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Shinto［Chapter 2］The Development of Shinto Rituals and the Diversification of Forms of Kami worship
Over time, and against a background of Buddhism, a diversity of rituals developed devoted to kami. Buddhism identified kami with Buddha and bodhisattva, and during the Medieval period Buddhism played a central role in the development of fundamental ideas found in the branches of Shinto, Ise Shinto and Yoshida Shinto.
During the Edo period the worship of kami diversified further. Various festivals were held in busy downtown areas of Edo and other cities, and people called Oshi (Onshi) helped people pray to kami located in distant places.
Yoshida Kanetomo (of the Urabe clan) is known for having brought Yoshida Shintō (or, as he called it, Yuiitsu shintō, or “Only-one Shintō,”) to its mature form in the 15th century. Kanetomo’s forefathers for generations had been in charge of the practice of plastromancy (kiboku), a form of divination using tortoise shells, at the Department of Divinities. The clan also devised eminent interpretations of the Nihon shoki. This accumulation of knowledge about kami worship served as the motivating force for Kanetomo to position his theories of the “Shintō of the original founder” (Genpon-sōgen Shintō) into Shintō orthodoxy.
Kanetomo established his status as a pillar of the Shintō, referring to himself as “the Master of the Ministry of Divinities” (Jingikanryō chōjō) and solidifying his authority over other priests. The successive heads of the Yoshida family issued rank certificates (sōgen senji) and licenses pertaining to ceremonial matters (shintō saikyojō) to local shrines. Such moves led to the creation in the early modern period of the Yoshida family’s system of controls over the priesthood, as well as laying the cornerstone of those rituals at its core.
Ever since Buddhism arrived in Japan, its followers have actively incorporated Japan’s kami into its framework. Worshippers began to build “shrine temples” (jingūji) on shrine grounds, and sūtras would be read before the kami who were venerated at that shrine. These circumstances led to the production of a variety of representations of kami influenced by Buddhist imagery, as well as a wealth of interpretations of the kami that were based in Buddhist thought. By the medieval to early modern period, the general populace worshipped both kami and Buddhas without discriminating their original nature. The main form through which this can be seen is the written vows (kishōmon). The covenant form on display here features “Go’ō jewel seals” (Goō hōin) from the three shrines of Kumano (Wakayama Prefecture), and is directed to all the various deities of the Shintō and Buddhist worlds. The fact that many Buddhists also managed holy sites associated with the kami during this period can be seen in the pilgrimage mandala (sankei mandara) depicting shrine scenes.－Varied Expressions of Belief－
Shrine festivals in the city of Edo during the early modern period were conspicuously lively. The Kanda festival, an official rite of the Tokugawa shogunate held at the Kanda shrine, featured processions in which not only portable shrines (mikoshi) but also numerous floats (including dashi and other similar carts) made their way through the streets. The event was so popular that the shogunate issued a ban warning against extravagance. The festival floats deeply reflected the beliefs of the general populace, as can be seen in the decorations featuring the mythological catfish called Namazu, who was thought to cause earthquakes.
Certain individuals known as oshi (“honored teacher”)—in some locations known as danna (“master”)—were also quite active, offering of prayers and distributing of talismans. Their activities heightened belief in those kami who provided superior benefits in response to the prayers of the people. Worship of kami that offered specific benefits has been a familiar practice, and figurines of such deities have been mass produced throughout the country until very recently, as an expression of such beliefs.
Miyaji Naokazu was a researcher of Shintō history, who dealt with issues relating to shrine governance for the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Shrine Bureau from the end of the Meiji Period (around 1912) to the start of the Shōwa Period (1925) before becoming a professor at Tokyo Imperial University. Miyaji had taught at the university while he was still a civil servant. His research is still held in a certain regard for the broad geographical reach of its historical sources, and his precise analyses.
Miyaji was connected to the family whose members served as priests at Tenman-gū in Kōchi Prefecture, and he himself was deeply interested in tenjin (“heavenly deities”). The tenjin figurines here were stored on the top shelf of a closet in his home. There are more than 200 in this collection, gathered from all across Japan.