Encyclopedia of Shinto

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カテゴリー1: 1. General Introduction
カテゴリー2: Introduction
Introduction: The History of Shinto
This section presents an outline of the history of Shinto from ancient times until the contemporary period, including an explanation of other religions and philosophies that have influenced Shinto, namely, ancient Chinese thought, Buddhism, Onmyōdō, Confucianism, Shugendō, and Christianity. Since the concept of Shinto covers such a broad range of phenomena, it is typically divided into discussions of shrine Shinto (jinja Shintō ), sectarian Shinto (kyōha Shintō) imperial Shinto (kōshitsu Shintō), folk Shinto (minzoku Shintō), and philosophical or scholastic Shinto (gakuha Shintō). On the other hand, using entirely different categories Shinto can be discussed in terms of specific historical eras, addressing the special characteristics of its development in each age. Thus the sentiments of gratitude, supplication, and awe that characterize ancient kami worship (jingi saishi) undoubtedly constitute the core of Shinto as a religion. But the origins of Shinto are not clearly defined. If one takes the strategy of defining Shinto as whatever is at the center of the religious life of the Japanese people, then the origins of “Shinto—like” elements must be considered as coeval with the origins of Japanese culture. On the other hand, if one takes the position that Shinto is a religion that formed under the influences of ancient Chinese philosophy and Mahayana Buddhism, then the problem arises of where one should look for the germinating forms of a religion that takes clear shape only under stimulation by such foreign religious influences. In any case, since Shinto lacks a determinate point of origin, its earliest forms remain obscure. Overall, it is probably best to consider that Shinto arose as religious forms widely observed in other ethnic religions—including animism, shamanism, ancestor worship, and nature worship—gradually came to take on distinctive ritual and cultic forms.
Scholarly approaches to ancient Shinto differ greatly between those based on archaeological remains and those based on documents. The former approach tries to speculate on the nature of Shinto ritual and cult based on the remains of archaeological sites and their contents. The latter tries to reconstruct ancient kami worship through the study of classic texts such as Kojiki, Nihon shoki, various Fudoki, and Man’yōshū. In this case, the study of myth enables us to compare the myths of these texts with those found in other cultures. Kami worship, seen as the core of Shinto, assumes a certain shape in the ancient period, and it is given an important place in the Ritsuryō system. However, with the dissolution of the Ritsuryō system, kami worship also changed. As Buddhist influence expanded, the “amalgamation of kami and buddhas” or shinbutsu shūgō, proceeded at an increased pace in terms of both philosophy and actual everyday practice. Moreover, as the warrior class took the reins of government, the Hachiman cult (see Hachiman shinkō) and other cults associated with the warrior class brought changes to shrine worship. After the Kamakura period, various schools and philosophies of Shinto emerged, and with the Edo period, new Shinto theories developed based on Confucian influence. In addition, the appearance of National Learning (kokugaku) and Restoration Shinto (Fukko Shintō) were highly significant for the development of Shinto in the modern period. The modern period showed a rapidly deepening relation between the emperor system, the consciousness of the nation, and kami worship, based on the influence of kokugaku and Restoration Shinto since the end of the Edo period. But from the standpoint of Shinto’s development, there is a major division from around the time of the beginning of World War II. Before the war, the modern system of shrines and sectarian Shinto were especially important, and this was also the period of the founding of Shinto—derived new religions. After the war, under a new legal system, the shrine system was consolidated under the Association of Shinto Shrines (Jinja Honchō). Moreover, a cumulative and conspicuous increase in Shinto—derived new religions was seen.
The most important religious and philosophical impact on Shinto has been represented by Buddhism, but ancient Chinese thought and Confucianism have also exerted a great influence. Onmyōdō influenced rituals of purification and perceptions of auspicious and inauspicious factors. Recent scholarship points out the influence of Daoism, but most Daoist influences on Shinto can be understood as part of the more general influence from ancient Chinese thought and Onmyōdō. Confucianism exerted ritual and intellectual influences on Shinto from ancient times, and in the early modern period in the form of Neo—Confucian thought. Shugendō itself is a product of the shinbutsu shūgō noted earlier, but once established it exerted an influence on the formation of modern Shinto religious organizations. Christian influence upon Shinto is rarely discussed, but its influence on kokugaku and modern Shinto religious organizations should not be overlooked.
— Inoue Nobutaka

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