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Title: Shinto: The ancient religion of Japan
Author: Aston, W. G. (William George)
Language: English
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                          SHINTO: THE ANCIENT
                           RELIGION OF JAPAN


 =Animism.= By EDWARD CLODD, author of _The Story of Creation_.

 =Pantheism.= By JAMES ALLANSON PICTON, author of _The Religion of the

 =The Religions of Ancient China.= By Professor GILES, LL.D., Professor
 of Chinese in the University of Cambridge.

 =The Religion of Ancient Greece.= By JANE HARRISON, Lecturer at
 Newnham College, Cambridge, author of _Prolegomena to Study of Greek

 =Islam.= By the Rt. Hon. AMEER ALI SYED, of the Judicial Committee
 of His Majesty’s Privy Council, author of _The Spirit of Islam_ and
 _Ethics of Islam_.

 =Magic and Fetishism.= By Dr. A. C. HADDON, F.R.S., Lecturer on
 Ethnology at Cambridge University.

 =The Religion of Ancient Egypt.= By Professor W. M. FLINDERS PETRIE,

 =The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria.= By THEOPHILUS G. PINCHES,
 late of the British Museum.

 =Early Buddhism.= By Professor RHYS DAVIDS, LL.D., late Secretary of
 The Royal Asiatic Society.

 =Hinduism.= By Dr. L. D. BARNETT, of the Department of Oriental
 Printed Books and MSS., British Museum.

 =Scandinavian Religion.= By WILLIAM A. CRAIGIE, Joint Editor of the
 _Oxford English Dictionary_.

 =Celtic Religion.= By Professor ANWYL, Professor of Welsh at
 University College, Aberystwyth.

 =The Mythology of Ancient Britain and Ireland.= By CHARLES SQUIRE,
 author of _The Mythology of the British Islands_.

 =Judaism.= By ISRAEL ABRAHAMS, Lecturer in Talmudic Literature in
 Cambridge University, author of _Jewish Life in the Middle Ages_.

 =The Religion of Ancient Rome.= By CYRIL BAILEY, M.A.

 =Shinto, The Ancient Religion of Japan.= By W. G. ASTON, C.M.G.

 =The Religion of Ancient Mexico and Peru.= By LEWIS SPENCE, M.A.

 =Early Christianity.= By S. B. BLACK, Professor at McGill University.

 =The Psychological Origin and Nature of Religion.= By Professor J. H.

 =The Religion of Ancient Palestine.= By STANLEY A. COOK.

 =Mithraism.= By W. J. PHYTHIAN-ADAMS.


 =Early Greek Philosophy.= By A. W. BENN, author of _The Philosophy of
 Greece, Rationalism in the Nineteenth Century_.

 =Stoicism.= By Professor ST. GEORGE STOCK, author of _Deductive
 Logic_, editor of the _Apology of Plato_, etc.

 =Plato.= By Professor A. E. TAYLOR, St Andrews University, author of
 _The Problem of Conduct_.

 =Scholasticism.= By Father RICKABY, S.J.

 =Hobbes.= By Professor A. E. TAYLOR.

 =Locke.= By Professor ALEXANDER, of Owens College.

 =Comte and Mill.= By T. WHITTAKER, author of _The Neoplatonists
 Apollonius of Tyana and other Essays_.

 =Herbert Spencer.= By W. H. HUDSON, author of _An Introduction to
 Spencer’s Philosophy_.

 =Schopenhauer.= By T. WHITTAKER.

 =Berkeley.= By Professor CAMPBELL FRASER, D.C.L., LL.D.

 =Swedenborg.= By Dr. SEWALL.

 =Nietzsche: His Life and Works.= By ANTHONY M. LUDOVICI.

 =Bergson.= By JOSEPH SOLOMON.

 =Rationalism.= By J. M. ROBERTSON.

 =Pragmatism.= By D. L. MURRAY.

 =Rudolf Eucken.= By W. TUDOR-JONES.

 =Epicurus.= By Professor A. E. TAYLOR.

 =William James.= By HOWARD V. KNOX.

