Encyclopedia of Shinto

Main Menu:    Foreword    ≫Guide to Usage   ≫ Contributors & Translators   
Links:    Images of Shinto: A Beginner's Pictorial Guide   

詳細表示 (Complete Article)

カテゴリー1 9. Texts and Sources
カテゴリー2 Shinto Classics and Literature
Text Shintō and literature. There are many ways that Shintō and literature intersect, but among this confluence, the influence of legends in the records of the shrines (engi setsuwa) is considerable. There are an abundant number of medieval legends influenced by kenmitsu bukkyō (exoteric-esoteric Buddhism) that take the shape of a Buddha appearing in the form of a Shintō deity to teach (enlighten) all living things (see below).

Shintō and legends
    We will now examine the relationship of Shintō and literature from a historical perspective with the change in the jingi seido (the system surrounding Shintō deities). Kojiki  and Nihon shoki  (especially the age of the kami sections in the beginning) of the ancient era were revered as Shintō scripture, and Kogo shūi  and Fudoki  were also included in this group. If we view these as Shintō literature, then these become a treasure store of myths and legends. Within these there are many motifs, but especially regarding Amaterasu there are the stories of Amaterasu as an imperial ancestral deity: (1) the birth of this deity; (2) the myth of her hiding in the Ama no Iwato Cave; and (3) the separation of the sun and the moon deities; there is also a facet of pure sun-god worship being preserved from primitive Shintō as told in these myths. In Kojiki  she hides in the Imi Hataya (a sacred hall used for weaving) and sews ceremonial robes, and in Nihon shoki Amaterasu takes charge over the divine rice field (shinden) and performs the Niinamesai; both show a characteristic of a shaman (miko) worshipping a deity. Ninigi is the main character in the myth of the descent of the heavenly grandchild, which is believed to be a mythologized version of the descent from heaven (which was perceived as another world or dimension) by Inadama (whose name comes from the meaning of rice ears growing luxuriously). The name of Kono Hana Sakuya Hime, who comes out to greet this deity (Ninigi), refers to the beginning of the planting season in the spring, and the name of Kamu Ataka Ashitsu Hime (found in Nihon shoki ) also represents the divine field called Sabiraki. The origin of this name is also closely associated with the Daijōsai (festival of the first fruits). Other than this, in the same way that many names of deities contain elements like tsukuyomi which have reference to the indispensable act of reading the calendar for agriculture, the natural deities and conceptual deities of primitive Shintō who bring about the prosperity of grains are represented in literature. The element musubi in the names of deities that embody creation and generation, and the names of Izanagi and Izanami that represent the mystical nature of propagation, as well as the word omoikane which is a mystification of wisdom, and the deity names such as naobi and magatsuhi, which represent fortune and bad-omens, can be taken as literature which has deified the various concepts of primitive Shintō.
    According to the point of view of primitive Shintō, these deities resided in Takamanohara in the sky, which was actually viewed as another world or dimension, and the ancients believed these existed in a multi-stratal sphere with Ashihara no Nakatsukuni, the place where mortals dwell, and Yomotsukuni, the place of the afterlife. However, beliefs similar to those of maritime peoples, such as the afterlife across the horizon known as Tokoyo, were also adopted, so we also have the story of the deity of Tokoyo as found in the record of Kōgyoku (Nihon shoki ), as well as the belief in the coming and going of the spirit of the bountiful harvest as seen in the stories of Sukunabiko and Mikenu Mikoto (which may mean the lord of the august food). Also Kojiki, Nihon shoki  as well as Fudoki  are political myths compiled by the court of Yamato, and these works take the framework of having the primitive deities of Shintō, with the imperial grandson of Takamanohara, Ninigi, open the land, and portraying the deities of Izumo and Hyūga as submissive. As an example, there are political myths such as the one where Susanoo (perhaps the founding deity [sojin] of the Izumo tribe), the younger brother of Amaterasu, is expelled from Takamanohara and descends to Ashihara no Nakatsukuni; his descendant, Ōkuninushi (the divine name for the local spirit [kunitama] of Izumo) offers his allegiance to the imperial grandson. It can also be said that the myths in Kojiki and Nihon shoki display the process of redistributing the relation of these deities, with the Yamato line of deities absorbing the lineage of the other deities. The Yamato line of deities that reside in Takamanohara is known