GLOSSARY A to Z Shintō Schools & Sects Unlike Buddhism or Christianity, Japanese Shintōism has no founder, no sutras, no body of law, no closely knit organization of priests or nuns. There is no Shintō heaven or afterlife, no orthodox moral code -- only the social etiquette of the community and some ideas borrowed from Confucian (Chinese) philosophy. The Shintō universe is amoral and indifferent. Virtue is not always rewarded, nor is evil always punished. This situation does not irk the Japanese worshiper or casual shrine vistor. To them, this is the “way of the kami, the way of the gods.” Emperors and rulers may come and go, but the Japanese people and their nature will remain constant. All life forces have rough and gentle natures, all are demanding and then forgiving.
Shintō priests do not follow any path toward self-realization or enlightenment. Their sacred incantations are given in an old language no longer comprehended by the laity. The Imperial Family and its earlier enforced system of emperor worship essentially denies independence to Japan’s local shrines. Priests may, on occasion, serve as counselors, but their main obligations nowadays are to act as intermediaries between the gods and the people (the local community), to perform shrine rituals, and to attend to the local shrine deities. To work officially as a priest today, individuals must pass examinations given by the Association of Shintō Shrines (Jinja Honchō 神社本庁). The Jinja Honchō was established in February 1946, when Shintō shrines were legally separated from the state and forced to re-organize as non-governmental entities. Today the bulk of all Shintō shrines (some 80,000 out of 90,000) belong to this association. Prior to its establishment, the Shintō priesthood was largely a hereditary position with no standardized qualifications. Click here to learn more about becoming a Shintō priest.
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Bukka Shintō or Bukke Shintō 仏家神道. Literally “Buddhist Shintō.” A generic term referring to various forms of Shintō developed by Buddhist priests and thinkers, especially those belonging to Japan’s Shingon 真言 and Tendai 天台 sects of Buddhism. The term is used commonly to refer to Shintō doctrines that combine both Buddhist and Shintō elements. The merging of Shintō-Buddhist traditions is also referred to as Shinbutsu Shūgō.This blending occurred primarily during Japan’s late Heian period (794 to 1185) and Kamakura period (1185 to 1332). Two prominent examples of Bukka Shintōare Shingon Shintō and Tendai Shintō. The Shingon and Tendai sects of Japanese Buddhism played monumental roles in the merger of Shintō-Buddhist beliefs and the emergence of Esoteric Buddhism. During the period, their efforts led to the construction of numerous Buddhist temples alongside Shintō shrines on many sacred mountains, epitomized by the Shingon stronghold at Mt. Kōya 高野 and its main temple Kongōbuji 金剛峰寺 (near Kyoto), by the powerful Tendai temple-shrine multiplex on Mt. Hiei 比叡 (Shiga Prefecture, near Kyoto), by the holy places throughout the Kumano 熊野 mountain range, and by the Kasuga 春日 shrine complex in Nara. The native Shintō kami (deities) were considered manifestations of Buddhist divinities, and pilgrimages to these sites were believed to bring double favor from both their Shintō and Buddhist counterparts. The number of syncretic deities proliferated. Despite early resistance, syncretism was relatively smooth and marked by religious tolerance. <Learn more>
Fukkō Shintō 復興神道. Restoration Shintō, Revival Shintō. An academic school of thought that gained prominence in the late 18th century. Advocates included Kada no Azumamaro 荷田春満 (1669-1736), Kamo no Mabuchi 賀茂真淵 (1697-1769), Motoori Norinaga 本居宣長 (1730-1801), and Hirata Atsutane 平田篤胤 (1776-1843). These scholars attempted to rediscover the ancient teachings and true essence of Shintō by discarding syncretic Buddhist-Confucian-Shintō methodologies. Instead, they turned to the Japanese classics and pursued a painstaking study of ancient Japanese philology and thought. Their emphasis on age-old Shintō beliefs still influences modern-day practices, including Shintō’s respect for the imperial family, its absolute faith in the protective and salvific powers of the Shintō kami (deities), and its “this worldly” view of life (concrete rewards now; Jp. = 現世利益, Genze Riyaku). To many Japanese, Shintō is primarily involved with petitions and prayers for business profits, the safety of the household, success on school entrance exams, painless child birth, and other concrete rewards now, in this life. The same “this worldly” view is also found in modern Japanese Buddhism. <Learn more>
Gempon Sōgen Shintō 元本宗源神道 (Fundamental, Elemental Shintō). See Yoshida Shintō.