                         THE ANCIENT RELIGION
                               OF JAPAN

                       W. G. ASTON C.M.G. D.LIT.

                        CONSTABLE & COMPANY LTD


  CHAP.                                                             PAGE

    I. INTRODUCTORY,                                                   1

   II. GENERAL CHARACTER OF SHINTO,                                    5

  III. MYTH,                                                          18

   IV. THE GODS,                                                      35

    V. THE PRIESTHOOD,                                                55

   VI. WORSHIP,                                                       58

  VII. MORALITY AND PURITY,                                           64

 VIII. DIVINATION AND INSPIRATION,                                    75

   IX. LATER HISTORY,                                                 78

       SELECTED WORKS BEARING ON SHINTO,                              82





=Origins.=—The Japanese are in the main a continental race. Their
language and physical characteristics show conclusively that they come
from Northern Asia, and geographical considerations indicate that
Korea must have been their point of embarkation. Indeed a desultory
emigration from Korea to Japan continued into historical times. When
we say Northern Asia we exclude China. The racial affinity of the
Japanese to the Chinese, of which we hear so often, really amounts to
very little. It is not closer than that which unites the most distantly
related members of the Indo-European family of nations. The Japanese
themselves have no traditions of their origin, and it is now impossible
to say what form of religion was professed by the earliest immigrants.
No inference can be drawn from the circumstance that Sun-worship is
common to them with many North-Asiatic races. The Sun is, or has been,
worshipped almost everywhere. There is distinct evidence of a Korean
element in Shinto, but, with the little that we know of the old native
religion of that country, anything like a complete comparison is
impossible. Some have recognised a resemblance between Shinto and the
old state religion of China, and it is true that both consist largely
of Nature-worship. But the two cults differ widely. The Japanese do
not recognise Tien (Heaven), the chief Nature-deity of the Chinese,
nor have they anything to correspond to their Shangti—a more personal
ruler of the universe. The Sun is masculine in China, feminine in
Japan. The Sun-goddess takes precedence of the Earth-god in Japan,
while in China Heaven and Earth rank above the Sun and Moon. Some
Chinese traits are to be found in the old Shinto documents, but they
are of later origin, and are readily distinguishable from the native
element. A few similarities exist between Shinto and the religion of
the Ainus of Yezo, a savage race which once occupied the main island
of Japan. But it is reasonable to suppose that in this case the less
civilised nation has borrowed from its more civilised neighbour and
conqueror rather than _vice versa_. It is significant that the Ainu
words for God, prayer, and offering, are taken from the Japanese. If
the Malay or Polynesian element, which some have recognised in the
Japanese race, has any existence, it has left no trace in religion.
Such coincidences as may be noted between Shinto and oceanic religions,
myths and practices are attributable to the like action of common
causes rather than to inter-communication. The old Shinto owes little
to any outside source. It is, on the whole, an independent development
of Japanese thought.

=Sources of Information.=—The Japanese had no writing until the
introduction of Chinese learning from Korea early in the fifth century
of our era, and the first books which have come down to us date from
the beginning of the eighth. One of these, called the _Kojiki_ (712) is
said to have been taken down from the lips of a man whose memory was
well stored with the old myths and traditions of his country. He was
perhaps one of the guild of ‘reciters,’ whose business it was to recite
‘ancient words’ at the ceremony which corresponds to our coronation.
The _Kojiki_ is a repertory of the old myths and legends, and, in the
latter part, of the ancient history of Japan. The _Nihongi_, a work of
similar scope, though based more on an existing written literature, was
produced a few years later (720). It quotes numerous variants of the
religious myths current at this time. There are voluminous and most
learned commentaries on these two works written by Motoöri and Hirata
in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. For the ritual of Shinto
our chief source of information is the _Yengishiki_, a compilation made
early in the tenth century. It contains, along with minute directions
regarding offerings, ceremonies, etc., a series of the _norito_
(litanies) used in Shinto worship which are of the highest interest,
and of great, though unequal, antiquity.

The above-mentioned authorities give a tolerably complete account of
the old state religion of Japan, sometimes called ‘Pure Shinto,’ in
order to distinguish it from the Buddhicised cult of later times. Its
palmy days may be taken to extend from the seventh to the twelfth
century. Shinto, literally ‘The Way of the Gods,’ is a Chinese word,
for which the Japanese equivalent is _Kami no michi_.