as heavenly deities (amatsukami ), while the deities of the various tribes have offered their allegiance, and are kept separate by being local deities (kunitsukami, also called earthly deities, or chijin). Therefore Amaterasu, who is the founding deity of imperial family, is worshipped as the supreme deity of the myriad deities. When the Taihō Code was promulgated in the beginning of the eighth century, the move to concentrate power in the capital provinces gained potency, and the regulations regarding Shintō became more systematized. In the beginning of the Heian era (early ninth century) when these regulations were expanded with the Engishiki regulations Shintō was organized with a national character but still remained the Shintō of the imperial household. The first ten books of Engishiki prescribed detailed regulations regarding festivals of the four seasons, ceremonies of a special nature, policies surrounding the festivals at the Grand Shrines of Ise (Ise Jingū) and Ise Priestess (saigū), matters concerning the officiating virgin (saiin) at the Kamo Shrine, and regulations concerning purification and the festival of the first fruits, the liturgies (norito), and the names of the deities. Among these, the liturgies as contained in Book Eight are important in the Shintō canon. In order for mortals to associate with the deities it was necessary to be purified and have any defilement (magakoto) like sins (tsumi ) or transgressions (kegare) removed. "Sin" includes actions that damage crops or other objects, deformities, incest with a mother or a child, insect damage and other natural world problems. "Transgression" begins with the defilement of death, and many others including foreign deities (banshin). Observing a specific period of living a life of abstinence (imi ) was required to undergo purification. Both sins and transgressions were believed to be actual things that adhered to a person, and the ritual of cleaning off these impurities is called harae (to wipe away, to slough off), and the act of getting in water and washing one's self is called misogi  (cleansing through washing, ablution). These impurities (magatsumono) were washed away in the water as haraetsumono, represented by grass, figurines (katashiro), and chinowa (a large circular object made of rushes).

The Influence of Buddhism and Origin Stories
    However, Buddhism, which was adopted when the ancient state was established, had a firm connection with Shrine Shintō in the central as well as in the distant provinces, and the amalgamation of Buddhism and Shintō (shinbutsu shūgō ) progressed from there. This appears in the literature as the idea that the kami leaves its true, divine form in order to find salvation in the Buddha. In a type of story seen in the sutra read before the deity of the Taga Shrine, found in Nihon reiiki  and the origin stories of Kehi Jingūji, a kami (divine because of works in a former life) appears in a dream, and through Buddhism the kami can separate itself from its divine form (thus achieving salvation). As one example of a kami found in the syncretism of Shintō and Buddhism, there is the belief in goryō (the spirits of people who have died an unnatural death) which was popular in the middle of the Heian period. People believed that the spirit of a person was cursed when the person died a violent death due to calamity, accident, or murder, so Shintō services were held to placate these spirits. A representative example of this, as told in Ōkagami and Kitano tenjin engi and other works, concerns the spirit of Sugawara no Michizane related as a combination of the thunder god (raijin) and Tenjin. The movement toward syncretism of Onmyōdō and Shintō (see Onmyōdō and Shintō) also paralleled this development, and the ritual of inviting good fortune and casting out disaster became part of the festival activities at shrines, and this ritual was incorporated into the Taisan Fukun Festival and Tsuina Festival, and festivals such as those that prevented the intrusion of deities of pestilence (ekishin) from coming into the borders of agricultural villages developed. Furthermore, from the ninth century onward, in the beginning of the Heian era, as State Buddhism (Shingon and Tendai) became the central pillar of government, and the Buddhist idea of a specific Buddha as the basis for the kami of a certain locale developed, becoming known as honji suijaku theory. The kami are not just an incarnation of a buddha, but appear as manifestations of particular buddhas or bodhisattvas (called gongen); because of this the trend of Buddhism seizing power at shrines became widespread. From the end of the Heian era into the medieval period the various important deities were established as traces of original buddhas (honji butsu), and this spawned the belief that the kami and the buddhas were originally one and the same took root.
