阪本研究所 SK laboratory



"The Crossroads of Shinto History: Origins from the Jomon Period and Encounters with Different Religions, including Ancient Shinto, Shinto and Christianity, and the Impact of Interactions with Other Faiths."







"Ancient Shinto"


Though commonly referred to as Shinto, there are various types of it. There is the 'Imperial Shinto' centered around the Imperial Palace and the Kyuchu Sanden, and the 'Shrine Shinto,' which revolves around shrines managed and distinguished by the state from other 'denominational Shinto.' Additionally, there is 'Ancient Shinto.'






"Denominational Shinto": In a narrow sense, this term refers to a total of 14 Shinto sects that were gradually officially recognized as missionary organizations of Shinto during the Meiji era. This includes not only the organizational structures of Ise Grand Shrine, Izumo Taisha, Mount Fuji, Mount Ontake, and others up until the Edo period but also new religions that emerged from the Edo to Meiji era. These denominations, sometimes also referred to as Sectarian Shinto or Sect Shinto, played a role in propagating Shinto from the Meiji era onward.






"General Shinto" has evolved over approximately 1,300 years, influenced by various religions such as Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity, Hinduism, and others. In contrast, "Ancient Shinto" remains uninfluenced by these external factors. It is a uniquely Japanese religion believed to have originated in the Jomon period. Devoid of specific doctrines or scriptures, Ancient Shinto has been passed down through oral tradition.













"Motoori Norinaga's 'Kodōsetsu' (Ancient Way Theory)"


During the Jomon culture that spanned over 10,000 years, the foundations of nature worship, ancestral veneration, and the belief in kotodama (the spirit of words) were nurtured, laying the groundwork for purification rituals and practices. Various clans established their own forms of Shinto, giving rise to distinct traditions like the Mononobe Shinto and Nakatomi Shinto. In the Edo period, the concept of "Koshinto" or "Ancient Shinto" emerged.


Scholars of kokugaku, such as Motoori Norinaga, advocated the "Kodōsetsu" or "Ancient Way Theory." This perspective sought to systematize the pure and simple spiritual essence inherent in Japan's ancient traditions. The scholars, including Hirata Atsutane, who crafted the Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto prayer, further developed these ideas, leading to the term "Fukko Shintō" or "Restoration Shinto" being used to describe this movement.


The "Kodōsetsu" emphasized a profound appreciation for the unadulterated spirit of Japan's indigenous beliefs, as asserted by Motoori Norinaga and Hirata Atsutane.










In terms of classification, "Koshintō" or "Ancient Shinto" can be divided into two categories: "Kojiki Shintō" and "Nihon Shoki Shintō." The former is grounded in classics such as the "Kojiki" and the "Nihon Shoki" and represents a form of Shinto that does not incorporate elements of magical charms or spells. On the other hand, "Zokushintō" or "Common Shinto" is not based on these classical texts but instead integrates philosophical elements into the Shinto worldview.


Within the context of Restoration Shinto, certain specific prayers are identified as associated with Ancient Shinto. These include the "Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto," "Tenshukushikito" (A Prayer to Heaven), "Hifumishikito" (A Prayer for Purity), and the "Sanshū-no-Ōharae" (Three Great Purification Rituals). These prayers are considered to have connections to Ancient Shinto and have been distinctly defined within the framework of Restoration Shinto.










"Nationalization of Shinto"


Approximately 150 years ago during the Meiji era, there was a significant political shift from the Tokugawa shogunate to the emperor, leading to a restructuring of the political system and a reorganization of religion. In order to establish Japan as a nation-state, the Meiji government worked to establish a unique Japanese religion centered around the emperor. With the aim of "nationalizing" Shinto, which was previously vague in terms of its doctrines, the government took steps to distinguish it from other belief systems, collected rituals and prayers, and formalized purification ceremonies such as misogi (purification by water).


This process aimed to solidify Shinto as a central element of the state, reflecting the broader efforts to create a unified national identity in Japan during the Meiji period. The term "State Shinto" is often used to describe this amalgamation of Shinto and government interests during this period.