=Kami= is the ordinary Japanese word for God. It means primarily above,
superior, and is applied to many other things besides deities, such as
nobles, the authorities, the ‘missus,’ the hair of the head, the upper
waters of a river, the part of Japan near Kiōto, etc. Height is in
every country associated with excellence and divinity, no doubt because
the first deities were the Sun and other Heavenly objects. We ourselves
speak of the ‘Most High’ and use phrases like ‘Good Heavens’ which
testify to a personification of the sky by our forefathers. But though
Kami corresponds in a general way to ‘God,’ it has some important
limitations. The Kami are high, swift, good, rich, living, but not
infinite, omnipotent, or omniscient. Most of them had a father and
mother, and of some the death is recorded. Motoöri, the great Shinto
theologian, writing in the latter part of the eighteenth century,

  ‘The term _Kami_ is applied in the first place to the various
 deities of Heaven and Earth who are mentioned in the ancient records
 as well as to their spirits (_mi-tama_) which reside in the shrines
 where they are worshipped. Moreover, not only human beings, but
 birds, beasts, plants and trees, seas and mountains, and all other
 things whatsoever which deserve to be dreaded and revered for the
 extraordinary and pre-eminent powers which they possess, are called
 _Kami_. They need not be eminent for surpassing nobleness, goodness,
 or serviceableness alone. Malignant and uncanny beings are also called
 _Kami_ if only they are the objects of general dread. Among _Kami_ who
 are human beings I need hardly mention first of all the successive
 Mikados—with reverence be it spoken.... Then there have been numerous
 examples of divine human beings both in ancient and modern times,
 who, although not accepted by the nation generally, are treated as
 gods, each of his several dignity, in a single province, village, or
 family.... Amongst _Kami_ who are not human beings, I need hardly
 mention Thunder [in Japanese _Naru Kami_ or the Sounding God]. There
 are also the Dragon, the Echo [called in Japanese _Ko-dama_ or the
 Tree Spirit] and the Fox, who are _Kami_ by reason of their uncanny
 and fearful natures. The term _Kami_ is applied in the _Nihongi_ and
 _Manyōshiu_ to the tiger and the wolf. Izanagi gave to the fruit of
 the peach, and to the jewels round his neck names which implied that
 they were _Kami_.... There are many cases of seas and mountains being
 called _Kami_. It is not their spirits which are meant. The word was
 applied directly to the seas or mountains themselves as being very
 awful things.’

=The Kami-Beneficent.=—The saying of the old Roman poet that ‘Fear
first made the Gods’ does not hold good of Shinto. It is rather, as
Schiller called the worship of the gods of Greece, a _Wonnedienst_, a
religion inspired by love and gratitude more than by fear. The three
greatest gods, viz. the Sun-goddess, the Food-goddess, and Ohonamochi
(a god of Earth, the universal provider), are all beneficent beings,
though they may send a curse when offended by the neglect of their
worship or an insult to their shrines. Their worshippers come before
them with gladness, addressing them as fathers, parents, or dear divine
ancestors, and their festivals are occasions of rejoicing. But there
are some malevolent or mischievous deities who have to be propitiated
by offerings. The Fire-god, as is natural in a country where the houses
are built of wood and great conflagrations are frequent, is one of
these, and, in a lesser degree, the Thunder-god and the deity of the
Rain-storm. The latter has, however, good points. He provides trees
for the use of humanity, and rescues a maiden from being devoured by a
great serpent.

Lafcadio Hearn’s view that Shinto was at one time a religion of
‘perpetual fear’ is unsupported by evidence.

