Shinto Religion and Japanese Nationalism

Abstract

Nationalism refers to the sense of togetherness whereby certain people feel that they belong to a certain group. This sense of togetherness is usually developed over years, with the help of other factors. In Japan, nationalism has been developed for years to an extent that many Japanese feel that they belong to a similar group. They share a common culture that is based on the teachings of the Shinto religion1. The Shinto rituals and beliefs are treated as Japanese symbols of unity since they unite them, even in overseas countries. It is not surprising to find various Shinto shrines in countries, such as the US, Australia, and even Canada. This article evaluates the role of the Shinto religion in developing Japanese nationalism. The article supports the statement that Japanese nationalism has developed over years with the help of religious teachings, which are based on the Shinto religion. Several individuals in Japan identify themselves with the Shinto religion, even though they belong to other religions, such as Christianity and Buddhism. This means that Shinto is no longer perceived as a modern religion, but instead, it is a traditional religion of Japan, which explains the culture of the Japanese.

The article gives a brief history of the Shinto religion in the introduction part whereby it is argued that kami is the traditional god according to the Shinto religion. Kami refers to various deities, which have continuously influenced the behavior of individuals at the state level. The Japanese leaders made Shinto a state religion after realizing that it could bring people together to realize their dreams. The emperor was made the kami meaning that he served as both the temporal and political leader. Under the literature review, the article revisits the works of various scholars who support the thesis that Shinto religion is closely related to Japanese nationalism. The articles offer critical information regarding the link between Japanese patriotism and the teachings of Shinto.

Shinto teaches that an individual should always aspire to be pure since it would bring greatness to the nation. The article gives feature data whereby the major characteristics of Shinto religion, which play a role in the development of nationalism, are analyzed. In this section, a few visual data showing various practices of the Shinto religion are given. In the analysis and synthesis section, the article reports that religious teachings have always influenced the behavior of people in the country, which leads to the development of nationalism. The article gives four major ways in which nationalism is always related to religion. Some scholars believe that nationalism is analogous to religion while others are of the view that the two are intertwined. Some believe that religious nationalism is a special type of nationalism. Historians believe that religion explains the growth and development of nationalism in any society.

Finally, the article discusses the role of religion as far as nationalism is concerned under the discussion section. The development of nationalism is traced from the time Shinto was established to the time it was made the state religion. In modern society, the article in this section notes that nationalism cannot be separated from Shinto practices. The article offers a strong conclusion whereby it is confirmed that nationalism and religion are two intricate concepts that cannot be separated.

Thesis Statement

This article utilizes several sources to support the thesis that Japanese nationalism has risen over the years due to the influence of the Shinto religion. The cultural beliefs of Shinto play a critical role in determining the behavior of the Japanese since it teaches people to behave in a certain way. Shinto is a term that was first used to refer to the way of Gods implying that people were expected to behave in a certain way if they were to please the gods. In some instances, nationalism in Japan is treated in the same way as Shinto. Some scholars observe that nationalism has replaced the Shinto religion in Japan.

Introduction

The existing body of knowledge proves that the Shinto faith changed the culture of the Japanese from a farming society that relied on farming to the landed gentry. It offered a spiritual nationalism and ethnocentricity to the people of Japan meaning that it confirmed the divine ancestry of the emperor. The state was perceived as the home of the kami (divinity) whereby every person was supposed to adore the sun-goddess. This means that the kind of spiritual occupancy practiced at the time would only be realized through stringently following the traditions of the kami to pacify the gods. This would bring about peace and would further guarantee a productive relationship between the people and the god2. Japanese society maintained a close relationship with the kami until the early period of Kamakura when Buddhism was undergoing some changes. At the time, the nation faced several problems, including wars, famine, and other catastrophes. Apart from natural disasters, the country suffered from institutional corruption whereby public officials would divert national resources to their projects. This was against the teachings of the Shinto religion, which taught its members to be people of high integrity.

The behavior of leaders was blamed for the many problems that faced society since such leaders were against the fundamental teachings of culture, which Japanese people were identified worldwide. In this regard, the society could not achieve its prime objective that was related to stability and security. Other religions, such as Buddhism never minded addressing issues that touched on nationalism since they were of secondary importance. For some leaders, who followed the Shinto culture such as Nichiren, nationalism was a very strong concept that had to be obeyed in case the county was to regain its lost glory. Literature review on the relationship between religion and nationalism shows that the two are closely related in four major ways3. How the two are related would be discussed in detail in this article to confirm the statement that Shinto religion is closely related to Japanese nationalism. Religion and nationalism have always enjoyed a close relationship since time immemorial. Even though the treaty of Westphalia separated the functions of the church and those of the state, the two have never been separated in practice. This shows that religion is an ever-present element in the country’s political leadership.

Literature Review

Definition of Terms

Nationalism

Nationalism refers to a set of beliefs, doctrine, or political ideas, which entails a well-built identification of a group or individuals with a state. Historians categorize nationalism into two major perspectives, one of them being a primordial viewpoint while the other is a modern perspective. Primordial perspective perceives nationalism as a manifestation of the antique and superficial evolutionary propensity of human beings to organize themselves into a distinctive group that would be based on kinship. On the other hand, the modernist approach perceives nationalism as a topical observable fact that calls for structural conditions of contemporary society for it to exist.