Hakke Shintō 伯家神道. Also called Shirakawa Shintō白川神道. Shintō teachings developed by the Shirakawa Hakuō house 白川伯王家, whose lineage stretches back to Akihiro Ō, a descendant of Emperor Kazan. In 1165 AD, Akihiro was appointed as superintendent (Jingi-haku 神祇伯) of the Ministry of Deities (Jingikan 神祇官), a position that his clan had held since 876, when Munesada Ō was awarded the post. The Shirakawa House did not systematize its own style of Shintō until the early Edo period, when Masataka Ō wrote a number of texts that gained favor in imperial circles. <Learn more>
Hie Shintō日吉神道. See also Tendai Shintō and Sannō Ichijitsu Shintō. A syncretic school that combined Shintō beliefs with the teachings of Tendai Buddhism. The Tendai sect’s central temple-shrine multiplex is located on and around Mt. Hiei 比叡 (near Kyoto). The main temple is Enryakuji Temple 延暦寺, with Hie Jinja 日吉神社 (aka Hiyoshi Taisha 日吉大社) serving as the main tutelary shrine. The sect gained great favor and influence in court affairs in the Heian period (794 to 1185). The central deity at Mt. Hiei is SANNŌ 山王 (lit. = Mountain King). Sannō's messenger (tsukai 使い) is the monkey. The Sannō deity is broadly conceived, for Sannō actually represents three Buddha (Shaka, Yakushi, and Amida), who in turn represent the three most important Shintō KAMI (deities) of Hie Jinja (Hie Shrine). These three Kami are Omiya 大宮, Ninomiya 二宮, and Shōshinshi 聖真子. <Learn More about Hie Shrines> <Learn More about Sannō & Monkey> <Learn More about Hie Mandala>
Hokke Shintō 法華神道. Literally “Lotus Shintō,” a syncretic form that sprang from the Nichiren Sect 日蓮宗 of Buddhism. The Nichiren sect originated in the Kamakura era (1185 to 1332) and preaches that unmitigated faith in the Lotus Sutra is the sole means of liberation and salvation. Lotus Shintō did not appear until the subsequent Muromachi period (1392 to 1568). It includes worship of the Sanjūbanshin 三十番神 (30 Tutelary Deities of the Lotus Sutra) and belief that the deities will protect or abandon the nation based on the people’s practice (or neglect) of the teachings in the Lotus Sutra. The development of Lotus Shintō was strongly influenced by Yoshida Shintō. <Learn more>
Ichijitsu Shintō 一真神道. Shintō of the Single Reality, or One-Truth Shintō. Also known as Sannō Ichijitsu Shintō and Tendai Shintō. A form of Shintō developed by the Tendai sect 天台宗 of Buddhism following the death of Tokugawa Ieyasu 徳川家康 (1542-1616), who was the first shōgun 将軍 (military & political leader of Japan) of the Edo period. It provided the doctrinal platform and rituals that allowed Ieyasu to be deified after his death and given the posthumous name Tōshō Daigongen 東照大権現 (Great Radiant Avatar of the East). Ichijitsu Shintō is thus intimately associated with Tōshōgū Shrine 東照宮 in Nikkō 日光 (Tochigi Prefecture, Japan), for the shrine still serves as the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu. <Learn More>
Ise Shintō 伊勢神道. A form of State Shintō. See Kōshitsu Shintō. A school of Shintō thought established by priests of the Watarai clan of the Grand Shrines of Ise (Ise Jingū 伊勢神宮) in Japan’s medieval period, and thus also known as Watarai Shintō. It originally contained Buddhist elements, but Confucian elements were added in later periods. It established a Japanese Shintō theology ranking purity and honesty as the highest virtues and teaches that these virtues can be acquired through religious experience. <above quoted from Kokugakuin University> The Grand Shrine of Ise (or Ise Shrine) in Mie Prefecture continues to play a pivotal role in modern-day Shintōism. It and its numerous sub-shrines are devoted to Amaterasu Ōmikami 天照大神 (female, sun goddess, chief deity of Ise's inner sanctuary or Naikū 内宮) and Toyo-uke Ōmikami 豊受大御神 (male, god of agriculture and industry, chief deity of Ise's outer sanctuary or Gekū 外宮). The high priest and high priestess of Ise Shrine are typically members or descendants of Japan’s imperial family. The worship of Amaterasu is of particular importance, for Japan’s imperial family claims direct descent from her divine lineage. Ise Shrine is arguably one of Japan’s most important Shintō enclaves and one of the nation’s oldest, as is the Grand Shrine of Izumo (Izumo Taisha 出雲大社) in Shimane Prefecture. The latter is devoted to Ōkuninushi 大国主命, the Shintō kami of abundance, medicine, luck, and happy marriages. In Japanese mythology, Ōkuninushi (lit. = Master of the Great Land) built and ruled the world until the arrival of Amaterasu’s grandson, Ninigi-no-Mikoto 瓊瓊杵尊. He then gave political control to Ninigi but retained control of religious affairs. In gratitude, Amaterasu presented Ōkuninushi with the Grand Shrine of Izumo. According to Japanese tradition, all Shintō gods meet in Izumo each year in October. October is thus known around Izumo as Kamiarizuki 神有月 (Month with Gods) and everywhere else in Japan as Kannazuki 神無月 (Month Without Gods).
Related Topic = Okage Mairi お蔭参り. Special pilgrimages to the Grand Shrines of Ise made every 60 years, in the "Okage” year (the “thanksgiving” year). Pilgrimages to the Ise Shrines originated in the late Kamakura period (1185-1332 AD), when the common folk began group pilgrimages to Ise in the hope of gaining the blessings of the shrines’ divinities. The 60-year pilgrimage tradition, however, reportedly originated later, in the Edo Period. Sixty years, incidentally, represents the 60-year cycle of the Zodiac. In these bygone days, when people were not allowed to travel freely, people impulsively set out to visit Ise without permission from family or employers or without obtaining permission from authorities. Even today, many Japanese dream of visiting the Grand Shrines of Ise at least once in their life.
Wedded Rocks, due east of the Grand Shrines of Ise. Photo by Steve Beimel.
Jingū Shintō 神宮神道. Imperial House Shintō or State Shintō. See Koshitsu Shinto.