    From the early years of the medieval period, with the loosening of the system of exoteric and esoteric teachings (kenmitsu taisei ) that had been supported by the imperial family and the nobility, the popularity of Buddhism among the commoners grew, and it became necessary for many temples and shrines to start advertising their beliefs. With the activities of many clerics, pilgrimage leaders (sendatsu), and oshi (a low ranking person at a shrine or temple who tended to the needs of pilgrims) who gathered small sums of money for the temples and shrines, and they spread the origins of these temples and shrines throughout their respective areas. Thus we see these origin stories about Shintō deities actually being embodiments of buddhas beginning to appear in works like Otogi zōshi. The influence of Buddhism over Shintō shrines took hold, and the fusion of Buddhism and Shintō became systematic. Many of the medieval tales that are known as mythical origin stories are based on this belief in the amalgamation of Buddhism and Shintō.
    The ten-volume work Shintōshū, containing legendary origin stories (see jinja engi ), which was compiled during the Namboku period of the Northern and Southern courts, is a representative work of shōdō literature (literature based on the works of Buddhist saints who have already passed on). It is believed that this was introduced by a priest of the Agui style, and in order to explain the origins of the traditional festivals surrounding the deities of Japan, the various divine deities were explained as shinmei shintō (divine Shintō), where these deities temporarily appeared in Japan as buddhas or bodhisattvas according to the doctrine of wakō dōjin (where a Buddha or bodhisattva conceals its identity—"mingles with the dust of the world"—in order to save humanity) and hassō jōdō (the doctrine of the eight attributes of the Buddha and achieving enlightenment). The contents consist of nine sections, such as "On the Origin of Shintō," "On Torii ," "On the August True Form," "On the Seven Generations of Heavenly Deities," as well as being centered around forty-one sections of stories dealing with suijaku (trace, manifestation) tales of mythic origins. All of these stories deal with the bitterness and pain in a previous life of these deities, expounding upon the greatness of their divine power, but there is also a strong relation with the medieval stories about honji (original ground; buddhas). Here are a few examples. In the second chapter there is "On the Avatar [gongen] of Kumano" and Kumano no honji  which talks about the story of the honji in Mikazōshi  and Gosui Palace, as well as "On the Avatar in Two Places" and Izu Hakone no honji [The Original Ground of Izu Hakone]. In the third chapter there is "On Gion Daimyōjin" and Gion no honji [The Original Ground of Gion], along with Gozu tennō engi  [Origin Story of the Ox-head Heavenly King]. In the fourth chapter there is "On the Autumn Festival of Suwa Daimyōjin, Tutelary of Shinano Province" and Tamura no sōshi [Book of Fields and Villages], and "On the Fifth Month Suwa Daimyōjin Festival," and The Tale of the Flute of Aoba and The Tale of Emperor Ninmyō . In the sixth chapter there is "On Mishima Daimyōjin," and Mishima as well as "On Mount Kōzukejimochi" and The Tale of Minamoto Kurando. In chapter seven there is "On Akagi Daimyōjin, Tutelary of Seta District in Ueno Province" and Akagiyama onhonji  [The August Original Ground of Akagi Mountain]. In chapter eight there is "On the Mirror of the Palace" and Kagami otoko emaki  [Picture Scroll of the Mirror Man]. In chapter nine there is "On the Heavenly Deity of Kitano" and Tenjinki  [Record of Tenjin]. In chapter ten there is "On the Origin Stories of the Suwa Deity" and Suwa engi monogatari [Suwa Origin Stories] with Suwa no honji [The Original Ground of Suwa]. It is also of importance to note that the basic material for these honji  tales is related to popular legends. For example, there are many stories talking about the origin of a man worshipped as the hearth deity (kamadogami ), as in Ashikari meijin engi, like in the sections "Sanjin montō ," "Tanshō chōja," stories of men and women parting and then coming back together, where a man who has fallen on hard times meets his ex-wife after she has remarried and is living a life of leisure. The section "Things pertaining to the deity of the pot" in chapter eight explains how this legend functions.