A nation is defined variously, which results in several descriptions of the word nationalism. Some scholars suggest that nationalism signifies a condition in which citizens of a particular nation should stick to a single ethnic group, cultural belief, religious affiliation, and identity. Others are of the view that even minorities should be allowed to exercise their rights and freedoms as citizens of the country. Japanese nationalism can be interpreted as perceived from both a primordial and a modernist approach. Traditionally, only those who subscribed to the Shinto set of beliefs were considered nationalists. However, things are different in modern society since even minorities are considered nationalists, provided they exercise Shinto practices.

Shinto Myth-The Kojiki Story

Shinto religion has two primary sources, one of them being Kojiki. Kojiki is perceived as part of Japanese nationalism since it explains the origin of Japanese culture. Kojiki suggests that the Japanese culture was created from foam. It further defines infinite gods and goddesses. The narrative moves from being a myth to a historical legend. It entails a chronology of the imperial line meaning that it defines the processes that Japanese nationalism went through.

Review of Conceptual Literature

Littleton observed that Buddhism and Shinto religions had coexisted for several years, yet Shinto was treated as a cultural practice. Kami is still respected as the Japanese most important god. The historian traced the origin of Shinto whereby he first noted that it is the way of the Gods4. Some of the events and festivals in the Japanese culture are worshiped within Buddhism, yet they are the elements of Shinto culture. He also concurred with the fact that Shinto practices gained momentum during the Meiji Restoration. Through the works of this scholar, the rituals and festivals of the Shinto religion are brought out, which proves that Shinto is closely related to nationalism in Japan. In his third chapter, Nelson underscored the fact that the people of Japan value kami so much since she contributed to the making of the nation5. Many people are of the view that Japan could not be in existence without the kami. Therefore, kami, a traditional Shinot god, is the national unifying factor.

Even non-Shinto believers conduct the Shinto rituals and practices as a sign of patriotism meaning that people respect the culture of Japan. In the third chapter, the author observes that many visitors are comfortable following the Shinto culture because it is not regarded as a religion, but instead it shows patriotism. In his 2011 version, Littleton was of the view that an individual cannot understand the socio-political and economic aspects of Japan without conceptualizing the cultural practices of Shinto. In this regard, it is evident that a strong relationship between Shinto practices and Japanese patriotism exists. In the view of the author, understanding Shinto culture entails the study of rituals, ceremonies, and sacred architecture6. Once an individual comprehends the Shinto culture, he or she is in a position to determine its effects on the life of the ordinary Japanese. The author explains the interconnectedness of the Shinto religion with Japanese nationalism. This would further confirm that Shinto affects the country’s nationalistic ideals.

Averbuch suggested in his study that Shinto culture has retained its rituals over several years to an extent of making these rituals national symbols. Kagura is one of the oldest rituals, which is related to dance. It has been retained for years in Japan7. The above scholar talks about Izumo kagura, which is undeniably the most accepted kind of conventional Japanese ballet. In many public functions, the dance is usually played as one of the ways of showing patriotism to the ideals of the country. This also confirms that Shinto is closely related to the country’s nationalism.

Inoue concluded in his study that Shinto is no longer viewed as a modern religion, but instead a traditional religion of Japan, which is related to nationalistic ideals. This means that people worship other forms of religion as their second option, but the first option is always Shinto. Moreover, the author is of the view that modern scholars relate Shinto religion to kami meaning a traditional god8. Since it is treated as a traditional religion, it influences the behavior of many Japanese, which confirms the notion that it shapes nationalist ideals. Sugimoto introduces several cultural practices of Japan, which prove that the Shinto is inseparable from the country’s patriotism.

Through analysis, the author observed that a number of these cultural practices, which are valued as national ideals even in modern Japan, have their roots in the Shinto religion. This implies that Shinto is no longer a normal religious belief that an individual may choose to neglect. In particular, the author discussed the issue of impurity whereby Shinto religion teaches that certain types of deeds generate ritual impurity, which demands personal cleansing for an individual to have peace of mind. The erroneous behaviors are referred to as kegare whereas purity is termed as kiyome9. The author was of the view that a normal schedule in an individual’s life is referred to ask while a season full of festivities is referred to as hare, meaning good. Many Japanese worldwide celebrate whenever they feel that they have achieved their objectives. They celebrate by following strictly the teachings of Shinto meaning that cultural practices in the country rely on the Shinto teachings.

Pilgrim and Ellwood were of the view that since the time of Nara and Heian, scholars have been employing an expanded set of beliefs through verbal communication and tradition10. They note that the style of dressing and the performance of rituals show that the Shinto religion contributed a lot to the development of Japanese culture.

Bowker supported the ideas of Pilgrim and Ellwood by observing that religion contributes enormously to the development of any culture in the world11. In Japan, the development of culture is attributed to Shinto. Yamakage was of the view that Shinto religion forms the backbone of the Japanese culture meaning that it influences the life of each 12. Without Shinto culture, the author observes that there would be no religion in Japan. In his 1998 works, Averbuch supported the previous works of other scholars by observing that some aspects of culture, such as dance, play a role in extending the influence of any culture13. In Japan, kagura dance has contributed a lot in developing and maintaining Japanese culture, which is directly related to the Shinto religion. Shimazono and Murphy in their article “State Shinto in the Lives of the People: The Establishment of Emperor Worship, Modern Nationalism, and Shrine Shinto in Late Meiji,” talked about the Japanese society after the abolishment of Shinto as a state religion.