Jinja Shintō 神社神道. Shrine Shintō. The generic term for a Shintō shrine. Jinja Shintō is the largest grouping of shrines in Japan. It represents the indigenous form of Shintō, with its roots dating back into pre-history. Jinja Shintō was co-opted by State Shinto (Imperial House Shintō) from the beginning of the Meiji Era until the end of World War II. As a group, the Jinja shrines are distinct from the 13 Shintō sects (see Kyōha Shintō) that gained official government recognition in the early Meiji era. After the war, State Shintō was dismantled and government funding of Shintō shrines was halted. In February 1946, in response to a 1945 decree by occupation authorities entitled "The Shinto Directive," Japan's many Jinja shrines formed an organization known as the Association of Shintō Shrines (Jinja Honchō 神社本庁), with the aim of upholding Japan's Shintō traditions. Almost all shrines in modern Japan are members of the Jinja Honchō, with association membership including about 80,000 shrines out of approximately 90,000 shrines nationwide. The association, however, is not a religious institution per se -- it was not organized under any particular spiritual leader, and there are no fixed doctrines or holy scriptures (although the association considers the Grand Shrine of Ise to be its main focus of reverence). Before World War II, Jinja shrines were classified into five categories:
Highest ranking = Taisha 大社. Examples include Ise Jingū 伊勢神宮 (Mie Prefecture) and Izumo Taisha 出雲大社 (Shimane Prefecture)
Middle ranking = Chūsha 中社. Examples include Sumiyosh Jinja 住吉神社 (Yamaguchi Prefecture) and Kumano Jinja 熊野神社 (Wakayama Prefecture)
Lower ranking = Shōsha 小社 (literally “small shrines”). Examples include Sengen Jinja 浅間神社 (Shizuoka Prefecture) and Izusan Jinja 伊豆山神社 (Shizuoka Prefecture)
Prefectual Shrines = Kensha 県社. Examples include Nezu Jinja 根津神社 (Tokyo) and Kubo Hachiman Jinja 窪八幡神社 (Nagano Prefecture)
Village Shrines = Gosha 郷社. There are many, including Taji Jinja 多治神社 (Kyoto) and Tajihayahime Jinja 多治速比売神社 (Osaka)
Kōshitsu Shintō 皇室神道. Also known as Imperial House Shintō, State Shintō, or Jingū Shintō. The form practiced by the emperor and the imperial family. Shrines in this grouping are called Jingū 神宮 and are associated exclusively with Japan’s imperial family. Notable shrines are Ise Jingū 伊勢神宮 in Ise and Atsuta Jingū 熱田神宮 in Nagoya (both dedicated to the Shinto Sun Goddess Amaterasu). Imperial Shrines were directly funded and administered by the government during the era of State Shintō (from the start of the Meiji Era to the end of WWII), and include a number of shrines built during the Meiji restoration, such as Tokyo's Meiji Shrine 明治神宮 and Kyoto's Heian Shrine 平安神宮. During the era of State Shintō (one focused on emperor worship), the emperor became a living god, and those who dared to gaze directly at the divine emperor were subject to arrest. Once emperor worship became the new state creed, Shintoism was easily co-opted by the government and used to galvanize the nation into building a modern military, administrative, and educational state. Restrictive policies were also implemented against Buddhism, Christianity, and other religions. In particular, the Meiji government -- by decree, fiat, and force -- brought the great Buddhist estates to their knees, forcing them by law to cut their Shinto ties and harassing them on all sides by new regulations and estate taxes. During this time, the powerful Buddhist clans were soon stripped of their lands and artistic treasures. Government attempts to destabilize Buddhism contributed to the anti-Buddhist riots of the late 1860s, when popular sentiment turned against Buddhism, portraying it as a foreign cult of corruption and decadence. In some areas, notably Satsuma, raging mobs burned down temples and decapitated statues. These anti-Buddhist riots are referred to as Haibutsu Kishaku (廃仏稀釈), which literally means "Abolish the Buddha, Smash Shakamuni." Local shrines were forced to follow national doctrine, with local Shintō priests losing most of their authority and autonomy.
After WWII, State Shintō was dismantled, Emperor Hirohito publically disavowed his divinity, and occupation authorities forbade the use of public funds to support Shintō. Nonetheless, shrines devoted to the nation’s imperial family still survive. They can be identified by the imperial family's crest (chrysanthemum crest) and the appellation "Jingū." Shrines in the Jingū 神宮 category are typically devoted to the sun goddess Amaterasu, for Japan’s imperial family claims direct descent from her lineage. Jingū shrines also serve to commemorate the souls of Japan’s former emperors and empresses. The imperial family’s monshō (crest) is the chrysanthemum (菊 kiku), and therefore kikukamonshō (kikkamonshō) literally means Chrysanthemum Crest (or Chrysanthemum Throne), which is written as 菊花紋章 (kikukamonshō). Among imperial shrines, the most prevalent are those dedicated to Emperor Ōjin 応神天皇 (Japan’s 15th Emperor), his mother Jingū 神功, and Ōjin’s wife Nakatsuhime 仲津姫 (aka Himegami). Emperor Ōjin was long ago identified with the god Hachiman八幡, and shrines dedicated to Ōjin are therefore called Hachimangu shrines八幡宮. There are approximately 30,000 Hachimangu shrines nationwide in modern Japan.
When the capital of Japan was transferred from Kyoto to Tokyo in 1869, four structures were erected inside Tokyo’s Imperial Palace.
Kashikodokoro; enshrines ancestral deity Amaterasu; central enclave
Shinden; east side; enshrines the deities of heaven and earth
Koreiden; west side; enshrines the spirits of successive emperors
Shinkaden; built to perform the annual Niinamesai ceremony 新嘗祭 (rice tasting ceremony), when the emperor offers the first fruits of each year’s rice harvest to the gods and then eats a little himself. Male and female clergy known as Shōten 掌典 and Nai-Shōten 内掌典 assist the emperor in the performance of these rites. <source>
Kyōha Shinto 教派神道. Sect Shintō or Sectarian Shintō. Kyōha Shintō referred originally to 13 individual Shintō sects founded by specific leaders during the late Tokugawa and early Meiji eras (mid-to-late 19th century). During Japan’s Meiji Restoration 明治維新 (late 19th century), the government officially recognized these 13 sects, but they were separated by government decree from the state-sponsored Jingū神宮 shrines (the latter devoted to glorifying the emperor). The 13 were denied public support and were thus forced to rely on private, non-governmental aid from adherents. Today, however, Kyōha Shintō refers to a broader category of religious organizations, including the new sects and religions that emerged after WWII (see Shūha Shintō and Shinkō Shintō). Sect Shintō emerged in the latter half of the 19th century owing to dissatisfaction with the traditional Shintō establishment. Long years of peace had led to popular practices such as spontaneous mass pilgrimages to the Grand Shrine of Ise and regular pilgrimages to other famous shrines. The objects of common prayer were for “this-world” benefits (Jp. = Genze Riyaku = 現世利益, or concrete rewards now) like health, longevity, protection from disease and disaster, the gaining of riches, and success in matters of love and education. Commoners desired a more individual religious experience, but the established religious groups appeared unable or unwilling to respond to the religious demands of the common people. This prompted the founding of sectarian Shintō groups, with the founders and followers coming largely from the ranks of the common people. Each group had a founder and its own doctrines. Although they typically worship the traditional Shintō deities of heaven and earth, and follow traditional Shintō forms in their rites and festivals, most emphasize the worship of their own central deity and include elements of Confucianism, mountain worship, purification practices, or faith-healing beliefs. In the Meiji Era, these movements were organized into thirteen (13) main sects, many stimulated and influenced by the doctrines of Restoration Shintō.Today the group remains largely intact, and is known as the Kyōha Shintō Rengōkai 教派神道連合会 (Kyōha Shintō Association). In below list, the date of formal recognition of the sect is indicated in parentheses.
