國學院大學
國學院大學デジタルミュージアム

Encyclopedia of Shinto

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カテゴリー1 7. Concepts and Doctrines
カテゴリー2 Introduction
Title
Text This section explains the basic concepts and terms of Shinto, and gives an overview of Shinto teachings, theology, and the main fields of modern Shinto research. Because Shinto is not a founded religion, it has nothing in the way of a founder's teaching or a divine revelation. The basic ideas of Shinto that are discussed here consist of the beliefs reflected in the classical texts (Kojiki, Nihon shoki and others), as well as the ethical views developed in the course of Shinto's long history. Of particular importance are a number of National Learning (kokugaku) scholars in the Edo period, who reflected on Japan's original teaching and way of life through their study of the Shinto classics. This was a result of their intention to resurrect a particularly Japanese "Way" that was different from the Chinese ideas that had exerted such great influence on Japan. The understanding of the classics that was developed by these thinkers has had a lasting influence on Shinto doctrine and theology until this day.
     The basic concepts that will be taken up in this section relate to Shinto's views on cosmology (uchūkan), the emperor and the state (tennō/kokkakan), the "other world" (takaikan), this world (sekaikan), humankind (ningenkan), spirits (reikonkan), and history (rekishikan). It is difficult to maintain strict distinctions between all of these topics, but most terms that will be discussed here can be related to one or the other among them. Terms such as "heaven and earth" (tenchi) "the heavenly pillar" (ame no mihashira), the "Divine Age" (kamiyo, jindai) and "the Plain of High Heaven" (takamanohara) clearly belong to the realm of cosmology or world-view. "National essence" (kokutai), "Divine Land" (shinkoku), and "Land of Abundant Reed Plains and Fresh Ears of Rice" (toyoashihara no mizuho no kuni) reflect Shinto's views on the state. Terms like "passage to the world of the dead" (kiyū), "the Eternal  Land" (tokoyo) and "the Yellow Springs" (yomi) convey ideas about the "other world." "The green grass of humanity" (aohitogusa) and "the great treasure" (ōmitakara) relate to Shinto's views on humans. "Unruly spirits" (aramitama), "peaceful spirits" (nigimitama), "ancestral spirits" (sorei) and "spirit pacification" (chinkon kishin) give an indication of Shinto ideas about spirits. "The descent of the heavenly grandson" (tenson kōrin), "the middle present" (nakaima) and "the opening of the land" (chōkoku) refer to history. Finally, a number of terms convey ideas about ethics and morality; "kami-like" (kannagara), "learning from the kami" (kannarau), "worshipping the kami and revering the ancestors" (keishin sūso), "loyalty and filial piety" (chūkō), "uprightness" (makoto) and "brightness and honesty" (meijō seichoku) are among them. All these ideas were systematically investigated within doctrinal and theological schools. Of course, their development was also greatly influenced by Buddhism and Confucianism.
     Modern Shinto studies can be roughly divided into the fields of Shinto theology, religious studies, history, ethnography and folklore, and anthropology. It is difficult to pin down the beginnings of the academic study of Shinto, but it is beyond doubt that the National Learning (kokugaku) school of the Edo period prepared the way for the modern study of Shinto. The philological methods for studying the classical texts that were pioneered by scholars of this school have laid the foundation for the modern academic research. As a result, one of the first fields of Shinto studies to flourish after the Meiji restoration was textual study of the Shinto classics. Later, theories from the fields of history and religious studies gradually came to be applied to this field, too. Initially, the main centers for such studies were Kōten Kōkyūsho in Tokyo and Jingū Kōgakkan in Ise, as well as the Religious Studies section that was founded at Tokyo University in 1905. From the perspective of religious studies, there was a growing interest in defining Shinto's place within the framework developed by scholars of the comparative study of religions. Another prominent field that gave much attention to Shinto was the study of folklore phenomena. The studies of Yanagita Kunio and Orikuchi Shinobu bear particular significance for the study of Shinto folklore, and in the early years of the Showa era this field became prominent.
     Japan's defeat in the war was followed by a wave of critical historical studies denouncing the evils of State Shinto (Kokka Shintō). In part, this was a reaction against pre-war censorship, which made criticism of the emperor system and shrine Shinto impossible. More recently, however, source-based historical studies have increased. Within religious studies, new interpretations of myth that incorporate the results of Western comparative mythology stand out as a fertile and active field of study. Within this field, an anthropological approach that acknowledges the relationship between myth and ritual and that proposes symbolic interpretations of both has been central. Archaeological research is less well developed. Shinto research by Shinto scholars has taken a heavy blow after the war, but as criticism of State Shinto has abated, source-based research into Shinto history has once more increased in volume. Non-Japanese scholarship on Shinto began in the pre-war period. At first, mythology was the main topic that interested foreign scholars, although sectarian Shinto (Kyōha Shintō) also attracted their attention. Recently, Shinto ritual as well as the activities and teachings of Shinto sects and Shinto-Derived religions (shintō kei shinshūkyō) have been the focus of growing interest.
— Inoue Nobutaka