The authors discussed how Shinto managed to penetrate society to an extent that it was considered a national ritual. In particular, the authors focused on the period ranging from 1890 to 1910 whereby the emperor was the most powerful figure in the country due to her position as a religious leader14. The source reviewed three major features including the ritual system, educational structure, and the training system for the priests. These features of the Shinto religion contributed enormously to the development of Japanese nationalism. Susumu went ahead to argue that many people in Japan have reservations towards Shinto as a religion. The author is of the view that people are comfortable associating themselves with Shinto as a cultural belief, but not as a religious meaning it plays a critical role in determining the country’s nationalism15. The western values affected the views of many Japanese regarding Shinto, but many individuals are unwilling to abandon it since it is part of their culture.

Fukase-Indergaard and Indergaard in their article “Religious Nationalism and the Making of the Modern Japanese State Religious Nationalism and the Making of the Modern Japanese State,” talked about the role that religion played in developing the Japanese nationalistic ideals. In the source, the authors observe that the Japanese were determined to strengthen their culture through the implementation of Shinto rituals and practices. Some scholars had earlier advised that western societies achieved their objectives mainly because of the strong religious ideals. State Shinto was instituted as one way of ensuring compliance from the locals. The author concludes by noting that, even though Shinto was aimed at realizing modernity in Japan, its path was different from that of the west16.

In Japan, the state was never separated from religion since political leaders doubled up as religious leaders. In this regard, the country was able to achieve nationalistic objectives, as opposed to several countries in Europe and the United States. Suga discussed extensively the idea relating to Shinto shrines. These shrines (kaigai jinji) are believed to be the national heritage of Japan since they are not only present in the country, but also in other countries with Japanese emigrants. Before Japan was defeated in the Second World War, many individuals believed that the Japanese race was the most powerful in the world. The places of pilgrimage were erected in some countries to illustrate the existence of Japanese17. This meant that the Shinto shrines were symbols of national unity. Suga revisited the previous works, which stated that an individual might not differentiate between Buddhist believers and Shinto believers because they tend to have a similar set of beliefs. The article claims that Buddhism originated from Shinto, with the belief of the kami implying that Japanese culture borrows heavily from Shinto religion.

Presentation of Feature Data

As already mentioned in the previous sections, Shinto is a Japanese religion that was founded by kami, which beliefs in sacred beings. Kami can be interpreted in several ways implying that it has various features. Before delving into the features of kami, several types would be given. One of the kami is the august kami, which is known to motivate people with feelings of holiness appreciation, trepidation. According to one of the Edo theology scholars, who lived between 1600 and 1868, the kami has an exceptionally excellent virtue. In this regard, everyone facing it should be full of high regard and respect. Another type of kami is incomprehensible kami, which is never understood by human beings.

This is based on the logic that human beings have insufficient power of thinking, which can never be contrasted with that of the kami. Emerging kami suggests that it exists through unification with other forms of materials. This suggests that the kami could be perceived to be polytheistic. Some of the kami have names, such as Futsunushi-no kami, which refers to the sword while Haraedo-no-kami refers to purification. Ukano-mitama-no-kami is another form of kami referring to grains. The Shinto religion does not have an absolute god, who has powers over other gods. Amaterasu Omikami is usually considered holy because it was the first god to be worshiped under the Shinto religion, but it is never considered a sacred god. Studies show that kami prove their holiness through material medium since it is only through this that people would feel their sense and believe in them18.

When compared to human beings, the kami is superior meaning that it can never compete with human beings. Moreover, there will never be a discontinuity between kami and human beings since they share a very strong relationship. This means that human beings will always feel the superiority of kami in their lives. In modern Japanese society, kami is believed to be a type of an ancestor or champion. Therefore, every person is expected to believe in its teachings and try as much as possible to do as it teaches. Based on this, many heroes in Japan, who are considered real patriots due to their contributions, are usually named as kami after their death. For instance, Sugawara Michizane was named the Tenjin sama, meaning the kami of study.

The scholar was anointed as a kami because of his enormous contributions in the field of education. Before Shinto, was declared state religion, only the kami were considered holy, but things changed when political leaders demanded attention from the religious leaders. With time, human ancestors were named kami meaning that they were regarded as gods. Human heroes were treated in the same way as worship heroes. Once an individual dies, he or she would become kami, but only if he contributed positively to the lives of the locals. A very close relationship between the Shinto religion and nationalism existed since heroes were treated as gods once they died while serving their country. A hero would be respected in the same way as god meaning that the teachings of Shinto affected the position of an individual in society.

 worship of the kami.
Figure 1: worship of the kami.

One of the major features of Shinto is that it embraced nature meaning that is aimed at conserving the environment. Kami teaches that all nature, both in heaven and earth, should always be respected19. Due to this, the environment should always be preserved and any attempt to destroy it should be condemned. Its teachings are not based on the ideas of the founder hence it is considered the Japanese culture. It has continuously affected the normal life of people in Japan since it warns the populace against the destruction of the environment20.

