Japanese Religious Traditions

Paperback | March 6, 2002

byMichiko Yusa

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This illuminating introduction to Japanese culture and religiosity offers a straightforward chronological narrative to Japanese religions by focusing on major Japanese religious and political figures who have profound acumen into their own living faith and describing what each thought (or taught) and did. Covers Japanese religious practices from the medieval times to present day, taking an existential and psychological approach to exploring the founders of various Japanese Buddhist sects and concentrating on what kind of questions they themselves asked about Buddhism. Describes the rise of modern Japanese nationalism in relation to “State Shinto” , explaining how it underwent ideological and political transfigurations through the times to help readers in their appraisal of the current state of Japanese society, politics, and what direction the country may be taking in the future. Also presents significant discussions on the role of women and their positions in Japanese religions, history, and society. For general readers interested in Japanese religions, world religions, and Asian culture.

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This illuminating introduction to Japanese culture and religiosity offers a straightforward chronological narrative to Japanese religions by focusing on major Japanese religious and political figures who have profound acumen into their own living faith and describing what each thought (or taught) and did. Covers Japanese religious...

From the Jacket

This series provides succinct and balanced overviews of the religions of the world. Written in an accessible and informative style, and assuming little or no prior knowledge on the part of the reader, each book gives a basic introduction to the faith—its history, beliefs, and practices—and emphasizes modern developments and the role a...

Mithiko Yusa is Professor of Japanese and East Asian Studies, Western Washington University, Bellingham, Washington. Ninian Smart was J. F. Rowny Professor of Comparative Religions at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:128 pages, 7.9 × 5.1 × 0.4 inPublished:March 6, 2002Publisher:Pearson EducationLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:013091164X

ISBN - 13:9780130911643

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From the Author

In today’s increasingly interdependent world, it is vitally important that different nations and cultures understand one another. Many Westerners have acquired some understanding of Japan—through contact with visiting Japanese students, perhaps, or even through travel to Japan. Even so, Japan tends to be seen predominantly in its modern role, as a key player in the global economy; the nation’s distinctive humanistic traditions are often overlooked. Japanese culture is a complex amalgam of old and new, and because Japan’s various religions have been central to the development of this culture, they serve as windows to the Japanese people’s sense of identity. In the following pages I have adopted a chronological approach to the study of Japanese religions. I have placed religious events, experiences, and customs in a framework of Japanese history, which includes an account of Japan’s interactions with the Western world. It is hoped that this small book will serve as a useful guide to the spiritual traditions of the Japanese people. In the summer of 2000, I made extensive pilgrimages to sacred places in Japan in preparation for the writing of this book. I would like to thank Professor A. Mineshima, who kindly guided me through Zojoji in Tokyo, the head temple of the Pure Land sect. I would also like to thank Professor Z. Ilidaka, abbot of the Sanboin temple at Mt. Koya. Although I did not write about the religion of the Ainu people, I learned much about them from meeting with Dr. S. Kayano at the village of Nibutani, in Hokkaido. Moreover, I am deeply indebted to the work of Japanese scholars such as Kanaoka Shuyu, Ishida Mizumaro, Miyasaki Yusho, Kino Kazuyoshi, Nakamura Hijime, Murakami Shigeyoshi, Tamura Encho, and many others. My special thanks go to Professor Edward Kaplan, my colleague at Western Washington University, who read my earlier drafts and made expert editorial comments. My thanks go also to Melanie White, Richard Mason, Kate Tuckett, Eleanor Van Zandt, and Julia Ruxton, of Laurence King Publishing Ltd., whose tireless encouragement was essential for the completion of this book. I owe special thanks to Christine Davis, Project Editor, as well as to the reviewers whose comments were of invaluable assistance. I thank Western Washington University for its Faculty Development Grant. I will never know what Professor Ninian Smart would have had to say about this book, but I hope that I would not have disappointed him. I dedicate this small but dear book to Ninian and his beloved wife, Libushka, with all my love. Michiko Yusa September 2001