    The following examples show that the original storyline of the various suijaku stories, comprised of the basic parts of local legends, have a strong connection with the ubusunagami  (a tutelary deity of one's birthplace) of that locale. "On the Avatar of the Two Places" and the ancient story Otsuki ohoshi. "On the Gion Daimyōjin" and Ekishin hō'on." "On Mishima Daimyōjin" and Washi no sutego. "On Mount Kōzuke Jimochi" and Taiyō no kudashiko. "On Aritōshi Myōjin" and Ubasuteyama. "On the Mirror of the Palace" and Matsuyama kagami. "On the Origin of Suwa" and Ubawareta sannin no ōjo, Kōga mitsurō.

The beliefs of the various shrines and literature
    We will use the origin of the deity of the three places of Kumano as an example of these medieval legends. The basic outline of this is as follows. In Kumano no honji the mistress of the Gosui Palace prays to Kannon (the bodhisattva of compassion), and King Zenzai of the land of Makada looked down upon her and wished to make her his thousandth empress. Because the other nine hundred and ninety-nine wives slandered her, when she gave birth to a son, he cut off her head. The boy was raised in the mountains, and accidentally met his father, the king, when the king was very ill. The king recovered because of the kitō (a magico-religious invocation of divine power) offered by the son. Because of the power of a wise monk, (chiken jōnin, in Shintōshū this is called kiken jōnin) the mistress of the Gosui Palace was brought back to life, rode in the flying chariot of a myriad leagues, and a relic of this event fell in Kumano in Japan. The Kumano avatar (gongen) is the king, and the Great Bodhisattva Shōjō is the monk, and the avatars of the two places (those being the Joined Palace and the Hayatama Shrine) represent the mistress of Gosui Palace and the king, and the young prince refers to the son of the king. This tale is also told in the expository section (sekkyō fuji ), "Kumano no honji " as well as the Takatate of Sachiwaka and old Joruri. Furthermore, there is also the story of the origin of the incarnation of the three places of Kumano, which is a variant tradition quoted as "The story of the origin of the august suijaku, the avatar of Kumano," quoted in Chōkan kanmon. Stories of the origins of Kumano appear not only in Shintōshū and Mika zōshi, but also appear in Shishu hyaku in'en shū , Sangoku denki, and Shoshin hon'en shū and others. Because of the sense of awe inspired by the numerous mountains that encircle Kumano the idea of "other dimensions or worlds" occurred in primitive Shintō of the ancient era, and coupled with the height of esoteric teachings in the Heian era when Buddhism was the state religion, people associated the local Buddha with Amida, due to the popularity of exoteric-esoteric (kenmitsu) Jōdo and the belief of honji suijaku. This also invited many people to visit the mountains associated with Fudachiku Jōdo, the realm of Kannon, the bodhisattva of compassion. During the Insei era of cloistered emperors, four generations of Buddhist prelates made a total of ninety-eight visits here, inspiring the term "a line of ants visiting Kumano" used from the end of the Heian era into the middle ages. This influenced even the belief of the masses, marking the apex of this phenomenon. In the section "Judge Oguri" which expounds the sutras dealing with the honji deity connected with the Shōhachiman of Torihata in Hitachi Province (another theory from a picture scroll and other sources says Sunomata in Mino Province) there is the story of Oguri, who had become a hungry ghost (gaki, called Gaki Ami, and probably referring to leprosy) being carried to Kumano, and spending thirty-one days in the Yu no Mine hot springs and coming back to life. In this story where the leper Oguri (Gaki Ami) is being carried in a carriage, we see similarities to the story of the beggar who could no longer walk (due to an incurable disease received in retribution for evil acts) riding in this kind of carriage and going to Kumano to worship; this illustrates common people's desire for rebirth. What supported this belief in the three mountains of Kumano (kumano sanzan) were the aforementioned sendatsu (Kumano yamabushi ), as well as the nuns of Kumano. These nuns were also called kanjin bikuni (nuns who solicit donations as pious behavior), and as they handed out the Kumano Ox-King amulets they also proselytized, and until the Edo period they acted as religious entertainers (prostitutes). These nuns also expounded on pictures such as "Diagram of the Ten Worlds of the Mind's Eye [kanjin] of Kumano," "the Nachi mandara," and the "Diagram of Hell," and it is worthy of note that they have also left a literary legacy since the Edo period in the idea of the fear of hell from a moral point of view. The greatest reason that there are some three thousand branch shrines of Kumano throughout Japan is because of the proselytizing work of the sages of Kumano and these nuns. Also the explanation of the pictures (etoki ) was not limited to just the nuns of Kumano, but in medieval and early modern times many of the sages who solicited donations expounded on the origin of the honji as well as the establishment of temples and shrines. In the present there are fifty or sixty varieties of "mandara of worshipping at a temple and shrine" preserved at Kitano Shrine, Taga Shrine, Atsuta Shrine, and others.