Shinto religion in support of the environment.
Figure 2: Shinto religion in support of the environment

Environmentalists quote the famous teachings of Shinto to encourage people to preserve the atmosphere while at the same time warning those whose aim is to destroy nature for their interests, such as acquisition of building materials21. It does not bar people from worshiping other religions, but they have to obey the teachings of Shinto as their culture. Unlike other forms of religion, Shinto does not have various sectarian groups meaning that it only has a single set of laws. In other societies, people are reluctant to support a particular religion, particularly if does not support their values. Such societies would only believe in the teachings of the local religion, but Shinto is different since it accommodates the views of other people, even if they do not belong to the culture. This means that the Shinto religion supports the values of Japan, which state that cultural diversity should always be given priority.

As early stated in the literature review, many groups of people are always willing to visit Japan since they are convinced that their culture would be respected. A society that tends to view other people’s culture with contempt is usually unhealthy in terms of social cohesion. The believers of Shinto are always of the view that it is better to understand the teachings of other cultures since they contribute to the growth and development of the local culture. For instance, people familiarize themselves with the dynamic of modern society through learning from parents, teachers, and peers. This makes them complete since each level of study provides them with an opportunity to explore something new. In the same way, learning from a different culture would be productive to the local culture since an individual would be equipped with various coping skills. Cultural diversity, which is supported by the Shinto religion, promotes positive nationalism in the sense that people all over the world come to appreciate the culture of Japan. As early stated all Japanese visit the Shinto shrines as an appreciation of and respect to the kami. Surprisingly, such individuals do not encounter any contradictions with their religions meaning that Shinto is more of a culture, a form of nationalism, as opposed to modern religion.

Shinto religion teaches that there cannot be an original sin or karma, even though some of the events that make an individual unhappy, such as diseases and natural disasters are considered a sin. Unfortunately, these natural disasters were never regarded as the causes of sin since sin was caused by an external factor. Since sins are caused by external factors, which are beyond human control, they could perhaps be purified at the Shinto shrines based on the rituals referred to as oharai. A popular saying was developed, which stated that people should always blame the sin, but not the people who caused it.

Shinto Shrines.
Figure 3: Shinto Shrines.

The history of the Shinto religion shows that one of the male kami sinned, but he made himself pure by visiting the shrine. Izanagi was one of the male kami who had lost his wife. After realizing that he had missed her so much, he decided to visit the world of the dead, which made her impure. He had a good understanding that this was a sin. Therefore, he proceeded to purify himself using water, which would revitalize him. Even the gods realized that he had followed the teachings of Shinto. In this regard, three major Shinto deities were reinvented, including Amaterasu-Omikami, which was a sun kami, Tsukuyomino, the moon kami, and the susano-no-mikoto. This blessing confirmed that cleansing is the only source of energy and production. Purification brings about peace to the nation, but not specifically to an individual. Even in modern Japan, purification is always insisted because it brings joy to the whole nation, but not just an individual22. This explains why Shinto is more of a national belief than a religious belief.

One more feature regarding the Shinto religion is that it is a way of life, which means that life is changing from a linear model to a cyclical model. Shinto opposes the western scientific view that life progresses in a straight line. The scientific view is that life is always centered on the human race. Based on this, destruction of the environment is taking place at a rate that few people anticipated. One day, the world would be without a single tree, which would be very difficult for human beings to survive. Therefore, the Shinto religion supports all efforts meant for conserving the environment in Japan. For the Japanese nation to survive for years, it must conserve the environment because life without a clean environment in the 21st century would be hectic. Currently, Japan is just similar to other nations following the linear mode of production, but Shinto culture is opposed to this mode. The nation is better preserved through employing a cyclical mode, according to the teachings of Shinto. Traditionally, the Japanese believed that life was cyclical since there were nights, days, seasons, life, and deaths23. All these followed a cycle meaning that it would be possible to predict the way of life.

Preferred nature.
Figure 4: Preferred nature.

Based on the Shinto religion, at least four qualities would be emulated. One of them is that the pace of modern life is too intense meaning that people should resort to the traditional ways of doing things, particularly in terms of resource utilization. Real patriotism would be demonstrated by following the tenets of the Shinto religion in Japan. One of the scholars by the name of Ortega commented that when a civilization turns out to be too nonessential and perplexed, then an individual ought to resort to prehistoric simplicity to restart a new life. Therefore, it is always sensible to reconsider the teachings of Shinto to realize societal dreams. One other feature of the Shinto faith is that it implants the spirit of agreement to individuals.

The seventeen article constitution, which was written during the leadership of the Shinto religion by the prince of Shotoku, suggested that harmony is one of the values that must always be respected in the Japanese society24. The religion teaches that the unknown should always be treated as an enemy since its main aim would be to destroy the fundamentals of society. The Shinto religion discourages people to be competitive, but instead, it encourages individuals to join hands in accomplishing major tasks facing them in society. Whenever an individual interacts with others in society, he or she is encouraged to ask him or herself a question whether survival would be possible without other people. Because no individual can exist without the other in modern society, people should always cooperate and keep off from unnecessary competition.