Read from the Book

In today's increasingly interdependent world, it is vitally important that different nations and cultures understand one another. Many Westerners have acquired some understanding of Japan—through contact with visiting Japanese students, perhaps, or even through travel to Japan. Even so, Japan tends to be seen predominantly in its modern role, as a key player in the global economy; the nation's distinctive humanistic traditions are often overlooked. Japanese culture is a complex amalgam of old and new, and because Japan's various religions have been central to the development of this culture, they serve as windows to the Japanese people's sense of identity. In the following pages I have adopted a chronological approach to the study of Japanese religions. I have placed religious events, experiences, and customs in a framework of Japanese history, which includes an account of Japan's interactions with the Western world. It is hoped that this small book will serve as a useful guide to the spiritual traditions of the Japanese people. In the summer of 2000, I made extensive pilgrimages to sacred places in Japan in preparation for the writing of this book. I would like to thank Professor A. Mineshima, who kindly guided me through Zojoji in Tokyo, the head temple of the Pure Land sect. I would also like to thank Professor Z. Ilidaka, abbot of the Sanboin temple at Mt. Koya. Although I did not write about the religion of the Ainu people, I learned much about them from meeting with Dr. S. Kayano at the village of Nibutani, in Hokkaido. Moreover, I am deeply indebted to the work of Japanese scholars such as Kanaoka Shuyu, Ishida Mizumaro, Miyasaki Yusho, Kino Kazuyoshi, Nakamura Hijime, Murakami Shigeyoshi, Tamura Encho, and many others. My special thanks go to Professor Edward Kaplan, my colleague at Western Washington University, who read my earlier drafts and made expert editorial comments. My thanks go also to Melanie White, Richard Mason, Kate Tuckett, Eleanor Van Zandt, and Julia Ruxton, of Laurence King Publishing Ltd., whose tireless encouragement was essential for the completion of this book. I owe special thanks to Christine Davis, Project Editor, as well as to the reviewers whose comments were of invaluable assistance. I thank Western Washington University for its Faculty Development Grant. I will never know what Professor Ninian Smart would have had to say about this book, but I hope that I would not have disappointed him. I dedicate this small but dear book to Ninian and his beloved wife, Libushka, with all my love. Michiko Yusa September 2001

Table of Contents



1. Some Features of Japanese Religious Practices.

Twenty-Year Rotation of the Outer and the Inner Shrines. The Sacred. Buddhism and Shinto. Religion and Art.



2. Early Historical Developments.

Early Shinto. Shinto Myth. The Incident of the “Heavenly Rock Cave.” Empress Jito as the Living Kami. The Imperial Priestesshood (Saigu, Saiin). Introduction of Buddhism. Prince Shotoku. The Cult of Prince Shotoku. Nara Buddhism. Hinayana, Mahayana, and the Doctrine of the “Bodies” of Buddha. Todaiji and the Great Buddha Image. Moving the Capital from Nara to Kyoto. Saicho (Dengyo-Daishi) and the Tendai Sect. Kukai (Kobo-Daishi) and the Shingon Sect. Mountains as the Sacred Religious Training Ground. Angry Spirits and other Folk Beliefs.



3. Medieval Period.

Entering the “Period of the end of Buddha's Teaching.” Nenbutsu Practice and the Longing for the Western Paradise of the Amida Buddha. Transition of Power from the Imperial Court to the Shogunate. Salvation of Women. Honen and the Pure Land Sect. Shinran and the True Pure Land Sect. Eisai and the Rinzai Zen Sect. Dogen and the Soto Zen Sect. Nichiren and the Nichiren (or Lotus) Sect. Ippen and the Ji Sect.



4. From the Medieval to the Early Modern Period.

The relationship between Buddhism and Shinto. The “Essence-Manifestation” Theory. The Emergence of Self-Asssertion of Shinto. Patronage of Zen by the Kamakura Shogunate. Muromachi Shogunate and Conflicts among Buddhist Sects. Zen and Arts. Development of Militant Sects. An Interlude: Amida or the Lotus? Development of Popular Religiosity. Francis Xavier and the Introduction of Christianity. Obstacles. The Unification of Japan and the Fate of Christianity. Nobunaga and Christianity. Hideyoshi and Christianity. The Incident of San Felipe. Deification of Hideyoshi.



5. Early Modern—Late 16th through 18th Century.

Ieyasu and the Tokugawa Shogunate. Expulsion of the Christian Missionaries and the Closure of the Ports. The Hokoji Temple Bell. The Incident of the “Purple Priestly Robe.” Deification of Leyasu. Methodical Persecutions of Christians. Obaku Zen Sect. Buddhism Becomes a Funeral Religion. Attraction of Neo-Confucianism. Women's Social Status. Renewed Interest in Shinto. The Poet Basho. Formation of Popular Ethics and the Spirit of Rationalism. Return to Antiquity: The “Native” Learning (Kokugaku), Shinto and “Nationalism. Hirata Shinto. Living Buddhism.



6. Modern Period—The 19th and 20th Century.

Outbursts of Popular Religious Movements in the Late Tokugawa Period. The Opening of the Ports and the Resurfacing of the “Hidden Christians. Meiji Restoration. Separation of Shinto and Buddhism. Making of the Image of the Emperor as a Kami. Abolishment of Old Festival Days, Creation of New Ones. National Mausoleum of the Fallen Soldiers. Lifting of the Ban against Christianity. Invention of State Shinto. Christianity in Meiji Japan. Spiritual Movements during the Meiji Period. Fascism and Shinto. The Storms of Fascism. Post-WWII “New” Japan.



7. Japanese Religions in the New Millennium.

Japanese Religions Today. Looking toward the Future.