    Moreover in response to the schools that recited the stories of the origins of the temples and shrines in the medieval period, the literary value and visual quality of this genre of various kinds of origin stories increased, and an abundant number of these were put together. As for stories about the supernatural events surrounding the establishment of temples and shrines there are many beginning with Shigisan engi, but we will abbreviate these because of the number and the fact that temples are central in these. However, as these origin stories show the relation between the honji Buddha and the suijaku deity we can list Miwa daimyōjin engi, Yōtenki, Ryōbu Shintō kuketsusho, and Reikiki. Regarding stories that explain the origins of the heavenly and earthly deities (tenjin chigi ), the various manifestations of divine power, as well as the establishment of shrines, there is Kasuga gongen genki, Owarikuni Atsuta daimyo kyūengi, Kitano tenjin engi and others, and many of these duplicate the material in Shintōshū which was mentioned previously. The era of the north and south courts saw the formation of Shugendō, a fusion of esoteric Buddhism with mountain-based nature worship based on ancient traditions, and because it brought systematic spells and ascetic practice to the sacred ground of the mountain peak, this also resulted in the explanation about the origins of spiritual mountains where spiritual manifestations occurred at the place of worship. Examples of these are Shosan engi, Shirayama no ki, and Nikkō yama engi.

The origins of the schools of Shintō and their influence
    What instituted a revolution in the lineage of honji suijaku Shintō were the priests at the outer shrine of Ise Jingū in the era of the north and south courts and their Ise Shintō, which was anti-honji suijaku (hanhonji suijaku). They denied honji suijaku and praised the dominance of the Shintō deities, and the servile nature of Buddhism, and in 1320 Watarai Ieyuki of the outer shrine put these into a systematic teachings in Ruiju jingi hongen, but it contained closed, mystic teachings difficult for the masses to embrace. In later years, Kitabatake Chikafusa of the southern court was influenced by these teachings and penned Jinnō shōtōki, and six hundred years later, in the early years of the Shōwa era, the nationalists revered this work as the essence of truth. To the ordinary person, aside from priests and scholars, along with Yoshida Shintō (which was influenced by these teachings in the late medieval period) and Edo period Suika Shintō, as doctrine or theory these were nothing more than an auxiliary bud of the tree of the medieval belief that Japan was a divine country, which in turn sprung from honji suijaku. Later, Hirata Atsutane came from the scholarly lineage of kokugaku (National Learning) at the end of the Edo period and advocated Fukko Shintō (Restoration Shintō). Through the criticism that Buddhists and Confucianists were forcing interpretations on the Japanese classics, one school of kokugaku thought tried to find the true spirit of the deities in the classics, and expounded the unshakeable belief in the deities. Motoori Norinaga taught that the ancient way cannot be understood by those who use "reason" and "self-confidence," but there should be a return to the ancient heart, and Atsutane, who was his disciple, inherited this attitude of his predecessors and established a systematic doctrine for a return to ancient Shintō.
    The assertion that the emperor should be worshipped unconditionally based on the records of Kojiki and Nihon shoki  was compatible with the belief at the end of Edo period of reverence for the emperor, and the spirit of restoring the emperor to power and reinstating central authority in the imperial line (ōsei fukko). The newly established government of the Meiji era was based on the political belief of returning to ancient Shintō. In the early days of the Meiji era this policy of having a national religion based on Shintō was adopted and books attempting to explain Shintō doctrine in simple terms were published, but this movement did not spread very far. The imperial constitution of the Meiji government treated Shintō as state rites and morality, not as a religion. This political belief influenced conceptions of the "true ruler" of the north and south courts, and not just literature, but thought, religion, and a variety of other areas, inviting the outbreak of World War Two and continuing until its conclusion in 1945.

