Episode 87 – The Way of the Gods, Part 3

For our final episode on Shinto and the Japanese state, we’ll focus on the postwar controversies of Shinto: what was the role of the emperor going to be? How would Shinto fit in the new political order? And what on earth are we going to do with Yasukuni? The answers to these questions are what give shape to much of the controversy surrounding Shinto in modern Japan.

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Fields, Norma. In the Realm of a Dying Emperor. 

Hardacre, Helen. Shinto and the State.

Kasulis, Thomas. Shinto: The Way Home.

Images (Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation

Hitorizumo is a folk tradition in Mie prefecture where a sumo wrestler fights the invisible spirit of a rice plant in order to ensure a good harvest. Right now I guess the rice plant is giving him a run for his money. No, I will not put pictures of the Kanamara-matsuri on the site.
Hitorizumo is a folk tradition in Mie prefecture where a sumo wrestler fights the invisible spirit of a rice plant in order to ensure a good harvest. Right now I guess the rice plant is giving him a run for his money.
No, I will not put pictures of the Kanamara-matsuri on the site.
Atsuko Ikeda, elder sister of Emperor Akihito and one of two sai'o (Chief Priests) of Ise Shrine. The position must be held by a female member of the Imperial family, but thanks to reforms during the American Occupation those who leave the immediate nuclear family of the Emperor lose their imperial titles.
Atsuko Ikeda, elder sister of Emperor Akihito and one of two sai’o (Chief Priests) of Ise Shrine. The position must be held by a female member of the Imperial family, but thanks to reforms during the American Occupation those who leave the immediate nuclear family of the Emperor lose their imperial titles.
Atsuko Ikeda, one of two sai'o (chief priests) of Ise Shrine. She is a member of the imperial family but lost her rank upon leaving the immediate nuclear family of the emperor.
Kuroda Sayako, the second sai'o of Ise Shrine.

Kuroda Sayako, the second sai’o of Ise Shrine.

Nakasone Yasuhiro (mid-right,behind the shrine priest) bears the dubious distinction of being the first PM to visit Yasukuni after the decision to enshrine Tojo and 16 other war criminals.
Nakasone Yasuhiro (mid-right,behind the shrine priest) bears the dubious distinction of being the first PM to visit Yasukuni after the decision to enshrine Tojo and 16 other war criminals.
Abe Shinzo visiting Yasukuni in 2012.
Abe Shinzo visiting Yasukuni in 2012.
Yasukuni remains a site of nationalist and militarist rallies to this day, particularly on August 15th (the anniversary of Japan's surrender).
Yasukuni remains a site of nationalist and militarist rallies to this day, particularly on August 15th (the anniversary of Japan’s surrender).
If I could do it all again I'd spend much more time on that one time Justin Bieber visited Yasukuni Shrine. Courtesy of Slate.com.
If I could do it all again I’d spend much more time on that one time Justin Bieber visited Yasukuni Shrine. Courtesy of Slate.com.
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Episode 86 – The Way of the Gods, Part 2

This week we move into Japan’s imperial period; what was the relationship between Shinto and a government which claimed its legitimacy in part from an emperor descended from one of the kami? What was the reality of “State Shinto”, and who really led the charge to integrate church and state in Japan? All that and more, this week!

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Breen, Jon and Mark Teeuwen. A New History of Shinto.

Hardacre, Helen. Shinto and the State.

Jansen, Marius. The Making of Modern Japan.

Images (Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation)

Haibutsu Kishaku ("Cast down the Buddhas and Destroy Shakamuni") was a violently anti-Buddhist reaction in the early Meiji Period. The Japanese government did not formally push for the destruction of Buddhism but did little to stop it either.
Haibutsu Kishaku (“Cast down the Buddhas and Destroy Shakamuni”) was a violently anti-Buddhist reaction in the early Meiji Period. The Japanese government did not formally push for the destruction of Buddhism but did little to stop it either.
This print depicts the Meiji Emperor, his wife Empress Shoken, and his imperial ancestors (human and divine alike).
This print depicts the Meiji Emperor, his wife Empress Shoken, and his imperial ancestors (human and divine alike).
The original Tokyo Shokonsha (what would later become Yasukuni Shrine), constructed in 1869 to honor the souls of those who had died in the Boshin War.
The original Tokyo Shokonsha (what would later become Yasukuni Shrine), constructed in 1869 to honor the souls of those who had died in the Boshin War.
A delegation of Hitler Youth visit Yasukuni, 1938.
A delegation of Hitler Youth visit Yasukuni, 1938.