Fusōkyō 扶桑教 (1882). Mountain-worship sect organized by Shishino Nakaba after the Meiji Restoration; still active today, especially with mountain-worship groups; headquartered in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo; reported membership 46,000.
Izumo Ōyashirokyō 出雲大社教 (1882). Organized by Senge Takatomi after the Meiji Restoration; influenced by Fukkō Shintō; still active today; focus is on Izumo Taisha 出雲大社 (Izumo Shrine), whose central kami (deity) is Ōkuninushi 大国主命; people visit the shrine to pray for matchmaking- marriage; headquartered in Hikawa County, Shimane Prefecture; reported membership 1,190,000.
Jikkōkyō 實行教 (1882). Mountain-worship sect organized by Shibata Hanamori after the Meiji Restoration; still active today; headquartered in Ōmiya City, Saitama Prefecture; reported membership 11,000.
Konkōkyō 金光教 (1900). Faith-healing sect founded by Akazawa Bunji (1814-1883) in the late Tokugawa period; still active today; sect has branches in the Americas; headquartered in Asakuchi County, Okayama Prefecture; reported membership 440,000. Founder Akazawa Bunji claimed, in 1859, that Konkō Daijin 金光大神 (a local Shintō kami associated with Yin-Yang Divination as far back as the Heian period) had seized control of his body. Akazawa thereafter was called Konkō Daijin. The sect was organized in 1885 following Akazawa's death, and was officially recognized by the government in 1900. The group began proselytizing overseas prior to WWII.
Kurozumikyō 黒住教 (1876). Faith-healing sect founded by Kurozumi Munetada in the late Tokugawa period; one of the largest Shinto sects; active primarily in western Japan, with branches in Chugoku and Shikoku; headquartered in Okayama City, Okayama Prefecture; reported membership 300,000.
Misogikyō 禊教 (1894). Purification sect; offshoot of a group founded by Inoue Masakane, who began proselytizing in 1834 but was later suppressed by government; group later split into two large factions, the Misogikyo and the Taisei Kyōkai; based in Kitakoma County, Yamanashi Prefecture; reported membership 99,000.
Ontakekyō 御嶽教, formerly known as Mitakekyō (1882); organized by Shimoyama Osuke after the Meiji Restoration; centered around mountain-worship confraternites on Mt. Ontake in Nagano Prefecture; headquartered in Nara; reported membership 580,000.
Shinrikyō 神理教 (1884). Influenced by Fukkō Shintō; founded by Sano Tsunehiko after the Meiji Restoration; headquartered in Kitakyushu City, Fukuoka Prefecture; reported membership 300,000.
Shinshūkyō 神習教 (1882). Purification sect founded by Yoshimura Masamochi after the Meiji Restoration; blends Mt. Ontake mountain beliefs with mountain worship of other similar groups; headquartered in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo; reported membership 2,800,000.
Shintō Shūsei-ha 神道修成派 (1876). Founded by Nitta Kuniteru after the Meiji Restoration; mixes Shintō teachings with Confucian ethics; not very active; headquartered in Suginami Ward, Tokyo; reported membership is 42,000.
Shintō Taikyō 神道大教; before WWII known simply as Shintō (1886); influenced by Fukkō Shintō; organized as coordinating and shrine-supporting center of Shintō sects after Meiji Restoration
Shintō Taiseikyō 神道大成教 (1882); mixes Shintō teachings with Confucian ethics; organized by Hirayama Seisai after the Meiji Restoration; attracted believers from various religious backgrounds because of its anti-Christian posture and ethnocentric teachings; headquartered in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo; reported membership 51,000.
Tenrikyō (1908). Faith-healing sect founded by Nakayama Miki in the late Tokugawa period; at one time one of Japan’s largest Shintō Sects, claiming around 3 million followers; in 1970 they withdrew from the Kyōha Shintō Rengōkai 教派神道連合会 (Federation of Sectarian Shintō) and declared they were no longer a Shintō organization; headquartered in Tenri City, Nara Prefecture; reported membership 1,880,000.
Ōmoto 大本. Joined Kyōha Shintō Rengōkai (Federation of Sectarian Shintō) in 1956. Founded in the late 19th century by Deguchi Nao (female, 1836-1918) and Deguchi Onisaburō (male; 1871-1948) as a branch of the Konkōkyō, but later broke with the group and declared its independence. Its early focus was on Deguchi Nao's teachings, spiritualism, and intercessory techniques. Nao was influenced by the Konkōkyō’s belief in a wrathful kami (Shintō deity) named Konjin 金神. In 1892, she claimed she had been possessed by Ushitora no Konjin, who told here a "Great Cleansing” of the world would start. Onisaburō was arrested by the government in 1921 and again in 1935, when the group’s activities were entirely suppressed. In the postwar era, Ōmoto turned its focus to world peace; headquartered in Kameoka City, Kyoto Prefecture; reported membership 170,000. A key concept is Reishu Taijū (lit = flesh is subordinate to spirit), which stresses the primacy of the spiritual over the material. Indeed, the Shinto creator deity Ōmoto Sume Ō-Mikami is said to have first created the spiritual world and only second to have created the material world. For more, see Kokugakuin University.