"Shinbutsu Bunri no Rei" (Decree on the Separation of Shinto and Buddhism) and the "Haibutsu Kishaku Undo" (Anti-Buddhist Movement)


In 1868, with the aim of unifying the state and its people, the "Shinbutsu Bunri no Rei" (Decree on the Separation of Shinto and Buddhism) was implemented. This decree prohibited the syncretic rituals between Shinto and Buddhism that had persisted since the Nara period. It mandated the worship of the deities officially recognized by the state, establishing the Emperor as the symbolic figure of State Shinto.


This decree was part of a broader movement known as "Haibutsu Kishaku Undo" (Anti-Buddhist Movement), which sought to eliminate Buddhist influence in Japan. The objective was to promote the worship of Shinto deities recognized by the government as a means of fostering national unity and loyalty to the state. This period witnessed a significant restructuring of religious practices and beliefs in Japan.







In the midst of these changes, contrary to the intentions of the Meiji government, there emerged the "Haibutsu Kishaku Undo" (Anti-Buddhist Movement), in which fervent supporters of the movement to overthrow the shogunate zealously destroyed Buddhist temples that had supported the Tokugawa feudal system. This movement marked a stark contrast to the government's policies aimed at establishing State Shinto and separating Shinto from Buddhism.


As a result of the "Haibutsu Kishaku Undo," Buddhist temples were targeted and destroyed by enthusiastic crowds aligned with the anti-shogunate sentiment. This event served as a turning point for Buddhism in Japan, prompting it to undergo a process of redefinition and renewal as it transitioned into a more private and individualized religious practice.








Present-day Shinto has been systematized based on the efforts of the Meiji government, which established it as State Shinto. The government formalized the religious practices using documents such as the "Engishiki," a compilation from the mid-Heian period that is one of the three major compilations of ceremonial codes. This differed significantly from Shinto practices up until the Edo period. In this context, various sects, known as "Kyoha Shinto" or "Denominational Shinto," were established, each developing its unique interpretation and practices.


The "Engishiki" was compiled during the mid-Heian period and is one of the three major compilations of ceremonial codes. It later became a fundamental law for the Ritsuryo political system in Japan.










While I have provided a brief overview of the trajectory of "Koshintō" thus far, I would now like to delve into an examination of "Kodai Shintō" or Ancient Shinto.








The concept of "Ancient Shinto" refers to the indigenous and primordial religious practices that existed in Japan before the influence of foreign religions. Its origins are traced back to the Jomon period. In contrast to the shrine-centric structure of Shinto observed in contemporary times with torii gates and sanctuaries, "Ancient Shinto" takes on a form of nature worship without dedicated shrines. In the field of Japanese ethnology, it emphasizes an ongoing harmony with nature, with a focus on receiving and sharing "Mana" — a concept derived from the Pacific islands that refers to a mysterious source of power. In this context, "Mana" signifies a shared and mystic force emanating from the sun.









Nature worship involves revering natural entities and phenomena as "yorishiro" and elevating them to divine status. The rituals associated with nature worship encompass the belief that the myriad gods, or "yaoyorozu no kami," reside in everything in nature, including mountains and seas. This form of nature faith involves venerating the deities inherent in the entirety of the natural world. 



The concept of "yorishiro" refers to a tangible object or place where a divine spirit resides. By becoming a vessel for the divine spirit, it is sanctified and becomes the focus of worship during ceremonies, independent of any material attachment, embodying a sacred connection.







"Kamigoromo Shinko" (Shrine Enclosure Faith): When conducting rituals in locations other than shrines or household altars, there are instances where specific objects serve as temporary vessels to welcome the presence of the deity.







There is a belief known as "Iwakura Shinko" (Stone Seat Faith), where rocks serve as the focal point for worship. Well-known examples of this include sacred trees, spirit stones, the protective forests around shrines, and iconic rock formations like those found in the spiritual landscape of a shrine precinct.






Moreover, there is a diverse array of "Yorishin Shinko" (Localized Deity Faith) practices that emerged in different regions. For instance, thunder, seen as a bringer of abundant harvests, might be referred to as lightning, and gratitude might be expressed by associating a stranded or beached whale with Ebisu, a deity symbolizing bountiful food. This has led to the development of various regional beliefs. The concept of "Seirei Suihō" (Reverence for Sacred Spirits) has also gained prominence, asserting that all things, whether living beings or inanimate objects, house spirits or souls.