Episode 85 – The Way of the Gods, Part 1

This week, we discuss the origins of everyone’s favorite maybe-not-technically-a-religion: Shinto. What are the roots of this tradition, and how did it evolve in premodern Japan? We’ll explore what little we know (and we know very little) of Shinto’s origins, its early structure, the changes introduced by Buddhism, and its ultimate form in Tokugawa Japan.

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Hardacre, Helen. Shinto and the State, 1868-1988.

Jansen, Marius. The Making of Modern Japan.

Katsu, Kokichi. Musui’s Story. 

Totman, Conrad. A History of Japan.

Images (Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation)

This mandala (sacred image) from Kasuga Shrine outlines a basic equivalency chart for Buddhist and Shinto dieties. It's an excellent example of the Honji Suijaku theory.
This mandala (sacred image) from Kasuga Shrine outlines a basic equivalency chart for Buddhist and Shinto dieties. It’s an excellent example of the Honji Suijaku theory.
Minor shrines such as this one (Omatono Tsunoten Shrine in Inagi) are all over Japan. They represent the third and largest layer of Shinto; localized worship of kami confined to a specific village or region. Unfortunately, they're also the ones we know the least about.
Minor shrines such as this one (Omatono Tsunoten Shrine in Inagi) are all over Japan. They represent the third and largest layer of Shinto; localized worship of kami confined to a specific village or region. Unfortunately, they’re also the ones we know the least about.
Pilgrims to Ise Shrine during the Tokugawa Period. Pilgrimage was technically a religious rite, but more often it was used as an excuse for a totally awesome party.
Pilgrims to Ise Shrine during the Tokugawa Period. Pilgrimage was technically a religious rite, but more often it was used as an excuse for a totally awesome party.
Ise Shrine is dedicated to the Sun Goddess Amaterasu, ancestor of the Imperial Family. This is the modern incarnation of the shrine; the crysanthemum is the symbol of the imperial family, so the drapes over the honden (main hall) indicate the shrine's connection to the Imperial Family.
Ise Shrine is dedicated to the Sun Goddess Amaterasu, ancestor of the Imperial Family. This is the modern incarnation of the shrine; the crysanthemum is the symbol of the imperial family, so the drapes over the honden (main hall) indicate the shrine’s connection to the Imperial Family.

Episode 84 – A Day in the Life of Rural Edo Japan

This week, we go back to address a glaring flaw from episode 10: my total lack of discussion of the countryside. Rural life in the Edo Period involved a lot more than simply farming from dawn to sunset, and this week we’ll get into exactly what it meant to be a peasant in the golden age of the samurai.

Listen to the episode here.

A farmer and his wife in the late Edo Period.
A farmer and his wife in the late Edo Period.
Sake brewing was one of many side employments used by farmers to make some extra cash.
Sake brewing was one of many side employments used by farmers to make some extra cash.
Ninomiya Sontoku, moralist, economist, and the Edo period patron saint of thrift.
Ninomiya Sontoku, moralist, economist, and the Edo period patron saint of thrift.
A Terakoya (temple-run school). This image depicts an all girl's school. The terakoya provided  -- at relatively low cost -- the essential skill of basic literacy for young peasants during the Edo Period.
A Terakoya (temple-run school). This image depicts an all girl’s school. The terakoya provided — at relatively low cost — the essential skill of basic literacy for young peasants during the Edo Period.

Sources

Crawcour, Sydney, “Economic Change in the Nineteenth Century” in The Cambridge History of Japan, Vol 5. 

Hanley, Susan. Everyday Things in Premodern Japan.

Smith, Thomas C. Native Sources of Japanese Industrialization

Images (Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation)