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Table of contents
As compared with the great religions of the world, Shinto, the old
Kami cult of Japan, is decidedly rudimentary in its
Its polytheism, the want of a Supreme Deity, the comparative
of images and of a moral code, its feeble personifications and
hesitating grasp of the conception of spirit, the practical
non-recognition of a future state, and the general absence of a
earnest faith--all stamp it as perhaps the least developed of
religions which have an adequate literary record. Still, it is not
primitive cult. It had an organized priesthood and an elaborate
ritual. The general civilization of the Japanese when Shinto
the form in which we know it had left the primitive stage far
They were already an agricultural nation, a circumstance by which
Shinto has been deeply influenced. They had a settled government,
possessed the arts of brewing, making pottery, building ships and
bridges, and working in metals. It is not among such surroundings
that we can expect to find a primitive form of religion.
The present treatise has two objects. It is intended, primarily and
chiefly, as a repertory of the more significant facts of Shinto for
the use of scientific students of religion. It also comprises an
outline theory of the origin and earlier stages of the development
religion, prepared with special reference to the Shinto evidence.
subject is treated from a positive, not from a negative or agnostic
standpoint, Religion being regarded as a normal function, not a
disease, of humanity. This element of the work owes much to the
continental scholars Réville, Goblet D'Alviella, and
In anthropological matters, I have been much indebted to Dr.
'Primitive Culture' and Mr. J. G. Frazer's 'Golden Bough.' I should
not omit to express my obligations to my friend Mr. J. Troup for
assistance with the proofs and for a number of useful corrections
Ch. K.--Mr. B. H. Chamberlain's translation of the Kojiki.
Nihongi.--Translation of the Nihongi by W. G. Aston.
T.A.S.J.--Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan.
MATERIALS FOR THE STUDY OF
SHINTO.Prehistoric Shinto.--Ethnologists are agreed that
predominant element of the Japanese race came to Japan by way of
Korea from that part of Asia which lies north of China, probably by
succession of immigrations which extended over many centuries. It
useless to speculate as to what rudiments of religious belief the
ancestors of the Japanese race may have brought with them from
continental home. Sun-worship has long been a central feature of
Tartar religions, as it is of Shinto; but such a coincidence proves
nothing, as this cult is universal among nations in the barbaric
stage of civilization. It is impossible to say whether or not an
acquaintance with the old State religion of China--essentially a
nature-worship--had an influence on the prehistoric development of
Shinto. The circumstance that the Sun was the chief deity of the
latter and Heaven of the former is adverse to this supposition. Nor
is there anything in Japan which corresponds with the Shangti of
There are definite traces of a Korean element in Shinto. A Kara no
Kami (God of Kara in Korea) was worshipped in the Imperial Palace.
There were numerous shrines in honour of Kara-Kuni Idate no Kami.
Susa no wo and Futsunushi have Korean associations.
Until the beginning of the fifth century of our era, writing was
practically unknown in Japan. It is certain, however, that a
considerable body of myth, together with formal rituals, was
in existence, having been transmitted from generation to generation
Imbe, two hereditary priestly
corporations attached to the Mikado's Court. We hear also of
Kataribe, or corporations of reciters, who were
various provinces, especially in Idzumo, a primæval centre of
worship. They are mentioned in the
Nihongi under the date
465, and were still in existence in the fifteenth century.
Unfortunately we know little about them beyond the circumstance
they attended at the capital, and delivered their recitals of
"ancient words" on the occasion of the Mikado's coronation.
These must have helped to furnish material for the written mythical
and quasi-historical narratives which have come down to us.
Kojiki.--The oldest of these is a work entitled
or 'Records of Ancient Matters.' It was compiled by Imperial order,
and completed in
712. The preface states that it was taken down from the lips of one
Hiyeda no Are, who had so wonderful a memory that he could "repeat
with his mouth whatever was placed before his eyes and record in
heart whatever struck his ears." English readers may study this
work in an accurate translation contributed by Mr. B. H.
Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan in 1882.
It is preceded by a valuable introduction.
Nihongi.--The mythical narrative of the
'Chronicles of Japan,' also an official compilation (
720), is not quite so full as that of the
Kojiki, and it has
the disadvantage of being composed in the Chinese language. But it
has one feature of great interest. The author, or some nearly
contemporary writer, has added to the original text a number of
variants of the current myths, thus enabling us to correct any
impression of uniformity or consistency which might be left by the
perusal of the
Nihongi alone. These addenda
show that there was then in existence a large body of frequently
irreconcilable mythical material, which these works are attempts to
harmonize. A translation of the
Nihongi by the present writer
forms Supplement I. of the
Transactions of the Japan Society
(1896). Dr. Florenz's excellent German version of the mythical part
of this work may also be consulted with advantage. It has copious
Kiujiki.--A third source of information respecting
mythical lore of Japan is the
Kiujiki. A work with this name
i.e., one hundred years before the
Nihongi, but the
book now known by that title has been condemned as a forgery by
native critics. Their arguments, however, are not quite convincing.
