國學院大學
國學院大學デジタルミュージアム

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 7. Concepts and Doctrines
カテゴリー2 Basic Concepts
Title
Text This term refers, in general, to the notion of a space that is different from this real world. It is difficult to clearly distinguish a Shinto view of the Other World from that held by Japanese religions at large. The world of everyday life is called "present world," "village," or "on the earth." It is imagined at the center of a vertical axis; above is a heavenly other world, and below is a subterranean other world. On the horizontal axis, it is imagined between the other worlds of mountains and of the sea. These other worlds are sites of residence of non-humans, such as the dead and other transcendental entities like kami . There are boundaries between this world and the other worlds, but the denizens of these other worlds may appear in this world, while human beings may visit the other worlds. There are also rites that take place at such boundaries to send off spirits of the dead to the other worlds, or by means of which the denizens of the other worlds and human beings strengthen their ties. While it can be pointed out that such boundaries may be marked by trees in the case of the heavenly other world; by caves or wells in the case of the subterranean other world; by passes, hills, or graves in the foothills of mountains in the case of the mountainous other world; and by beaches, capes, or seashore cemeteries in the case of the oceanic other world, it must be said that the horizontal and vertical axes are not always clearly distinguished and are often confused. The fusion of the heavenly and mountainous other worlds is called "mountain-top other world," while the fusion of the subterranean and oceanic other worlds is called "other world within the sea."

View of the other world in mythology

The search for Shinto-specific views of the other world begins with the study of myths contained in Kojiki and Nihon shoki (kiki shinwa). These myths speak of a High Heavenly Plain (Takama no hara) where the various kami reside, but there is no connection between this realm and the dead. An exception to this statement is provided by Nihon shoki in its description of the death of Amewakahiko: "[His father] sent a gale, and had Amewakahiko's corpse taken to Heaven. He then built a mourning hut and performed funeral rites." However, in the Kojiki 's version of the same myth, the corpse is not taken back to Heaven, and the funeral rites take place on earth. The description of Yomotsukuni , the other world where Izanamiis said to have moved upon her death, seems to reflect the structure of funerary mounds of the late Kofun period. Furthermore, the Izumo no kuni fudoki (Record of Customs of Izumo Province), in the record concerning the Iga district of Izumo County, states that, west of Natsuki no iso, there is a cave called Yomotsu saka ("Slope to the Netherworld") or Yomotsu ana ("Orifice [leading] to the Netherworld"). This "Land of Roots" (Ne no kuni ), governed by Susanoo, was visited by Ōkuninushi. Judging from the fact that Ōkuninushi underwent an ordeal with snakes and poisonous centipedes, it seems that this land was considered a subterranean other world. The other world called Tokoyo no kuni is a realm to which Sukunahikona repaired after his establishment of the land with Ōkuninushi (originally, Ōnamuchi ); it is also, in the Nihon shoki record of Emperor Jinmu, the world to which Ina hi no mikoto and Mikeiri no mikoto repaired,"treading the crests of waves." Obviously it was assumed that this other land was located either on or below the surface of the sea. In the record of Emperor Suinin of the Nihon shoki,  world was said to be the "Land of No Aging and No Death," and the emperor is said to have dispatched a certain Tajimamori there with the order of bringing back that land's aromatic fruit of immortality (actually a mandarin orange). The Hitachi no kuni fudoki (Record of Customs and Products of Hitachi Province) takes pride in the fertility of the land and in the abundance of its products, and compares the province to this Tokoyo no kuni . Furthermore, the remaining fragments of the Record of Customs and Products of Tango Province, and the record of Emperor Yūryaku in Nihon shoki transmit the legend of Urashima no ko's visit to the Underwater Palace of the Dragon (Tokoyo-no-kuni, also referred to therein by the Chinese term Feng-lai, the Land of Daoist immortals). The majority of ancient texts agree that the Tokoyo no kuni other world is far-off, oceanic, plentiful and fertile, and a land of immortality. The Underwater Palace (also the Dragon Palace) of the kami of the seas (kaijin) is also visited by Yama no sachi , who meets the daughter of that kami, Toyotamabime, there. The land called Haha no kuni in the mythological cycle of Susanoo corresponds to the "Land of Roots," but in the Record of Emperor Jinmu in the Nihon shoki that land is called Tokoyo no kuni and corresponds to the palace of the kami of the seas. The concept of Haha no kuni has no clearly determined meaning, but it is used as an oppositional idea in contrast to Chichi no kuni. Therefore, the term's specific meaning depends on the context.