Minzoku Shinto 民族神道. Folk Shintō. Closely associated with Jinja Shintō (Shrine Shintō), but with no formal central organization, no systemization, no creed. It includes rural practices such as placing Dōsojin (small protective stone markers of various deities) near village boundaries or crossroads to ward off evil. It is also evident in the multitude of agricultural rituals practiced by individual families and localities. In many ways, Folk Shintō is inseparable from Jinja Shintō. However, during the reign of the 40th Emperor Temmu (673 - 686 AD), Folk Shintō was segregated from Jinja Shintō when the government of that day set up rules to control Japan's age-old rituals and festivals. Even so, Folk Shintō continued to develop under its own steam, often borrowing from or merging with Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian traditions. Today, Folk Shintō is an umbrella term for the myriad rituals and festivals occurring throughout Japan at the local level, without any nationwide organization or overarching system. In agricultural communities today, for example, rituals are still performed by a lay-people and often without the involvement of Shintō clergy. A member of the community (sometimes a young boy) is elected as the Tōya 頭屋 (or Tōnin 頭人) of the village. The Tōya then performs various ceremonies for the village’s tutelary deity for a one-year period. In the following year, another parishioner is nominated for the rotating post of Tōya. Other examples of Folk Shintō are rites of passage (e.g., Japan-style baptisms, coming-of-age ceremonies, marriage rituals). The various localities worship different Ujigami氏神 (clan-specific or family-specific deities). The Ujigami are clan or village deities who are responsible for a particular community or locality, and in many cases, they represent the ancestors who founded the village (e.g., Fujiwara Shrine, Kasuga Shrine, Tachibana Shrine, Umemiya Shrine). The protective deity of one’s birthplace is called Ubusunagami産土神, and all the people living in one locality worshipping the local tutelary deity are called Ujiko氏子.
Reisō Shintō or Reishū Shintō 霊宗神道. Spirit-Lineage Shintō. A form of syncretic Shintōism colored by Tendai Buddhism and closely associated with Tendai Shintō. Also considered a form of Bukka Shintō. It incorporates elements of Shūgendō and Taoism, and is attributed to Chōon Dō Kai (1628-1695)andJōin (1683-1739). Jōin was a scholar-monk based at Togakushi Shrine 戸隠神社 in Nagano prefecture.
Restoration Shintō 復興神道. Also known as Revival Shintō. See Fukkō Shintō.
Revival Shintō 復興神道. Also known as Restoration Shintō. See Fukkō Shintō.
Ryōbu Shintō 両部神道. Dual Shintō, Philosophical Shintō, or Shingon Shintō. Ryōbu Shintō means dual Shintō and refers to the grand merging of Shintō and Buddhist beliefs and deities that took place in the Heian Era (794 to 1185 AD). More specifically, it refers to syncretic Shintō as interpreted by Japan’s Shingon sect of Buddhism (see Shingon Shintō). In its formative years, Ryōbu Shintō declared the central Shintō deity ~ sun goddess Amaterasu Ōmikami ~ to be the Shintō equivalent of the all-encompassing cosmic lord of Esoteric Buddhism, who is Dainichi Buddha (Skt. = Mahāvairocana), the central deity of Japan’s Shingon sect of Buddhism. If the shrine has a plaque on it's gate, it is Ryōbu Shintō, which means Shintō influenced by Buddhism. Because Buddhism and Shintō have coexisted in Japan for hundreds of years, they have had strong influences on each another, even lending each other gods and sharing sacred grounds, and altering the way each is practiced. Japan’s Shingon sect emerged in the early Heian Era, and quickly began merging its philosophies with those of the indigenous Shintō tradition. Says the Encyclopedia of Shintō: “The term Ryōbu Shintō derives from the teachings of Yoshida Kanetomo (1435-1511), the founder of Yoshida Shintō. In his work Yuiitsu Shintō Myōbō Yōshū, Yoshida classified Shintō into three categories, one of which he called ’combinatory Shintō’ based on the dual fundamental mandala (the Ryōkai Mandalas) of Japan’s Shingon Sect of Esoteric Buddhism. Yoshida called this form of syncretic Shintō-Buddhism Ryōbu Shūgō Shintō 両部習合神道. This dual form, wrote Yoshida, identifies the Womb Realm of Dainichi Buddha in the Taizōkai Mandala with the Inner Shrine of Ise (devoted to Amaterasu 天照大御神, the central Shintō sun goddess), and the Vajra Realm of Dainichi Buddha in the Kongōkai Mandala with the Outer Shrine of Ise (devoted to Toyōke 豊受大神, the kami of clothing, food and housing). It also identifies the Shintō kami (divinities) with the deities of the Ryōbu Mandala. Therefore he called it Combinatory Shintō based on the Two Mandalas. Yoshida furthermore argued that Ryōbu Shintō is based on the teachings of the Buddhist priests Dengyō Daishi (Saichō 最澄, founder of Japan’s Tendai Sect), Kōbō Daishi 弘法大師 (also known as Kūkai 空海, founder of Japan’s Shingon Sect), Jikaku Daishi (Ennin) and Chishō Daishi (Enchin), and he thus seems to employ this term as a general appellation for Shintō doctrines developed by Buddhists (Bukka Shintō) of both Tendai and Shingon traditions. For many more details, see <Learn More>
Sannō Ichijitsu Shintō 山王一真神道. Lit. = Mountain King, One Truth. See Ichijitsu Shintō.
Sannō Shintō山王神道. See also Tendai Shintō. Sannō Shintō is a syncretic school combining Shintō traditions with the philosophies of Japan’s Buddhist Tendai sect. Central to this merging was the concept that Shintō deities (kami) were manifestations of the Buddhist divinities. The Tendai sect’s central shrine-temple multiplex is located at Mt. Hie 比叡 (near Kyoto). The sect gained great favor and influence in court affairs in the Heian period (794 to 1185). The central deity at Mt. Hiei is SANNŌ (lit. = Mountain King 山王). Sannō's messenger (tsukai 使い) is the monkey. The Sannō deity is broadly conceived, for Sannō actually represents three Buddha (Shaka, Yakushi, and Amida), who in turn represent the three most important Shinto KAMI (deities) of Hie Shrine (Hie Jinja 日吉神社; also called Hiyoshi Taisha 日吉大社). These three Kami are Omiya 大宮, Ninomiya 二宮, and Shōshinshi 聖真子. The Tendai shrine-temple multiplex on Mt. Hiei was a major center of Shinto-Buddhist syncretism in Japan’s Heian period, with the Hie Shrine serving as the tutelary shrine of the central Enryakuji Temple 延暦寺. Ichijitsu Shintō, which emerged in the Edo period, was an offshoot of Sannō Shintō. Additionally, the priestly houses of the Hie Shrine had, by the 16th century, accepted the teachings of Yoshida Shintō.
Sannō Shinkō 山王信仰. A cult centered around the mountain kami SANNŌ (lit. = Mountain King 山王), the central deity of the Hie Shrine (Hie Jinja 日吉神社) on Mt. Hiei 比叡 (near Kyoto). Sannō’s messenger (tsukai 使い) is a monkey. Sannō worship began at Hie Shrine (also called Hiyoshi Taisha 日吉大社), but Sannō eventually became the protective deity of Tendai’s main Buddhist temple complex -- Enryakuji Temple 延暦寺 -- also on Mt. Hiei in Shiga prefecture. See Sannō Shintō for more details. The Tendai shrine-temple multiplex on Mt. Hiei was a major center of Shinto-Buddhist syncretism in Japan’s Heian period.
Shamanic Shintō. Involving female shamans called Miko (written variously as 巫子, 巫女, 神子, 御子); a branch of understanding outside Western scientific paradigms that existed well before the introduction of Buddhism to Japan. Even today, female shamans help grieving parents contact their departed children in the neitherworld (Sainokawara), and in some localities, they perform cures and organize religious ceremonies. In northeastern Japan, blind female shamans are known as Itako イタコ. Shamanic Shintō is also closely associated with belief in animal spirits (e.g., snake, fox, wolf, dog, monkey, kappa). For a major report on Shamanism in Japan, click here. For a brief history of female shamans in Japan, see the Kokugakuin University Encyclopedia of Shinto.
Shinbutsu Shūgō神仏習合. Literally Shintō-Buddhist Syncretism. See Bukka Shintō for more details. This blending process became particularly conspicuous during the Heian period (794 - 1185), when Japan’s indigenous Shintō kami (deities) were defined as Suijaku 垂迹 (manifest trace, or local Japanese manifestation/incarnation) of the Honjibutsu 本地仏 (universal or original divinities). But syncretism actually began in earlier times. Before constructing the Big Buddha at Tōdaiji Temple 東大寺 in Nara, Emperor Shōmu 聖武 (reigned 724 - 749) first commanded the Monk Gyōki 行基 (668 - 749) to report the plan to the goddess at the Grand Shrine of Ise and make an offering of Buddhist relics (Buddhist scriptures were also offered to the Usa Hachiman Shrine). Syncretic practices such as building shrines on temple grounds and pagodas in shrine precincts, and of reading Buddhist scriptures before Shintō deities or presenting them to shrines, all continued until the two religions were forcibly separated (Shinbutsu Bunri神仏分離) in the early Meiji period (1868 - 1912). The theory of Honji Suijaku本地垂迹 was developed during the Heian period to explain this relationship and propagated through such movements as Shingon Shintō and Tendai Shintō, which were closely associated with Shingon Buddhism and Tendai Buddhism during Japan’s medieval period.
Shingon Shintō 真言神道. Also called Ryōbu Shintō. A form of Shintō-Buddhist syncretism attributed to Japan’s Shingon 真言 sect of Buddhism and reflecting that sect’s interpretation of the Ryōkai Mandala 両界曼荼羅 (dual-form mandala, two-realm mandara) -- the most widely known mandala form in Japan. The Ryōkai Mandala is composed of two separate mandala, which together represent the central devotional images of Esoteric Buddhism in Japan. The Taizōkai 胎蔵界曼荼羅 (Womb World Mandala, Sanskrit = Garbhadhatu) is based on the Dainichikyō 大日経 Sutra, while the Kongōkai 金剛界曼荼羅 (Daimond World Mandala, Sanskrit = Vajradhatu) is based on the Kongōchōkyō 金剛頂経 Sutra. The deities and principles associated with the Ryōkai Mandala were extended to the Shintō realm, with Japan’s indiginous Shintō kami 神 (deities) serving as counterparts to the various Buddhist divinities. For example, the Shintō sun goddess Amaterasu アマテラス (天照大〔御〕神) is considered the counterpart of the Cosmic Buddha Dainichi (Skt. = Mahavairocana). Kūkai 空海 (774 - 835), the founder of Japan’s Shingon sect of Buddhism (aka Kōbō Daishi 弘法大師), is often credited with initiating Shingon Shintō. But, in fact, Shingon Shintō was a later development. Kūkai believed strongly in Shintō deities and established Nibutsuhime Jinja 丹生都比売神社 to serve as the tutelary Shintō shrine of his Kōyasan Monestary (Wakayama Prefecture), the temple-shrine multiplex he founded. Kōyasan is still the center of Shingon Buddhism in modern Japan and remains one of Japan’s most popular pilgrimage sites. <Learn More>
Shinkō Shintō 新興神道. New Sect Shintō, New Religions. Shinkō Shintō refers to the new religions that were founded after the second world war. Many of these new religions combine elements of Shintoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and folk beliefs, but most have separated themselves from Shintō. Some of these newer sects stress world peace as part of their philosophy. Their followers are estimated at around 15 million. A list of some of these new sects is provided below.