Analysis and Synthesis of Data: Relationship between Religion and Nationalism

Religion and Nationalism as Analogous

In this section, how religion is related to nationalism would be discussed. In the first case, religion and nationalism would be perceived as equivalent observable facts implying that they cannot be broken up from each other. In this regard, nationalism would be treated in the same way as ethnicity and race25. A different way to examine the correlation between the two would be to identify some of the ways through which religion helps in outlining nationalism. This refers to stating the history, the influence, and the distinctive nature of nationalism. The third aspect entails treating religion as part of nationalism. In this case, it would be prudent for the researcher to specify some of the modes through which the two would be interpreted26.

In the fourth case, faith would be interpreted in terms of patriotism. This categorization is critical as far as the understanding of the relationship between religion and nationalism is concerned. This part of the literature review would shed more light on the thesis statement that Shinto religion is closely related to Japanese nationalism. It is important to revisit the literature showing that religion, in general, is closely related to nationalism, irrespective of the nation, or the race. In this case, the Japanese case is not exceptional since other religions, such as Islam, have contributed to the development of nationalism. While Islam forces its members to adhere to its rules by imposing strict Jihadist regulations, Shinto encourages its members to observe cultural beliefs without the use of force.

Nationalism and religion are two different concepts that their relationship has always been contested. An individual encounters antithetical assertions whenever he or she tries to relate the two concepts. Some would be reluctant to believe that nationalism and religion would be related since the former is intrinsically secular while the latter is religious. Some studies suggest that nationalism is a result of religious decline whereby it could have emerged due to intensive religious feelings. To this extent, the assertion that nationalism emerged in Japan due to Shinto’s decline is true since people opted to embrace its tenets as part of their culture due to the influence of other religions such as Buddhism and Confucianism.

This article is not interested in establishing what could be the relationship between the two, but instead, it is concerned more with how the relationship resulted in what is being experienced today in Japan since Shinto practices are valued so much. As stated previously, religious conviction and jingoism could be viewed as equivalent phenomena principally because of their characteristics. Some analysts characterize nationalism as part of the religion because it shares some features with religious teachings. Scholars employing this perspective suggest that nationalism activates deep persuasive emotions, which are religious. In reality, this is the nature of religion, including Shinto since it entails belief in some external power, feelings of fear, and worship.

For the case of Shinto religion, it entails habitual traditions that are mostly based on the national colors. Just like religion, nationalism has its gods, such as the benefactor or optimization of the fatherland, tentative divinity, or myths, which explains the eternal past. Other features of nationalism, which are closely related to those of religion include the belief in the eternal future of the country, the idea of deliverance and immortality, the principle of sanctified scripture, the slap-up meal, fasts, pageants, pilgrims, holy days, and extreme sacrifice. However, some differences between the two exist. While religion, such as Shinto, exists to unite the population, patriotism re-enshrines the previous ethnic mission of the selected people, with its clannish egotism and vainglory27. Different studies suggest that nationalism is a new religion of the people meaning that nationalism, just like religion, serves the major purpose of bringing people together and motivating them.

In this regard, nationalism is a religion in two ways, one of them being in a substantive sense whereby it brings about salvation and another being functional since it instills the system of beliefs and practices that describes the culture of people. In this case, it differentiates between the sacred and the profane since it brings together its believers into a single community. Consequently, validity in patriotism is the correspondent of sanctity, jingoistic champions, and civic masterminds. Individuals with the above qualities are always willing to die for their nations. They are compared to prophets who are also willing to die for the faith that they believe in. Once a prophet dies, it is believed that he or she would join other prophets in heaven. His or her place in heaven is special as compared to that of other believers. For patriotic heroes, their place is special since they are always remembered after a specified period. Conversely, religion and nationalism could be viewed as similar concepts by considering the two as social institutions and modes of recognition. In this case, they are ways through which an individual would identify him or herself with a certain group, which portrays equivalence and diversity28.

Religion as an Explanation of Nationalism

To understand the relationship between religion and nationalism, they would better be viewed in terms of cause and effect meaning that religion or religious practices lead to the development of nationalism. Based on this, the researcher aspires to focus on one of the aspects of nationalism, such as genesis, expressive power, content, and form. The main feature of religion, including religious ideas, organization, traditions, and proceedings, would be understood to offer a proper explanation. Several studies focus on how religious traditions have shaped certain types of nationalistic ideas. In this regard, Puritanism or Protestantism has affected the growth of English nationalism in several ways29.

German nationalism on the other hand is attributed to pietism. In Poland, nationalism is attributed to Catholicism while Balkan nationalism is attributed to orthodoxy as a traditional religion in the Balkan region. In Japan, nationalism is often attributed to the Shinto religion whereby many people perceive this religion as a traditional Japanese religion that teaches the fundamental rules. Sinhalese nationalism is closely related to Buddhism while Israeli nationalism has close links with the Hebraic religion. Studies suggest that religious images, narratives, and secret messages were simply transposed into the political spheres of several nations, which were later used to create the first renowned pro-independence claims.

It is factual that various forms of religious teachings, such as Shinto teachings, contributed to the development of nationalism mainly through political commandeering and religious codes. In Japan, the Shinto religion contributed to the development of nationalism in three major ways, one of them being instituting new modes of imagining and creating socio-political relationships. Moreover, the Shinto religion played a major role in promoting literacy and standardization of lingua franca languages. In other words, it brought together disintegrated forms of religion, which was a major characteristic of Japanese society before the advent of Shinto. Finally, the Shinto religion bridged the gap between the polity and culture by bringing the two into a tighter position. By establishing the new ways of envisioning and classifying the spiritual community, the Shinto religion presented an innovative model for political development. In other words, it was very easy for the leadership of the country to bring people together since they would simply invoke religious teachings30. Through promoting literacy and promoting the regularity of local languages, Shinto religion instituted the culture of nationhood, which was made possible through regularized language.

Religion as Intertwined with Nationalism

The third way of understanding the relationship between religion and nationalism is by viewing the two as entwined meaning that one cannot be understood without the other. In many parts of the world, the boundaries are usually drawn based on religious and national lines. In this regard, the nation is defined in terms of members who belong to a certain religion. Apart from Japanese nationalism, other nationalities sharing the same feature include the Jewish nation and the Sigh nation. Some scholars are of the view that religion is not the variable that is always considered when drawing boundaries. To such scholars, religion supplies specific mythologies, images, and codes, which are critical to the discursive or iconic illustration of the nation. Based on this, individuals are not necessarily concerned with understanding where they belong, but instead, they would wish to understand who they are. People view themselves as being very different from others hence they wish to know what is makes them different from the rest of the races. Through religion, they realize that they have varying narration, disposition, identity, duty, and fortune. For religion to be viewed as entwined with nationalism, spiritual intonation of nationalist discourse would be explored31.

Nationalist discourse entails not only discussions focussing on the creation of nationalistic movements but also other specific types of nationalist politics. This would entail public and private discussions that focus on certain nations or states. Since time immemorial, religious codes and images have been found to influence people’s ways of thinking and the types of discussions in public places. In Japan, this is not exceptional since people talk about the origin of the nation while basing their arguments on the kami, which is a Shinto traditional god. Based on this, the Japanese view their country as one that has god’s blessings given the fact that the Japanese race is the descendant of gods. Since the state is righteous, it has the responsibility of making sure that it saves human life internationally.

The role of Japanese leaders is to act as examples of new leadership, characterized by patience, humility, tact, and hard work. These values have made Japan one of the greatest countries in the world in terms of economic development. Some scholars have gone a notch higher to talk about the spiritual variations of nationalist discourse, as well as the contrary phenomena, which are related to the national or nationalist variety of spiritual. This suggests that such scholars focus their studies on the nationalization of religion, particularly in its organizational and sensible context. This confirms that various religions, including Shinto, have gone through several changes due to their interactions with nationalism and the state. In Japan, Shinto was made the state religion for several years. Several changes were introduced to Shinto meaning that religion and nationalism are closely related whereby one can easily affect the other32.

Religious Nationalism as Distinctive Type of Nationalism

Viewing religious nationalism as a separate type of nationalism would also beneficial when trying to understand the relationship between religion, such as Shinto, and nationalism. This would as well be critical as far as confirming the thesis statement that Shinto religion is closely related to Japanese nationalism. Even though it is true, that religion and the nation have a symbiotic relationship, the content of these claims would be revisited in this section. The major claim in this section is that a certain type of religious nationalism exists, which plays a critical role in shaping the culture of certain people. Scholars holding this view define nationalism in statist terms meaning that there is no difference between nationalism and statehood33.

In this regard, nationalism is just part of the state values, which are found in the constitution. Each citizen is expected to respect the constitution by following the rules and regulations. In Japan, each individual was expected to play his or her duty, which was obeying the teachings of the Shinto religion, especially when Shinto was the state religion. Based on this, patriotism is comprehended as a form, which has its substance. It is considered a form because it encourages an individual to become a member of the state, the inhabitant of the territory, and the supporter of a certain culture. Unfortunately, it does not state how an individual would become a member of a certain culture or be an inhabitant of a certain territory. This means that it does not talk much about the content of the state-centered shared subject34.

Since nationalism does not provide how an individual would become a member of the state or an inhabitant of territory, religion serves this fundamental role since it sets the standards that each person must fulfill or attain before being declared a member. Religion has the capability of specifying some of the ways through which an individual becomes a member of the state, territory, or even culture mainly because it offers the forms of power and imaginations of an ordering authority. In his view, religion has the ability to regulate human life meaning that it is a totalizing order. Shinto is one of the most powerful types of religion, with an ability to influence human life, unlike Christianity, which is considered a stateless faith35. Through religious nationalism, an individual would become a member of the state, territory, and culture. However, some factors are considered, including the gender of the individual, the family, and sexuality. This form of nationalism protects the family since the family is the primary socializing agent concerned with reproduction and behavior development. It guards the family against harmful economic and cultural forces, which are known to weaken its authority as far as socialization is concerned.