The view of the other world in the Man'yōshū

It is also possible to search for meanings of the term "other world" in texts other than Kojiki and Nihon shoki. In the article "Remarks concerning the funeral system, the view of the other world, and the view of the spirit in Man'yōshū," Hori Ichirō has analyzed ninety-four elegies in order to assess the ultimate destination of the dead as that relates to views of the other world, and proposed the following seven types. (Some of the elegies contain two different types, so there are actually one hundred twenty-two examples, for a total of 127%). First, the terms "to disappear in mountains, to disappear in rocks, or to remember a departed one while gazing at mountains" occur in forty-seven examples (50%). Second, the terms "to ride clouds and mists up to Heaven, to disappear in Heaven, to disappear in clouds, to pass on high, or to remember a departed one while gazing at clouds or mists" occur in twenty-three examples (24%). Third, the terms "to go still by the seashore, to go still on an island, to disappear in an island, or to remember a departed one when gazing at the sea or an island" occur in twenty-three examples (24%). Fourth, the term "to remember a departed one while gazing at trees" occurs in thirteen examples (14%). Fifth, the terms "to go still on the plains" or "to go beyond the plains" occurs five times (4%). Sixth, the terms "to disappear in rivers, or to disappear in valleys" occur four times (4%). And seventh, the terms "netherworld, Yellow Sources, below ground, or to go to a distant place" occur seven times (7%). Here, the first type (mountains as other world) and the second type (Heaven as other world) are clearly predominant. Hori suggested that mountains were the actual burial sites, and that Heaven was a more abstract notion of the destination of spirits of the dead, and he concluded that these two types fall in the same category. If that is indeed the case, these seventy examples (74%) represent the dominant view of the afterlife destination at the time. In opposition to this, the myths contained in Kojiki and Nihon shokiemphasize the oceanic and subterranean metaphors, which are not conspicuous in Man'yōshū. A possible reason for this discrepancy is that these elegies focus only on the other world of the deceased, and these elegies are limited to the ruling classes. As Itō Motoharu (in "The Ancient Funerary System and the Construction of Concepts of the Other World") and Ōbayashi Taryō (in "The Heavenly Other World") suggest, the term "Heavenly other world," which Hori used is a view that was confined to the ruling classes. We can see this in the fact that many emperors and members of powerful families were buried in mounds (sanryō) on mountain foothills or on top of hills, or in the artificial mountain or hill that is the kofun (burial mound). We can surmise from these elegies that members of the ruling class supposed that after death they would return to the heavenly level where their own ancestors resided, but there was no such a view of the afterlife held by commoners. The notion of the "Heavenly other world" held by the ruling class is further supported by the fact that the rule of the emperor and his death, was associated with the sun, Amaterasu, and radiance. The transmission of the imperial rank was called "solar succession," and the examples listed below suggest the frequency of solar metaphors with regard to imperial rule or death. "I humbly pray Your Majesty reverently to respond to the Divine Spirit of Earth by giving development to the luminous commands, casting a luster on Japan" (Chronicle of Emperor Buretsu, Nihon shoki ); "I pray the Ministers that they will, without delay, cause him to ascend to the Dignity, and preside gloriously over the Empire" (Chronicle of Emperor Kinmei, Nihon shoki ); "It is right that thou shall continue the Imperial line, and dispense thy radiance down on the people" (Chronicle of Emperor Jomei, Nihon shoki ). Conversely, the period of mourning was called true obscurity; and when Prince Shōtoku passed away, the Nihon shoki states, "The sun and the moon have lost their brightness; heaven and earth had crumbled to ruin" (Chronicle of Empress Suiko). In this way, emperors or members of the ruling class conceived of their afterworld as Heaven; in order to realize this concretely on earth, they had themselves buried on mountain tops or in funerary mounds.

The view of the other world according to the Nativist Scholars

The Shinto view of the other world was the object of a number of theories on the part of the Edo period's Nativist Scholars (kokugakusha), and terms such as Takama no hara, Tokoyo, Ne no kuni, and Yomi no kuni were subjected to earnest investigation. In his work Kojikiden, Motoori Norinaga offered a detailed argument concerning the meaning of the word Tokoyo. In Mitama no mihashira, his disciple Hirata Atsutane discussed the origins of Heaven, Earth, and Yomi, and dealt with the destination of the spirit after death. Atsutane argued that the spirit did not go the "Yellow Sources," but to a place he called "Obscure Realm." It can be said that the arguments proposed by the Nativists formed an attempt to systematize Shinto as a religious system. Furthermore, in the modern period Yanagita Kunio and Orikuchi Shinobu used their ethnographic stand-point to examine the views of the other world held by the Japanese people, and their work drew attention, in particular, to the oceanic realm.
— Matsumura Kazuo