Agonshū 阿含宗. Established in 1978 by Kiriyama Seiyū (aka Tsutsumi Masao, b. 1921). Based on doctrines of Esoteric Buddhism (Mikkyō 密教) and the Āgama Sūtras 阿含經 (Jp. = Agonkyō); teaches people to seek enlightenment in this life. Membership in Japan was approx. 400,000 in 2008, with 35 ordained priests and 73 domestic institutes, along with overseas branches in Taiwan, Brazil, the USA, and elsewhere. Details at this outside site and also at the Agonshū web site. Above statistics from Japan Times (27 Oct. 2008).
Reiha no Hikari Kyōkai 霊波之光教会. Established in 1956 by Hase Yoshio (1915-84). Headquarted in Noda City, Chiba Prefecture, in a building known as Tenshikaku (Tower of Angels); when Hase died in 1984, his son Keishi took over; reported membership approximately 740,000. Details at this outside site.
Sekai Mahikari Bunmei Kyōdan 世界真光文明教団 (World of Divine Light Organization); see also Sukyō Mahikari; founded by Okada Kōtama (1901-1974); headquartered in Shizuoka Prefecture; runs an immense building complex called “Suza” on Izu peninsula; details at this outside site.
Shinnyo-en 真如苑. Below text courtesy of their web site. “Shinjo Ito (1906-1989), the founder of Shinnyo-en, was ordained as a Shingon monk at Kyoto's Daigoji 醍醐寺 Monastery. After World War II, he established his own independent denomination and in 1952 he and his followers officially registered "Shinnyo-en" as a religious organization. When Shinjo died in 1989, leadership of the organization was passed along to his daughter Shinso Ito. Shinnyo-en literally means "Garden of Absolute Truth" or "Garden of the True Buddha" or "Field of the Tathagata." The organization provides mentoring and meditative training to lay practitioners and draws its inspiration from the Nirvana Sutra 涅槃經 and the important Buddhist philosophical concept of "thusness" -- written 眞如 or 真如 or Shinnyo. The concept refers to the eternal, impersonal, and unchangeable reality behind all phenomena. The organization does not (and need not) report its earnings, but most observers say it commands millions and millions in assets given freely by followers.” Founder Shinjo Ito was also a prolific sculptor of Buddhist statues.
Soka Gakkai 創価学会 (Value-Creation Society). Lay Buddhist association that traces its origins back to Tsunesaburō Makiguchi 常三郎牧口 (1871-1944), who started a movement for educational reform in pre-World War II Japan; preaches that individuals must take responsibility for their lives and work toward building a world where all people can live in peace; once an arm of Japan’s Nichiren sect of Buddhism, it split from the Nichiren sect in the late 1990s because of disagreements; Soka Gakkai is also a support group for Japan’s Komeito political party; worldwide membership reportedly about 12 million.
Sukyō Mahikari 崇教真光. Established by Okada Seiju (b. = 1929), who was reportedly the daughter-in-law of Okada Kōtama (founder of Sekai Mahikari Bunmei Kyodan); when she lost her battle to succeed Kōtama, she established this group in 1978; the group runs a large temple called "Suza" in Takayama City (Gifu Prefecture); Mahikari means "true light" in Japanese, with Ma 真 meaning true and Hikari 光 meaning light. Membership: 150,000 to 250,000 worldwide (2007)
Suhikari Kōha Sekai Shindan ス光光波世界神団. Established in 1980 by Kuroda Minoru (b = 1928), who in turn was strongly influenced by the founder of Sekai Mahikari Bunmei Kyōdan;headquartered in Hachiōji City (Tokyo); membership = 4,500 (2007). See Wikipedia for details.
Shugendō修験道. See Shugendō Page for more details. A syncretic sect of Japanese Buddhism that combined Shintō beliefs, pre-Buddhist mountain worship, and ascetic practices with Buddhist teachings in the hopes of achieving mystic powers. Shugendō monks are often referred to as Yamabushi 山伏, meaning ascetic monk, or monk of the mountain. One of the most celebrated mountain sages was En no Gyoja 役行者. This legendary holy man was a mountain ascetic of the late 7th century. Like much about Shintō-Buddhist syncretism, his legend is riddled with folklore. He was a diviner at Mt. Katsuragi on the border between Nara and Osaka. Said to possess magical powers, he was expelled in 699 to Izu Prefecture for “misleading” the people and ignoring state restrictions on preaching among commoners. He is considered the father of Shugendō. Popular lore says En no Gyōja climbed and consecrated numerous sacred mountains. Many yamabushi monks belong to the Shugendō order. However, when the Meiji government forcibly separated Shintō and Buddhism (Shinbutsu Bunri 神仏分離) in the late 19th century, the Shugendō sect was declared superstitious and banned by the Meiji government, dealing a severe blow to Shugendō practice. Today it is still found in various localities, with its headquarters located on sacred Mt. Ōmine 大峰山 in Nara, Japan (also known as Mt. Sanjō 山上 or Mt. Sanjō-ga-take 山上ヶ岳 or Ominezan 大峰山). Shugendō’s controversial ban on women climbing the mountains in this area has been greatly relaxed. The main religious complex is called Ōminesanji or Ōminezanji 大峰山寺. The holy mountains in Japan’s Yoshino-Kumano National Park area (where Mt. Ōmine is located) remain a popular pilgrimage site and yamabushi training ground. <See Shugendō page for more details>
Shūha Shintō 宗派神道. Sect Shintō or Sectarian Shintō. Shūha Shintō can be divided into two categories: (1) Kyōha Shintō, which refers tothe 13 Shintō sects founded in the late Tokugawa and early Meiji era that were officially recognized by the Meiji government in the late 19th century; (2) New Sect Shintō, or Shinkō Shintō, which refers to the new sects and religions that emerged after WWII and to a wide range of Confucian sects, mountain sects, purification sects, and faith-healing groups.
