Thesis: Influence of Shinto Religion in Japanese Politics

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¶ … Shinto Religion on Japanese Politics

This work makes an examination of Shinto and the influence held by this religion on the politics in Japan.

This work intends to disseminate the beliefs of Shinto and then apply these beliefs to the impact that the have attempted to convey into the political landscape and the successes and gains or lacks of the two be measured.

The methodology of this study will be of a qualitative nature, which will be through the form of an extensive yet brief review of literature in this area of study. Qualitative research is interpretive in nature.

The Meaning and Source of Shinto

The work of Machiaki Okuyama entitled: "Shinto in the Japanese Religious System and the Western Influence" states that the word "shukyo" translates to "religion" in Japanese and that 'shykyo" often denotes "something closer to personal and private belief that to the ritual practice of a group that is more common to Japan." (2003) the work of Furota (2006) relates that the literal meaning in Japanese of shykyo is 'way of the gods' and stands for "harmonious cooperation between man and the rest of nature."(Furota, 2006) in fact, Okuyama states that religion in Japan is considered to be: "a fusion of people and state, as shown in the case of Shinto, which is 'in principle not capable of differentiation [from the state], for it has no basis of membership different from the social groups - nations, village and family- in which it is embedded." (Bellah as cited in Okyuama, 2003) Okyuama states that the "social circumstances of modern Japanese religions have changed in tandem with the changes going on in the concepts referring to them." (2003)

II. Is Shinto a Religion?

The work of Kuroda (1981) states that his work demonstrates "that before modern times Shinto did not exist as an independent religion." Specifically Kuroda states that it is generally agreed upon that, " indigenous self-consciousness is embodied in the word Shinto" and that the original meaning of the word as applied was different from the meaning applied to Shinto in the present. Kuroda also states as follows: "The ceremonies of Ise Shrine, as well as those of the imperial court and the early provincial government, are said to have been forms of "pure Shinto." (1981) it is stated as well in the work of Kuroda (1981) that the two, "...became "one component of a unique system of Buddhism which emerged in Japan and were perceived as an extension of Buddhism." (1981) Kuroda also relates that Shinto "played a secular role in society and existed in a completely different sphere from Buddhism." (1981) Finally, Kuroda holds that the Shinto...came to mean the indigenous religion or national faith of Japan." (1981) According to Kuroda (1981) Shinto is as aged as the Japanese culture itself and has many ideological conceptions, varied experiences and slants in the telling of the historical recantations and because this is so symbolically interwoven and it is still held close and distinct among the cultural Japanese society at-large. For example, the Shrine at Ise is a Shinto shrine and was constructed by the Ancient Shintos and these shrines represented seasonal changes and cultivation cycles and were ancient homes of indwelling holy men in what was 'hallowed ground'. It is said that the "hart pillar (shin no mihashira) lies buried deep in the ground at Ise and is dressed in the sacred evergreen tree of Shinto." (Linduff, 2000) it is stated that the sakaki branches symbolize the tree where the divine mirror the 'literal body of Amateratsu Omikami) was hung and where the Sun Goddess was enshrined." (Linduff, 2000) Within every religion, there is a central figure that is "Holy," "Divine," and above all other physical human beings. In the Japanese indigenous culture Shinto and the "Amateratsu Omikami." (Linduff, 2000) in the six-century it is related that the Emperor welcomed Buddha as "a great kami whose visible representation was housed in an impressive Buddhist temple..." And through the unification of "several competing clan lineages in the Yamato Plain in central Japan" is what formed the "Sun Line" of Kings and the emperor regarded as a living kami and divinity surpassing all other kami. (Linduff, 2000)

