Helen Hardacre

Published in print January 2017 | ISBN: 9780190621711
Published online December 2016 | e-ISBN: 9780190621742 | DOI:

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The aim of this book is to understand the history of an enduring ideal of Shinto. In this ideal, a divinely descended ruler governs through rituals for deities called Kami. A priestly order assists the sovereign by coordinating Kami ritual in shrines across the realm, so that shrine rites mirror the monarch’s ceremonies. Through the power of solemn rituals and joyous festivals, the priesthood unites the people with imperial rule. The Kami bless and protect the people, who attain their greatest self-realization through fulfilling their obligations to the collective. Through this theater of state, the human, natural, and supernatural worlds align in perfect harmony and prosper. The book seeks to understand this ideal’s historical origins, development, affective dimensions, and potential to motivate action. The constituent elements of the ideal of Shinto emerged gradually. They include changing concepts of Kami, associations between imperial rule and ritual, a government unit devoted to coordinating ritual throughout the nation’s shrines, a code of law mandating an annual calendar of Kami ritual, the claim that rituals for the Kami are public in character, and the assertion that this complex of ideas and institutions embodies Japan’s “indigenous” tradition. Shinto is often called “the indigenous religion of Japan,” but arguments concerning both its religiosity and its indigeneity are central to its history. The book investigates claims about Shinto as the embodiment of indigenous tradition, and assertions about its rightful place in the public realm, focusing on these debates and the modern controversies regarding whether Shinto should be considered a religion, not to answer these questions but instead to explain their religious, political, and social significance.

Keywords: Shinto; Kami; public versus private; indigenous religion of Japan; foreign versus indigenous; Kuroda Toshio; Ono Sokyō; Shinto history

Book.  720 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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