Suiga Shintō 垂加神道. Academic school of Shintō. The term Suiga (descent of divine blessing) comes from the writings of Ise Shintō. Suiga Shintō, founded by Yamazaki Ansai (1618-1682), is a combination of Shintō and Neo-Confucianism (Jp. = 朱熹学 Shushigaku) of the early Edo period. Suiga Shintō emphasized the Nihon Shoki (日本書紀 or Chronicles of Japan, compiled around + 720, one of Japan's oldest extant documents) as its main scripture. It also emphasized the unity of man and god, and the virtue of propriety (tsutsushimi つつしみ). It involves the worship of living persons as gods, advocates emperor worship, and attempts to encourage patriotism. <Learn more>
Tendai Shintō 天台神道. Also see Sannō Shintō, Hie Shintō and Sannō Ichijitsu Shintō. Based on the Tendai cult of SANNŌ 山王 (lit. = Mountain King) and centered around the temple-shrine multiplex located on Mt. Hiei 比叡 (near Kyoto in Shiga Prefecture). The main temple is Enryakuji Temple 延暦寺, with Hie Jinja 日吉神社 (aka Hiyoshi Taisha 日吉大社) serving as the main tutelary shrine. This form of Shintō is attributed to Saichō 最澄 (767-822), the founder of Japan’s Tendai Buddhist sect. The Sannō deity is said to occupy the mountain, and a monkey serves as Sannō’s attendant. Sannō is considered to be a manifestation of Sakyamuni Buddha (the Historical Buddha). Sannō is likewise identified with Amaterasu Ōmikami 天照大神, the supreme goddess of Japan’s native Shintō tradition. The Tōshōgū Shrine 東照宮 at Nikkō 日光 is a famous site associated with Tendai Shintō and the three monkies (hear, see, speak no evil). The Tendai Buddhist sect played a major role in the merger of Shintō and Buddhist deities and philosophies. <Learn more at this outside site> Also see our Shrine Guide for more on Hie Shrines.
Unden Shintō 雲伝神道. Branch of Shintō founded by Edo-period Shingon Buddhist monk Jiun Onkō (1718-1804). Jiun lived on Mt. Katsuragi, so this form of Shintō is also called Katsuragi Shintō 葛城神道. Jiun's philosphy included esoteric Buddhism, Sanskrit philology, Zen, Confucianism, and Shintō. He is also credited with reviving the monastic precepts. <Learn more>
Watarai Shintō 度会神道. More commonly known as Ise Shintō, for it was transmitted by priests of the Watarai clan of the Outer Shrine 外宮 (Gekū) of Ise Jingū (Grand Shrine of Ise). It started in the Kamakura period (1185-1332) as a reaction against Ryōbu Shintō and Sannō Shintō. The latter two generally regarded the Buddhist divinities as the central manifestations and the Shintō deities as their lesser counterparts. The Watari school attempted to reverse this, claiming the Buddhist deities to be lesser manifestations of the central Shintō divinities, and thereby placing greater emphasis on Japan’s indigenous Shintō philosophies as opposed to the imported Buddhist faith. Confucian elements were later added. The ideas of Watarai Shintō were summarized in a five-volume document of the 13th century called Shintō Gobusho 神道五部書. Watarai Shintō also emphasized the importance of the Outer Shrine of Ise over that of the Inner Shrine. It is therefore sometimes called Outer Shrine Shintō 外宮神道 (Gekū Shintō).
Yoshida Shintō 吉田神道. Academic school of Shintō widely propogated from the late 16th century to the beginning of the Meiji Restoration (1868). Also known as Gempon Sōgen Shintō 元本宗源神道 (Fundamental, Elemental Shintō), Yuiitsu Shintō 唯一神道 (One-and-Only Shintō), and Urabe Shintō卜部神道. Says Kokugakuin University: “The Yoshida family was in ancient times a family of diviners serving the court (it was a branch of the Urabe clan, court specialists in tortoiseshell divination, which originated with Urabe Hiramaro卜部日良麻呂 in the 9th century). They later served as priests at Yoshida Jinja and Hirano Jinja in Kyoto. The Shintō traditions preserved by that family for generations were summarized and systematized by Yoshida Kanetomo (1435-1511). Yoshida Shintō expounds the unity of Shintō, Buddhism, and Confucianism, with Shintō as the basic factor. It recognizes the external existence of kami and also sees kami dwelling internally in the individual soul. It also emphasizes purity and cleanliness. Yoshida Shintō teachings were propagated throughout the country, influencing appointments to the priesthood and decisions regarding religious ceremonies.”
Honji Suijyaku 本地垂迹 and Honji-Suijaku Setsu 本地垂迹説 Literally “original essence, descended manifestation.” This theory was used in Japan to explain the relation between Shintō gods and the Buddhas. The Buddhas were regarded as the honji, and the Shintō gods as their manifestations (incarnations) or suijaku. Theoretically, honji and suijaku are an indivisible unity and there is no question of valuing one more highly than the other; but in the early Nara period, the honji were regarded as more important than the suijaku. Gradually they both came to be regarded as one; but in the Kamakura period, Shintōists also proposed the opposite theory, that the Shintō gods were the honji and the Buddhas the suijaku. This theory was called han-honji-suijaku setsu or shinpon-butsuju setsu. See Shinbutsu Shūugō above.
Below text courtesy Encyclopedia Britannica Genealogies and mythological records were kept in Japan, at least from the 6th century AD. By the time of Emperor Temmu (7th century), it became necessary to know the genealogy of all important families in order to establish the position of each in the levels of rank and title modeled after the Chinese court system. For this reason, Emperor Temmu ordered the compilation of myths and genealogies that finally resulted in the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki. The compilers of these and other early documents had at their disposal not only oral tradition but also documentary sources. While the Kojiki is richer in genealogy and myth, the Nihon Shoki adds a great deal to scholarly understanding of both the history and the myth of early Japan. Its purpose was to give the newly Sinicized court a history that could be compared with the annals of the Chinese. However, during the reign of the 40th Emperor Temmu (673 - 686 AD), Folk Shintō was segregated from Jinja Shintō when the government of that day set up rules to control Japan's age-old rituals and festivals.