two were eventually counted, became the recipients of court offerings as chokusaisha (shrines visited by an imperial envoy on the occasion of major rites). The system of regional shrine belief also achieved uniform organization with the creation of the ichi no miya and sōja (a collective shrine). The ichi no miya shrines were the most revered in their respective provinces; and the sōja was a collective shrine representing all the shrines in the province receiving offerings from the provincial governor.
       The point of the ancient system was state control of shrine beliefs, but in the medieval period the system became unstable. The shōen private land ownership system proliferated, and as it did shrine land came to be regarded as the shrines' private property, leading to the gradual loss of state support. One feature of the medieval system was the creation of the office of jisha bugyō (temple and shrine magistrate). This meant that successive military regimes came to intervene in administration of the shrine system. The substance of the magistrate's office gradually changed over time, but the office itself endured until the early modern (Edo) period.
       The modern shrine system was propelled by the ideology of imperial restoration and "creative authority of Emperor Jinmu's reign" (Jinmu sōgyō). The founders of the modern system paid due heed to ancient precedent, but what they sought was a system consistent with new national principles. The Jingikan (Department of Divinities), nominally responsible for shrines and their rites, was restored in the early Meiji era, and was later incorporated into Jingishō (Ministry of Divinities). Throughout these transformations, shrine administration remained at the center of the prewar modern state's policies. The shrine ranking system (see Modern Shrine Ranking System ) was revamped, and the modern system of kankoku heisha (imperial and national shrines) was introduced, leading to the nationwide ranking of shrines.The Meiji state established what is generally referred to as the "modern emperor system" ( tennō seido ), and this was intimately linked to the shrine system. Legal provisions regarding the status of the emperor and the imperial institution were also enacted, such as the in the establishment of the Kōshitsu Tenpan (Imperial House Law), which set forth stipulations relating to imperial succession ( kōi keishō ) and similar matters.
       This system changed drastically after World War II. The GHQ published a document known as "Shinto Directive" ( Shintō Shirei ), which dismantled the so-called State Shintō (kokka Shintō) system. The brief period of the Religious Corporations Ordinance (Shūkyō Hōjinrei) gave way to the system that continues to this day under the Religious Corporations Law (Shūkyō Hōjinhō). Under this legislation, "Shrine Shintō" (see The History of Shrines ) is no longer viewed as a system protected by the state, and the system of shrines came to be treated as equal with all other religious institutions. This led in turn to the establishment of the Jinja Honchō (Association of Shinto Shrines), a religious organization which presently serves as an umbrella institution including the majority of Japan's shrines.
       In this way, Shrine Shinto underwent major systemic transformations, but at the same time there were also a number of changes among the principal people carrying out shrine rites. In the ancient period state rites were administered by the Jingikan. However, at provincial and local shrines, kuni no miyatsuko (provincial governors) or uji no kami (clan chieftains) conducted shrine rites. There were also dedicated shrine priests or shinshoku and miko who oversaw individual local shrines and the celebration of their rites. As the influence of shinbutsu shūgō (the combinatory worship of kami and buddhas; see Shinto and Buddhism ) increased, new categories of celebrants called shasō and bettō (roughly, "shrine monks") emerged. Until the early modern period, hereditary shrine priests known as shake , with jurisdiction over individual shrines, were a major presence. However, in the Meiji era all shrines were redefined as "sites for the performance of state rites (kokka sōshi)" and the shake system largely disintegrated. In the post-war period, however, there has been a substantial revival or continuation of the hereditary shrine priest system. The creation of the first institution dedicated to the training of shrine priests took place in 1882. This first institution was the Kōten Kōkyūsho, the forerunner of Kokugakuin University. Presently, Kōgakkan and Kokugakuin universities serve as institutions for training shrine priests.

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