=Classes of Kami.=—Although the Kami are deficient in several of the
attributes of the Christian God, they possess two essential qualities
without which it would be impossible to recognise them as deities at
all, viz., sentiency and superhuman power. The union of these ideas
may be accomplished in two ways, first by attributing sense and will
to the great elemental objects and phenomena, and secondly by applying
to human and other living beings ideas of transcendent power derived
from the contemplation of the mighty forces on whose operation we are
daily and hourly dependent for our existence. We have therefore two
classes of deities, Nature-gods and Man-gods, the first being the
result of personification, the second of deification. It has been
the generally received opinion that the Shinto gods belong to the
latter rather than to the former of these two categories. Nine out
of ten educated Japanese will declare with perfect sincerity that
Shinto is ancestor-worship. Thus Mr. Daigoro Goh, a former secretary
of the Japan Society, says:—‘Shinto or ancestor-worship being the
creed of the ancient inhabitants.’ The same view is held by some
European scholars, notably the late Lafcadio Hearn, whose interesting
and valuable work, _Japan, an Interpretation_, is greatly marred by
this misconception. It is quite true that there is a large element
of ancestor worship in modern Japanese religious practices, but a
very little examination shows that all the great deities of the older
Shinto are not Man, but Nature gods. Prominent among them we find the
deities of the Sun, the Moon, the Earth, the Sea, the Rain-storm,
Fire, Thunder, etc. And when the so-called ancestors of the Japanese
race are not actually Nature-gods, they are usually the satellites
or children of Nature-gods. In imitation of the Mikados who selected
the Sun-goddess as their ancestral deity, the hereditary corporations
or clans by whom in ancient times the Government of Japan, central
and local, was carried on, chose for themselves, or perhaps invented,
nature-deities, or their children or ministers, as their patron-gods,
to whom special worship was paid. From this to a belief in their
descent from him as an ancestor, the transition was easy. The same
process has been observed in other countries. It was assisted by the
habit of addressing the deity as father or parent, which, at first a
metaphorical expression, came ultimately to be understood in a more
literal sense. These pseudo-ancestral deities were called Ujigami,
that is to say ‘surname-deities.’ In later times the Ujigami ceased to
be the patron-gods of particular families and became simply the local
deities of the district where one was born. Children are presented to
the Ujigami shortly after birth, and other important events, such as
a change of residence, are announced to him. A deity of any class may
become an Ujigami, and there have been cases of a Buddha attaining
to this position. The cult of one’s real forefathers, beginning with
deceased parents, as in China, was hardly known in ancient Japan.
Indeed there is but little trace of any religious worship of individual
men in the Shinto of the _Kojiki_ and _Nihongi_. Living Mikados
were styled Kami, and spoken of as the ‘Heavenly Grandchild’ of the
Sun-goddess. But their godship was more titular than real. It was much
on a par with that of the Pope and Emperor who in the Middle Ages were
called ‘Deus in terris.’ No miraculous powers were claimed for them
beyond a vague general authority over the minor gods of Japan. Deceased
Mikados were occasionally worshipped by their descendants, but whether
there was anything in this so-called worship to distinguish it from
the ordinary funeral or commemorative services there is nothing to
show. They had no shrines, and no rituals in their honour are preserved
in the Yengishiki collection. At a later period, the cult of deceased
Mikados acquired a more definite character. They were prayed to for
rain, to stay curses, to restore the Mikado’s health, etc. They had
shrines erected to them, the offerings at which were assimilated to
those made to Nature-deities. The Mikado Ôjin, if we may believe an
oracle delivered by himself, became an important War-god under the name
of Hachiman. The Empress Jingō, the legendary conqueror of Korea, also
received divine honours. At the present day, solemn services are held
periodically in the Imperial Palace for the worship of all the dynasty.

Both categories of deities, Man and Nature gods, have three
subdivisions according as they are deities of individuals, of classes,
or of qualities. All these are exemplified in Shinto. The Sun-goddess
represents an individual object; Kukuchi, the god of Trees, a class;
and Musubi, the god of Growth, an abstract quality. Temmangu is a
deified individual statesman, Koyane represents the Nakatomi clan or
family, and Ta-jikara no wo (hand-strength-male) is a personified human

=Development of the Idea of God.=—The Nature-gods of Shinto, as of
other religions, are in the first place the actual material objects
or phenomena regarded as living beings. Sometimes the personification
proceeds no further. There are Mud and Sand deities which have no
sex, and no mythical record beyond a bare mention. But in the case of
others the same progressive humanising process that is to be observed
elsewhere has already begun. The Sun is not only the brilliant heavenly
being whose retirement to a cave leaves the world to darkness, she is
a queen, a child, and a mother—in a miraculous fashion. She speaks,
weaves, wears armour, sows seed, and does many other things which
have nothing to do with her solar quality. At a still more recent
stage—though not in the old records—she becomes an independent
personage who rules the Sun, while with many worshippers at the present
day her solar character is forgotten altogether, and she is considered
merely as a great divine ancestor who dwells at Ise and exercises a
providential guardianship over Japan. This line of development is
familiar to us in other mythologies, the two stages of thought being
often confounded. In Shakespeare’s _Tempest_, Iris is at once the
rainbow and an anthropomorphic messenger of the gods. Phoebus is not
only the sun but a deity distinct from that luminary, though associated
with it, as in the story of Phaeton. As the god of music and poetry,
his solar function is not obvious. The same is true of the gods of the

=Impersonality of Shinto.=—The faculty of imagination was not powerful
with the ancient Japanese. It was active, and produced many deities
of all classes. But they are very feebly characterised. Indeed, most
of them may be said to have no characters at all. They are popularly
reckoned at eighty myriads, or eight hundred myriads. Though this is a
fanciful exaggeration, Shinto is a highly polytheistic religion, and
numbers its deities by hundreds, even if we do not go back to that
earlier period when the rocks, the trees, and the foam of water had
all power of speech. There is a constant depletion in their ranks by
the mere force of oblivion, while, on the other hand, new deities come
into notice. Different gods are identified with one another, or the
same deities may be split up like Musubi into a pair, or a number of
distinct persons. The same deity at different places may have different
ranks and attributes.

