Shinto, a Short History

By Ito Satoshi; Endo Jun et al. | Go to book overview

4

THE MODERN AGE

Shinto confronts modernity

Inoue Nobutaka

When Japan encountered modernity, two major changes took place in the religious system known as Shinto. The first was the creation of the modern shrine system. A shrine system was first organised in the ancient period, and continued thereafter through the medieval and early modern periods even as it ceased to function. Under the modern state, however, it acquired a new form. The second major change was the emergence of a new type of religious system within Shinto; what we might call ‘sectarian Shinto’. At the end of the Edo period, there were striking and rapid movements towards the creation of Shinto ‘sects’. Prototypes of these sects were already to be seen in the Suika Shinto, the Yoshida and the Shirakawa Shinto movements. It was only with Meiji, however, that a Shinto that was unquestionably sectarian in style emerged.

The modern shrine system assumed its basic form in the early Meiji period (1868-1912); it acquired stability of structure as it developed in parallel with, and in the closest possible connection to, the emerging ‘modern emperor state’. This shrine system endured for the best part of three-quarters of a century, until the end of the Second World War. The religious policies of the General Headquarters of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (GHQ) at the end of the war ensured that the modern shrine system was once again transformed in the shortest space of time; the result was the post-war era in which the Jinja honchō, the umbrella organisation for the majority of Japan’s shrines, has dominated shrine affairs. An awareness of continuity and change in the immediate aftermath of the war is essential for any study of modern shrine Shinto.

Sectarian Shinto, for its part, can be usefully considered as comprising two sub-categories: the first comprises the thirteen Shinto sects that sprung up in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; the second comprises Shinto-derived new religions or what, in Japanese, have come to be called

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Shinto, a Short History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Contributors vii
  • Translators' Introduction ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Ancient and Classical Japan 12
  • 2 - The Medieval Period 63
  • Notes 102
  • 3 - The Early Modern Period 108
  • 4 - The Modern Age 159
  • Selected Reading 198
  • Index 204
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