Abroad Shinto has been generally misunderstood, because it is mostly regarded as synonymous with ultra nationalism, militarism and emperor worship. In the Meiji era (1868 to 1912) Shinto had a moral low point and was unquestionably used by militarists and those in power to unify mind and strengthen the loyalty of the Japanese people. The origin of this strategy came from the threatened oppression and potential absorption by Buddhism and Confucianism. Shinto became the symbol for preservation and independence of racial culture.
The Meiji Restoration had two parallel and complementary objectives. One was political, the other religious: The political objective was the restoration of the direct rule of the emperor, who for centuries had been moved into a position of political powerlessness. The religious objective was to revive the Kami Way as the spiritual basis for the government and society. At that time Shinto seemed to have solely a nationalistic character. However, I need to point out that fundamentally Shinto is a faith which is based on the belief that the many kami cooperate together. Shinto is to worship, to unite and to harmonize the various kinds of kami. The spirit of tolerance and cooperation is a commonly unnoticed aspect of Shinto.
Nowadays Shinto shrines have no relation with the state. They are private institutions supported and managed entirely by the shrine parishioners and worshippers.
Information based on Sokyo Ono “Shinto: The Kami Way”.
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