"Yorikami" (Arriving Deity): A deity believed to arrive or drift from the celestial realm through the sea or rivers, originating from the heavens and reaching the mortal realm. The concept is often associated with deities that are thought to approach or appear after crossing the horizon line where the sky meets the sea, emanating from the heavenly realm.










"Tsuukumogami" (Tool Spirit):


Similar to the concept of "Tsuukumo no Kami," it was believed that even inanimate objects or tools, especially those that have been in use for an extended period, can house divine spirits. This belief stems from the idea of "yorishiro," where gods reside within various entities, including natural phenomena. A form of shamanism emerged, designating priestesses (miko) as vessels for the gods. This involved practices such as prayers, divination, and the establishment of guidelines for festivals, all rooted in the notion that gods exist within the elements of nature and in objects that have been used or lived long.




"Tsuukumogami" or "Tsuukumo no Kami": In Japanese folklore, these are spirits or souls believed to inhabit tools and objects that have existed for an extended period, acquiring a kind of spiritual essence over time.








In ancient times, it is said that prayer leaders such as Himiko determined the fate of the nation through rituals, prayers, and divination. Priests in Shinto shrines have traditionally played a governing role in festivals. During the Heian period, they incorporated the "Inyo Gogyo Shiso" (Yin-Yang and Five Elements philosophy) and held positions as bureaucrats under the Ritsuryo system, serving roles such as onmyoji (yin-yang diviners) within the government's administrative structure.



The "Inyo Gogyo Shiso" is a synthesis of the Yin-Yang philosophy (Inyo Setsu) and the Five Elements theory (Gogyo Setsu).


The "Inyo Setsu" is a dualistic philosophy that explains the phenomena and things in the universe through the interplay of Yin and Yang forces.



五行説」: 世の中のすべての物は五種類の元素からなり、その元素は一定の法則で互いに影響を与えあいながら、変化し、また循環しているという思想。
The "Gogyo Setsu" is a philosophical concept that posits everything in the world is composed of five elements. These elements interact with each other according to specific principles, influencing one another, undergoing changes, and cyclically transforming.












The "Shinbutsu Bunri Rei" (Decree on the Separation of Shinto and Buddhism), initiated in 1868, marked a revival of precision reminiscent of ancient Ritsuryo system principles. This separation continued until the post-World War II occupation period by the General Headquarters of the Allied Forces (GHQ), during which State Shinto was prohibited. The original Ancient Shinto did not revolve around the unknowable entities such as gods, spirits, and divine souls associated with ancestral worship. Instead, it encompassed concepts like "Mana" as the essence of life, the realms of the afterlife such as heaven and hell, and the coexistence of the eternal and transient worlds—a worldview reflecting the essence of life and the mirror image of the tangible world.








During the Nara period, Shingu-ji (Shinto-Buddhist composite temples) were established within Shinto shrines. In the Heian period, the Honji Suijaku Setsu (theory of original reality and manifested traces) was proposed, aiming to correlate Japan's native kami with Buddhist deities. As a result, a syncretic practice called "Shinbutsu Shugo" (syncretism of Shinto and Buddhism) emerged, allowing for the placement of Buddhist statues in Shinto shrines and the erection of torii gates at Buddhist temples. This phenomenon is commonly known as "Shinbutsu Shugo."












The "Shinbutsu Bunri Rei" (Decree on the Separation of Shinto and Buddhism) was a decree initiated in 1868 during the Meiji Restoration in Japan. It aimed to separate Shinto and Buddhism, in accordance with the restoration of the pre-Meiji era Ritsuryo system principles. This decree led to the removal of Buddhist elements from Shinto shrines and played a role in shaping the religious landscape during the Meiji era. The separation continued until the post-World War II occupation period when the GHQ prohibited State Shinto.