Discussion

Nationalism in Japan is attributed to the Shinto religion mainly because of the relationship that the two concepts have enjoyed over time. At one point in history, Shinto was made a state religion whereby the emperor served as both the political and religious leader. During the development of the nationalistic ideals, leaders ensured that foreign cultures are eliminated while only retaining the teachings of the Shinto religion since it has always been considered the local religion. In the 18th century, Motoori Norinaga came up with a campaign that would later restore Shinto as the dominant religion in the country36. The leader based his research on some of the enlightening Shinto texts, which advised people to believe in the sun goddess. This gave the Japanese leader more power when Shinto was made state religion since she claimed to have originated from the Amaterasu, which was a family that invented Shinto. Based on this reality, the decision of the emperor was not to be questioned since she was sacred. The political leaders went ahead to encourage the populace to adopt Shinto teachings since they would achieve greatness for the nation.

In the education system, students were requested to observe the Shinto rituals since it would prove that they were loyal to the state. Moreover, the government distributed imperial images, which served as the symbols of national unity in the country. When the war broke out in the 20th century, many Japanese were willing to die for their country since they were convinced that they belonged to the superior race, as Shinto suggested37. During the Second Sino-Japanese war, hakko ichiu became an important Shinto philosophy, which was depended upon by the militants. The philosophy noted that the emperor was the center of the phenomenal world meaning that he or she was charged with the responsibility of shedding light on the Japanese ideas38. At this time, the interests of the individual were never valued since collectivism was highly encouraged. National mythologies, histories, and doctrines motivated the Japanese to embrace the spirit of togetherness.

Towards the end of the 17th century, Shinto took over the affairs of the government, which resulted in the Meiji Restoration. Consequently, Shinto was made a state religion in 1868. The first leader of Japan, Amaterasu, who was also a staunch supporter of the Shinto religion, was promoted to be one of the gods. Shinto religion taught that the Japanese leader was not only a political leader, but also a religious leader. In other words, the country’s leader was made a high priest. The emperor would therefore rule not only Japan but other parts of the world as well. Since the Japanese were related to god, they had a moral responsibility of ensuring that they offer their skills to other people. Since the emperor was associated with the god, her position changed in society meaning that he was also a religious leader.

Some analysts observe that the Japanese emperor was the powerful figure in the land to an extent that he would not respect the law. In the 20th century, the emperor had inadequate powers mainly because she was both a temporal and a political leader. No one would question her leadership given the fact that she would release the military at will. Article 28 of the Meiji constitution allowed people to worship a god of their choice, but the emperor made it illegal for an individual to believe in any other faith, apart from Shinto. Every aspect of life, including political, social, and economic, centered on the Shinto religion. In the education sector, Shinto religion was made a national core subject, both in primary and higher education. It is factual to conclude that the Shinto religion controlled the lives of many in Japan until 1946, just after the Second World War39.

Shinto religion has always influenced the lives of the Japanese since time immemorial. It has continuously provided divine ethno-spiritual nationalism for the Japanese since its early leaders found it. One of the historians by the name Philippi Donald noted that the history of any country entails anxiety, incongruity, and difficulties, which is still a reality to many countries, including Japan. The scholar is of the view that changes brought about by modernity do not affect the historical events of a country. Several nations have witnessed revolutions, but their early conceptions, feelings, and viewpoints have been maintained since they are considered the nation’s most important values in history. Japan is not exceptional since it has maintained its early attitudes, concepts, beliefs through Shinto religion40. These beliefs have constantly affected the behavior of Japanese even those living in other countries41.

Each Japanese national would wish to identify him or herself with the cultural teachings of the Shinto religion. This explains why Shinto shrines are available even in other countries where Japanese are available. This article establishes the relationship between the Shinto religion and Japanese nationalism. It is observed that the Shinto religion affects the socio-cultural and political life of many Japanese even in modern society. At one time, it was made a state religion meaning that it could not be separated from Japan and the Japanese.

Conclusion

From the literature review and analysis of feature data, nationalism in Japan is indeed attributed to the Shinto religion. The two are closely related in several ways, as could be seen in the synthesis section. Some scholars are of the view that religion is inseparable from nationalism because nationalism is indeed its product. Scholars holding this view suggest that nationalism is a result of weakening religion, as is the case with Japan whereby nationalism is slowly replacing Shinto. Many people in Japan identify themselves with Shinto rituals, yet they belong to other religions.

Shinto is treated as a cultural belief, meaning that many people are comfortable identifying themselves with it. At one time, Shinto became a state religion implying that it could not be separated from the people of Japan. It was considered the way of life, as kami suggests. The emperor was viewed as both a temporal and political leader. This strengthened the spirit of nationalism since the emperor was more of a unifying factor. Soldiers would fight confidently on the battlefields knowing that the emperor was the center of the phenomenal world. Literature proves that Japanese all over the world believe in shrines to an extent of constructing them in foreign countries. They find it difficult to operate without their culture in overseas countries since Shinto shrines are the symbol of their nation.