=Spiritism.=—The gods of ancient Shinto are, on the whole, as
unspiritual beings as the gods of Olympus. Their doings are modelled
on those of living men and women, not on those of ghosts. When Izanagi
followed his wife Izanami to the land of the dead he found there not a
spirit, but a putrefying corpse. Ghosts are as absent from the _Kojiki_
and _Nihongi_ as they are from the Old Testament Scriptures. Herbert
Spencer’s ghost-theory of the origin of religion derives no support
from the Japanese evidence. There is, however, a spiritual element in
Shinto which demands notice. Some of the gods are represented as having
_mitama_ (august jewels or souls) which reside invisibly in their
temples and are the means of communication between Heaven and this
world. The Earth or Kosmos deity Ohonamochi had a _mitama_ (double)
which appeared to him in a divine radiance illuminating the sea, and
obtained from him a promise that, in consideration of the assistance
the latter had rendered in reducing the world to order, he should
have a shrine consecrated to him at Mimoro. Susa no wo’s _mitama_ was
‘settled’ at Susa in Idzumo. The element _tama_ (soul) enters into
the names of several deities. This implies a more or less spiritual
conception of their nature. Sometimes we hear of two _mitama_, one of a
gentle, the other of a violent nature.

There are only one or two cases of deceased men having mitama. In
one of these the mitama takes the shape of a bird. Metamorphoses are
frequently mentioned in the old legends.

=Shekinah.=—As in the analogous case of the Shekinah of Judaism, the
doctrine of the mitama of gods apparently does not arise from that of
the separability of the human soul and body. It seems rather to have
been invented in order to smooth over the difficulty of conceiving
how the gods of Heaven can exercise their power and hear and answer
prayer in their shrines on earth. It may, however, owe something to the
notion of separate human souls, which, though we do not find it in the
older Japanese records, is familiar to races of a much lower degree of

=Immortality of the Soul.=—This doctrine is nowhere directly taught
in the Shinto books. There is a land of Yomi to which we are told that
some of the gods retired at death. It is represented as inhabited by
various personifications of death and disease, but not by human beings
or their ghosts, though the phrase ‘even pass of Yomi,’ like the
_facilis descensus Averni_, seems intended to express the facility with
which all we mortal men find our way thither. In one passage of the
_Nihongi_, Yomi is clearly no more than a metaphor for the grave. A
brother of Jimmu Tenno, the first Mikado, is said to have gone to the
‘Eternal Land’ at his death, and in a poem of the Manyōshiu, a deceased
Mikado is said to have ascended into heaven. The prehistoric custom of
sacrificing wives and attendants at the tombs of dead sovereigns may be
thought to imply a belief in their continued existence. But there are
other motives for this practice than the wish to gratify the deceased
by providing him with companions in the other world. The _norito_ or
rituals contain no reference to the immortality of the soul.

=Shintai.=—The mitama is represented in the shrine by a concrete
object termed the Shintai or ‘God-body.’ It may be a mirror, a sword,
a tablet with the god’s name, a pillow, a spear, etc. A round stone,
which is cheap and durable, is a very common Shintai. The god is
sometimes represented as attaching himself to the Shintai, and may
be even considered identical with it by the ignorant. The _mitama_
and _shintai_ are frequently confounded. The latter was in many cases
originally an offering which, by long association, came ultimately to
be looked upon as partaking in some measure of the divine nature.

=Idols.=—With a few unimportant exceptions, Shinto has no idols.
The Shintai is not in the least anthropomorphic. The pictures of the
gods sold at shrines at the present day are due to Chinese or Buddhist

=Functions of Gods.=—The two great classes of deities, Nature-gods
and Man-gods, have a tendency mutually to encroach on each other’s
functions, so that ultimately they become assimilated under the one
general term Kami. As we have seen above, the Sun-goddess does not
confine herself to her function as a giver of light and heat, but does
many things characteristic of a magnified human being. Susa no wo, the
Rain-storm, provides mankind with useful trees. He and his wife are
regarded as gods of wedlock. Inari, the Grain-god, is a comprehensive
answerer of prayer from a petition for a good harvest to one for the
restoration of stolen property. On the other hand, a genuine deified
man like Temmangu may send rain in time of drought. An obscure deity,
known as Suitengu, is worshipped in Tokio at the present day as a
protector against the perils of the sea, burglary, and the pains of
parturition. Almost any Kami, whatever his origin, may send rain,
bestow prosperity in trade, avert sickness, cure sickness or sterility,
and so on, without much discrimination of function.



