State Shinto

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The predominant form of Shinto in Japan from the time of the Meiji restoration in 1868 to the end of World War II in 1945. State Shinto was highly nationalistic, featuring a reverence for the Japanese emperor as a divine being and governmentorganized ceremonies at state-managed shrines. The roots of State Shinto reach deep into Japanese history, which has often claimed a connection between imperial rulers and the gods, who work together for such purposes as a healthy harvest and national order. Much of this emphasis, however, fell into disuse during the centuries from approximately 1000 to 1800, when Japan’s ruling classes were heavily influenced by Buddhism and Confucianism. After the Meiji emperor was restored, and Japan’s new leaders sought to unify the nation for the purposes of rapid modernization, Shinto was used as a focus of Japanese distinction and separateness. State institutions tried to instill this by taking control of all Shinto shrines, establishing a national Shinto Ministry as a major government office, and trying to marginalize both Buddhism and wayward Shinto sects (despite official proclamations of religious freedom). Schools, meanwhile, were forced to teach Shinto morality and the Japanese public was urged to see religious holidays also as occasions for nationalist celebrations. Much reverence was devoted to emperors, who again were seen as divine and as the focus of national unity and the national quest for strength, prosperity, and global power. State Shinto was abolished in 1945 by the Allied powers who defeated Japan in World War II. The divinity of the emperor, also, was repudiated. Japan since has practiced almost complete separation of church and state, although critics have called into question politicians’ commemorative visits to the Shinto war shrine at Yasukuni, seeing it as an echo of State Shinto. SEE ALSO: kami; Shrine Shinto; Yasukuni shrineEugene’s blog: Pop culture Shinto .

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