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Footnotes

  1. Motohisa Yamakage, The Essence of Shinto, Japan’s Spiritual Heart (New York: Kodansha International, 2007), 10.
  2. john Nelson, A Year in the Life of a Shinto Shrine (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996), 110.
  3. Shimazono Susumu, “State Shinto and the Religious Structure of Modern Japan,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 73.4 (2005), 1077.
  4. Scott Littleton, Shinto: Origins, Rituals, Festivals, Spirits, Sacred Places (Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press, 2002) 65.
  5. John Nelson, A Year in the Life of a Shinto Shrine (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996), 115.
  6. Scott Littleton, Understanding Shinto: Origins, Beliefs, Practices, Festivals, Spirits, and Sacred Places (London: Watkins Publishers, 2011), 112.
  7. Irit Averbuch, The Gods Come Dancing A Study of the Japanese Ritual Dance of Yamabushi Kagura, (Ithaca: East Asia Program, Cornell University, 1995), 18.
  8. Nobutaka Inoue, Shinto, a Short History (Washington: University of Washington Press 2003), 118.
  9. Yoshio Sugimoto, An Introduction to Japanese Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 37.
  10. Richard Pilgrim and Robert Ellwood, Japanese Religion (New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1985), 94.
  11. John Bowker, The Cambridge Illustrated History of Religions (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 59.
  12. Motohisa Yamakage, The Essence of Shinto, Japan’s Spiritual Heart (New York: Kodansha International, 2007), 75.
  13. Irit Averbuch, “Shamanic Dance in Japan: The Choreography of Possession in Kagura Performance,” Asian Folklore Studies 57.2 (1998), 325.
  14. Susumu Shimazono and Reagan Murphy, “State Shinto in the Lives of the People: The Establishment of Emperor Worship, Modern Nationalism, and Shrine Shinto in Late Meiji,” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, 36.1 (2009), 114.
  15. Shimazono, Susumu, “State Shinto and the Religious Structure of Modern Japan,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 73.4 (2005), 1087.
  16. Shimazono Susumu, “State Shinto and the Religious Structure of Modern Japan,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 73.4 (2005), 1077-1098.
  17. Kōji Suga, “A Concept of “Overseas Shinto Shrines: A Pantheistic Attempt by Ogasawara Shōzō and Its Limitations,” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 37.1 (2010), 70.
  18. Nobutaka Inoue, Shinto, a Short History (Washington: University of Washington Press, 2003), 114.
  19. Kōji Suga, “A Concept of “Overseas Shinto Shrines”: A Pantheistic Attempt by Ogasawara Shōzō and Its Limitations, “Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 37.1 (2010), 54.
  20. MotohisaYamakage, The Essence of Shinto, Japan’s Spiritual Heart (New York: Kodansha International, 2007), 17.
  21. Fumiko Fukase-Indergaard Michael Indergaard, “Religious Nationalism and the Making of the Modern Japanese State Religious Nationalism and the Making of the Modern Japanese State.” Theory and Society, 37.4, (2008), 349.
  22. John Nelson, A Year in the Life of a Shinto Shrine (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996), 120.
  23. Irit Averbuch, The Gods Come Dancing A Study of the Japanese Ritual Dance of Yamabushi Kagura (Ithaca: Cornell University, 1995), 90.
  24. Irit Averbuch, “Shamanic Dance in Japan: The Choreography of Possession in Kagura Performance,” Asian Folklore Studies 57.2 (1998), 309.
  25. Scott Littleton, Shinto: Origins, Rituals, Festivals, Spirits, Sacred Places (Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press, 2002) 82.
  26. IritAverbuch, The Gods Come Dancing A Study of the Japanese Ritual Dance of YamabushiKagura, (Ithaca: East Asia Program, Cornell University, 1995), 26.
  27. Yoshio Sugimoto, An Introduction to Japanese Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 56.
  28. Richard Pilgrim and Robert Ellwood, Japanese Religion (New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1985), 105.
  29. Motohisa Yamakage, The Essence of Shinto, Japan’s Spiritual Heart (New York: Kodansha International, 2007), 87.
  30. IritAverbuch, “Shamanic Dance in Japan: The Choreography of Possession in Kagura Performance, “Asian Folklore Studies 57.2 (1998), 337.
  31. Shimazono Susumu, “State Shinto and the Religious Structure of Modern Japan,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion73.4 (2005), 1089.
  32. KōjiSuga, “A Concept of “Overseas Shinto Shrines: A Pantheistic Attempt by Ogasawara Shōzō and Its Limitations,” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 37.1 (2010), 84.
  33. Scott. Littleton, Understanding Shinto: Origins, Beliefs, Practices, Festivals, Spirits, and Sacred Places (London: Watkins Pub, 2011), 15.
  34. Richard Pilgrim and Robert Ellwood, Japanese Religion (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1985), 106.
  35. Susumu Shimazono and Reagan Murphy, “State Shinto in the Lives of the People: The Establishment of Emperor Worship, Modern Nationalism, and Shrine Shinto in Late Meiji.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, 36.1 (2009), 109.
  36. Yoshio Sugimoto, An Introduction to Japanese Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 221.
  37. Richard Pilgrim and Robert Ellwood, Japanese Religion (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1985), 113.
  38. Averbuch, Irit. “Shamanic Dance in Japan: The Choreography of Possession in Kagura Performance.” Asian Folklore Studies 57.2 (1998), 293–329.
  39. John Nelson, A Year in the Life of a Shinto Shrine (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996), 155.
  40. Susumu Shimazono and Reagan Murphy, “State Shinto in the Lives of the People: The Establishment of Emperor Worship, Modern Nationalism, and Shrine Shinto in Late Meiji.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, 36.1 (2009), 111.
  41. Shimazono Susumu, “State Shinto and the Religious Structure of Modern Japan.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 73.4 (2005), 1087.