Kiujiki is in any case a very old book, and we may accept
it provisionally as of equal authority with the
Nihongi. It contains little which is not also to be found
these two works. Unlike them, the
Kiujiki makes no attempt to
be consistent. It is a mere jumble of mythical material, distinct
conflicting versions of the same narrative being often dovetailed
into one another in the most clumsy fashion. It has not been
Idzumo Fudoki.--This work, a topography of the
Idzumo, was compiled about
733. It contains a few mythical passages.
The Kogoshiui was written in 807. It adds a very
information contained in the
Shôjiroku.--In this work, which is a sort of
(815), the descent of many of the noble families is traced from the
deities of the Shinto Pantheon.
Yengishiki.--Our principal source of information
ceremonial of Shinto is the
Yengishiki, or 'Institutes of the
Period Yengi' (901-923). It gives a minute description of the
official Shinto ritual as then practised, together with
of the principal prayers used in worship. These prayers, called
norito, were now, so far as we know, for the first time
reduced to writing, but many of them must be in substance several
hundreds of years older. Some have been translated by Sir Ernest
Satow for the Asiatic Society of Japan (1879-81), and the series is
now being continued by Dr. Karl Florenz, whose translation of the
Ohoharahi (1899) is a notable addition to the English
means of studying Shinto.
Motoöri and Hirata.--The writings of the native
Motoöri, Hirata, and others during the second half of the
century and the first half of the nineteenth are an indispensable
source of information. No part of this voluminous literature has
been, or is likely to be, translated. The English reader will find
good account of it in Sir Ernest Satow's 'Revival of Pure Shinto,'
contributed to the
Transactions of the Asiatic Society of
Japan in 1875. By "Pure Shinto" is meant the Shinto of the
Yengishiki, as opposed to
the corrupt forms of this religion which sprang up under Buddhist
influence in later times.
The above-named works contain fairly ample materials for the study
the older Shinto. They have the advantage of showing us this
as seen by the Japanese themselves, thus leaving no room for the
introduction of those errors which so often arise from the
unconscious importation of modern European and Christian ideas into
the accounts of other rudimentary cults. It should be observed that
it is the State religion to which these records chiefly relate. Of
the popular beliefs and practices at this time we are told but
Nihongi, and, to a lesser extent, the
somewhat influenced by Chinese ideas; but this element is generally
recognizable. Buddhism was introduced into Japan towards the middle
of the sixth century, and was widely propagated under the regency
Shôtoku Daishi, who died
621; but there is little or no trace of it in the older Shinto. For
long time there was a marked antagonism between the two religions
which served to protect the latter from such adulteration.
The Fūzoku Gwahō, a modern illustrated magazine,
is a rich
store of information respecting modern Shinto and the folk-lore and
superstitions which are associated with it.
DEIFICATION OF MEN.
The importance of the deification of human beings in Shinto has
grossly exaggerated both by European scholars and by modern
writers. Grant Allen, for example, says, in his 'Evolution of the
Idea of God': "We know that some whole great national creeds,
like the Shinto of Japan, recognize no deities at all, save living
kings and dead ancestral spirits." He was probably misled by the
old writer Kaempfer, whose ignorance of the subject is stupendous.
The truth is that Shinto is derived in a much less degree from the
second of the two great currents of religious thought than from the
first. It has comparatively little worship of human beings. In the
Yengishiki we meet with
hardly anything of this element. None of their great Gods are
individual human beings, though at a later period a few deities of
this class attained to considerable eminence and popularity. An
analysis of a list of "Greater Shrines," prepared in the
tenth century, yields the following results: Of the Gods comprised
it, seventeen are nature deities, one is a sword, which probably
represented a nature deity, two are more or less legendary deceased
Mikados, one is the deified type and supposed ancestor of a
corporation, one is the ancestor of an empress, and one a deceased
Deified Individual Men.--Like Nature-Gods,
Man-Gods may be
divided into three classes--namely, deified individual men, deified
classes of men, and deified human qualities. The first of these
classes comprises the Mikados, living or dead, and numerous heroes,
of whom Yamato-dake, the legendary conqueror of the eastern part
Japan, and Sugahara (Tenjin), the god of learning, may be quoted as
Phases of Conception.--They are variously
conceived of, as
I. X, alive or dead, is a great man, worthy of our love, reverence,
gratitude, or fear.
II. X, sometimes when alive, more frequently when dead, is
of superhuman powers, usually borrowed from those of nature, such
the control of the weather and the seasons, and of diseases.
III. X's powers reside not in his body but in a more or less
spiritual emanation from it.