・Syncretism of Shinto and Buddhism before the Edo Period
"Shinbutsu Shugo" (Syncretism of Shinto and Buddhism): This refers to the concept of harmonizing Shinto and Buddhism by considering kami (gods) and buddhas as identical entities.


「不可知」:人間のあらゆる認識手段を使用しても知り得ないこと。 たとえば、現象の背後に隠れた実体や神などを知ることができないとすること。


"Unknowable": Things that cannot be known even through the use of all human means of understanding. This concept posits that there are aspects, such as the hidden essence behind phenomena or the nature of deities, which cannot be comprehended by any available means of human cognition.









The Okinoshima of Munakata Taisha is a place where the natural features such as rocks and mountains serve as yorishiro, indicating not only a dwelling place for gods but also marking the boundary between the eternal (yokoyo) and the transient world (utsushyo). The term "himo-rogi" consists of "himo," meaning "fence," indicating a boundary, and "rogi," which can be associated with "iwa-kai" (岩境), suggesting the boundary of the divine realm.


Even today, the central path leading to the shrine, known as the approach, is considered a sacred passage for the gods, and certain areas, including the entire island and its forests, are designated as sacred precincts, where access is restricted, as seen in the case of Okinoshima at Munakata Taisha. Shinto elements such as torii gates and shimenawa ropes play a role in creating a barrier that separates the sacred realm from the ordinary world.





"Tokoyo" or "Kakuriyo" refers to the eternal and unchanging divine realm. It is also associated with the afterlife, including Yomi, the realm of the dead. The term conveys the idea of perpetuity and, in ancient times, was sometimes written as "Tokoyo" or "Tokoyo," which can be translated as "eternal night." This concept is a crucial aspect of Japanese mythology, Ancient Shinto, and Shinto's fundamental dualistic worldview. In contrast, the term "Utsushiyo" (the transient world) serves as its antonym, representing the present, tangible world.















To find solace in one's beliefs,


It is a peculiar and, at the same time, wondrous sensation that the beliefs, thoughts, and practices that have persisted for over ten thousand years continue to be observed in the present day. As a fellow Japanese, this allows one to feel a closeness to our ancestors.


Moreover, within these traditions lies a consistent philosophy of respecting all life, coupled with prayers to the divine. In the contemporary world, characterized by its global interconnectedness yet marked by moments of insularity, there seems to be an increasing need for individuals to anchor themselves in what they believe, be it through religion or other means, to learn, grow, and express gratitude.






In such a context,




The encounter between Shinto and Christianity, two distinct religions,










Japanese Shinto and Christianity, despite being distinct religious systems, share commonalities and have influenced each other. Shinto is Japan's indigenous religion with a focus on nature worship and ancestor veneration, while Christianity, originating in the Middle East, centers around faith rooted in the Bible. However, when these religions encountered each other, they mutually influenced one another, giving rise to historical exchanges.


The influences on Shinto from Buddhism, Confucianism, and Christianity significantly shaped the development of the religion. Particularly, State Shinto involved the management of shrines by the government, with certain shrines venerating the imperial family as divine. This example illustrates how Shinto, while incorporating external influences, also established its unique identity.


Moreover, Shinto and Christianity share thematic elements. Elements such as nature worship, pilgrimage to sacred places, and expressions of gratitude towards the divine are common to both religions. While the reverence for life and expressions of gratitude may take different forms in Shinto and Christianity, they reflect shared aspects of humanity and religious values.








Historically, Christianity arrived relatively late in Japan, and due to differences in religious foundations, Shinto and Christianity did not deeply intertwine. However, in the modern era, as cultural exchanges increased, some influence of Christianity became visible in certain aspects.


Ultimately, Shinto and Christianity, being distinct religions, have coexisted with mutual respect for each other's beliefs. The history of this coexistence, with its mutual influences and commonalities, highlights the profound meaning and values that religions bring to human life, shaping a rich diversity through the coexistence of different faiths.






なぜ日本人はキリスト教を信じないのか【仏教からみた視点】"Why do Japanese people not believe in Christianity: A perspective from Buddhism"


なぜ日本人はキリスト教を信じないのか【仏教からみた視点】"Why do Japanese people not believe in Christianity #キリスト文化 #仏教文化