Common Shintō and the arts of the masses
    Instead of these esoteric and obscure varieties of Shintō, we have a variety that perhaps can be called common Shintō, related to the arts of the masses in the early modern period. In the society of an agricultural village there was no consistent ideology or system to support honji suijaku or the various Shintō schools or even to create a broad base for the formation of these, but these beliefs became connected with the local tutelary deity or the deity believed to protect a specific locale, or the festivals and yearly events associated with well-known places. Also, in connection with the same beliefs by yashikigami, families, and relatives in these villages, Buddhism, Onmyōdō, Confucianism and other beliefs became completely fused together. The worlds of many of these divine stories, perpetuated by various believers in the numerous locales, stirred within these ancient stories and legends and continued unbroken in the relationships between deities and the people who worshipped them. A deity who wields spiritual force or who is endowed with power cannot be seen, but these were anthropomorphosized, judged as such and this tradition was then passed down. Among many of these divine stories that were on everyone's lips that should be mentioned we have the story of the heavenly wife or the snake bride. The "heavenly wife" story is an ancient story about a man who is engaged to marry a woman who has descended from another realm (heaven), and is better known as the legend about the robe of feathers. After marrying the heavenly woman, there are a number of variations in the story that have been handed down for many years: where they separate, meet again, and the difficulty of meeting again. On the island of Kikai in Kagoshima Prefecture the story takes the form where the heavenly woman bears children takes them back up to heaven, but they cannot remain in heaven, so she sends them back to earth with the tasks of preparing sacred meals (toki, older brother), priestess (noro, older sister), and a medium (yuta, younger sister). There are a number or examples where the powerful families or old families of influence trace their genealogy back to that child—examples of this legend vary by location where the child born to the heavenly woman becomes the founder of that specific locale. This is an example where the tutelary deity or a family that worships this deity have a specific individual in this "marriage to a deity" legend from whom they claim their descent. There are also theories that the mystical power of the heavenly woman washing her hair or the water deity (mizugami ) of the melon, or the place where the heavenly woman hides her feather robe have some connection to the spiritual power of rice and its cultivation. There is also a connection with Tanabata and the belief in the weaver maiden (Tanahatatsume), which likely is connected to the Chinese belief in the festival of the stars. Another representative story is the story of the snake bride, which also appears in Kojiki related to the marriage of the deity of Mount Miwa. Here the deity appears as a snake in this story of marriage to a deity, but among many of these common legends there are two great strains: the variety with a spool of thread (where a thread is attached to the man who visits her night after night, and she follows the thread to discover his whereabouts in the morning), or the type where someone begs for water (where water is begged for a parched rice paddy, and in exchange for water the person will give his daughter to the person in marriage). The legend where the snake is the deity of the mountain (yama no kami, or alternatively the water deity) who is believed to bless the farmer with a bounteous harvest has evolved into a popular legend (involving marriage of the deity and a miko), and in the story of the snake who provides water to the farmer, which is a transmitted form of the belief in an ancestral spirit deity, there is also the characteristics of the deity of the paddy (ta no kami ). In Okinawa this is the origin of the popular legend Akamata mukoiri where on the third day of the third month people went down to the beach, and there are many examples which are connected to the story in the eighth book of Heike monogatari "Odamaki" section. This is a simple overview of just two strains of transition to fairy tales of divine stories, but over sixty percent of these stories deal with the origin of deities, and these stories take the form of a tutelary deity appearing in some temporary assumed form. As many of these examples also are origin stories found in Shintōshū , there are many legends that have a strong connection to the legends of the ancient and medieval eras. From the point of view of orally transmitted literature, often a particular woman told these stories at a special place during a festival, and thus oral traditions became divine stories and were transmitted as such. The fact that the kernel of the story, where the deity is introduced as the hero, was often transmitted as song, is further proof that these stories told among the masses as fairy tales and myths were a ritual of common religion from ancient times. After the end of the Pacific War, because it became possible to freely use the myths of the Kojiki and Nihon shoki  and Shintō legends in literature, we now have many examples of science fiction novels and other types of popular literature using myths as themes for their stories.

—Watanabe Shōgo