III. Integration of Shinto and Buddhism and the Evolution of Development of this Religion

The work of Hikotaro Furota states that after the introduction of Buddhism in Japan "the Japanese people soon developed the concept of Gods of Shinto that were simply the local manifestation of universal Buddhist principles and deities. The two religions became institutionally intertwined." (2006) Not only Buddhism, but as well other Gods derived from the country of India were introduced into Japanese culture and even into the Japanese literature. Shinto is a religion however it is one that is based in nature including ", mountains, rivers, trees, water, or a person's ancestors..." according to the work entitled: "The Chrysanthemum Throne" in Part II of "House of the Setting Sun" (2004) the belief in the emperor's divinity in the country of Japan "is interwoven with the belief in Shinto" which is polytheism...based on animism or natural phenomena." (the Chrysanthemum Throne, 2004) Japan is stated in this work to have been in lack of, as are all developing cultures as one point a form of writing resulting in oral recantation from generation to generation. In early development religions in the most notable early cultures was based on sun worship and assignments of deities to physical wonders such as stars, planets and the sun.

In Japan, the name of the 'Imperial Family' is the House of the Rising Sun which is represented by "Amaterasu Omikami - which was the actual ancestor of the current Imperial Family" and it is held that evidence is contained in documents that relate the "tale of monarchy's divine roots." (Ibid) it is held in this analysis of Shinto that the 'Sun Goddess was the principle deity of Shinto and her living descendent on earth -" and resulting was a removal of sorts of power for the emperor and Shinto. (Ibid) Buddhism is stated to have "supplanted" Shinto as its' influence spread from China into Japan at the time "aristocratic clans" exerted their power through exertion of power over the emperor which was generally stated to be accomplished through marriage maneuvers into the family of the emperor. The role of the emperor is one that is vested deity and this travels deep into the roots of the cultural society of Japan and can be likened to the American Indian, the Incas, the Aztecs, the Hebrews, and all early peoples and cultural civilizations of the earth. (Ibid) Shinto however goes very deep culturally and is inclusive of rites of passage, festivals, and seasonal activities including the shrine activities." (Ibid)

IV. The Meiji Restoration was a Combination of Religious State and Secular Politics

The work of Demerath and Straight (1997) entitled: "Religion, Politics, and the State: Cross-Cultural Observations" states that it is "at least arguable that the 1868 Meiji restoration ultimately produced a combination of a religious state and secular politics as a small elite self-consciously fashioned a new state religion out of traditional folk Shinto." (1997) Additionally stated by Demerath and Straight that the State Shinto, which resulted "...was used to define the government and to mobilize both industrialization and militarism." (Demerath and Straight, 1997) During the war years, "...opposing religious voices were stilled, as the imprisoned leaders of such dissident groups as the lay Buddhist, Soka Gakkai, attest." (Demerath and Straight, 1997) in fact, it is related by Demerath and Straight that for the first thirty years following the war and the new constitution being adopted "the situation was more that of a secular state with secular politics. Not only was State Shinto disestablished but there was a relatively little religious presence in the world of politics." (Demerath and Straight, 1997) Demerath and Straight state further that "...religious politics of a quite different source are involved in the increasingly conspicuous role of new religious movements over the last decade." (1997)

V. Impact of Shinto on Politics of Japan

The impact of Buddhism specifically upon Shinto begins in 1838 at the establishment of Tenri-kyo (Religion of heavenly Origin) and "teaches a pure and harmonious life where humanity will eventually live in union with their chief deity, the Lord of Heavenly Reason. Soka Gakkai, which originated in 1930 and draws upon the "application of Buddhism to culture and education in achieving personal happiness and a peaceful world. (paraphrased) the work of Daniel Shaw entitled: "The Way Forward? - Shinto and a 21st Century Japanese Ecological Attitude" states that Shinto "can be sufficiently isolated from other Japanese ideological traditions in order to be considered separately from them." (2005) Shaw does state however that "the defining lines between Shinto and Japanese Buddhism are very blurred." (2005)

State Shinto, according to Shaw "to all extents and purposes - crumbled following the end of the Second World War." (2005) the work of Raymond Lamont-Brown entitled: "Japan's New Spirituality" states… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Influence of Shinto Religion in Japanese Politics.  (2008, July 8).  Retrieved September 20, 2019, from

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