=Character of Japanese Myth.=—Japanese myth covers much the same
ground as the myths of other countries. We have the explanatory myth,
invented in order to account for some custom or rite, some natural
phenomenon, a name of a place or person, etc. There is an abundance
of highly frivolous, revolting, childish, and unmeaning—to us at
least—matter, and the various versions of the stories which have come
down to us are often wholly inconsistent with one another. From the
sketch of the mythical narrative which is given below, many details of
this description have necessarily been omitted. There are, however,
two leading ideas by which Japanese myth is redeemed from summary
condemnation as a mere farrago of childish nonsense. In the first
place, it is permeated by the conception of the so-called inanimate
universe as being in reality instinct with sentient life. The old
Shintoists had not grasped the more general and philosophic notion of
the Immanence of Deity in all things. With their limited scientific
knowledge this was impossible. But they had the same idea in a more
desultory, fragmentary way. To them, the Sun, the Wind, the Sea, were
_Kami_ who could hear and answer prayer, and exercise a providential
care over mankind. But the synthesis of these and other aspects of
nature and humanity into one divine whole is necessarily wanting. The
second idea which inspires Japanese myth corresponds to our European
notion of the divine right of kings, which, apart from the accident of
heredity, is not such a negligible quantity as is sometimes supposed.
The Mikados are represented as deriving their authority, whether as
high-priests or sovereigns, from their ancestor, the Sun-goddess,
and have, therefore, a divinely ordered right to the reverence and
obedience of their subjects.

There is no summer and winter myth in the old records, no deluge myth,
and no eclipse myth. The stars are strangely neglected. Earthquakes are
hardly noticed. There is no Returning Saviour myth, and no Journey of
the Dead, though the expressions ‘Even Pass of Hades’ and _Yaso-kumade_
(eighty-road-windings, an alternative word for the land of Darkness)
suggest that this idea was not unknown. The creation of mankind
generally is not accounted for; but the origin of many of the ruling
caste is ascribed to direct descent from the principal divinities, just
as the Mikado is said to be descended from the Sun-goddess.

=First Gods.=—Four different first gods are mentioned by the various
authorities. None of these ever attained to much importance. They
were no doubt collected or invented with the purpose of eking out a
genealogical tree for the greater divinities who came afterwards. One
of these, called _Ame yudzuru hi ame no sagiri Kuni yudzuru tsuki Kuni
no sagiri_, is described as the Heavenly Parent. But we know nothing
more about him or her—the sex is doubtful—and it is impossible to
regard this interminable title as the name of a real god, any more than
we can think that Shakespeare’s _honorificabilitudinitatibus_ was ever
meant for a genuine word. The derivation, however, shows that this,
like the other first gods, was intended as a nature-deity. The four
generations which follow consist of obscure personages, all of whom
disappear at once from the record. Their names, too, are suggestive
of nature, and more especially agriculture-deities. In the sixth
generation we find two deities, named _Kami-musubi_ and _Taka-musubi_,
_i.e._ High-growth and Divine-growth, who were of some importance in
later times.

=Izanagi and Izanami.=—With these two deities Japanese myth really

The _Nihongi_ tells us that—

 ‘Izanagi and Izanami stood on the floating bridge of Heaven (the
 rainbow) and held counsel together, saying “Is there not a country
 beneath?” Thereupon they thrust down the “Jewel-Spear of Heaven,” and
 groping about with it, found the ocean. The brine which dripped from
 the point of the spear coagulated and formed an island which received
 the name of Onogoro-jima or the “Self-Coagulating Island.” The two
 deities thereupon descended and dwelt there. Accordingly they wished
 to be united as husband and wife, and to produce countries. So they
 made Onogoro-jima the pillar of the centre of the land.’

The _Kojiki_ says that Izanagi and Izanami were commanded by all the
heavenly deities ‘to regulate and fully consolidate’ the floating
land beneath. But all the accounts, the _Kojiki_ included, proceed to
represent the islands of Japan as having been generated by them in
the ordinary manner. We have therefore three distinct conceptions of
creation in Japanese myth—first, as generation in the most literal
sense; second, as reducing to order; and third, as growth (_Musubi_).

 ‘The two deities having descended on Onogoro-jima erected there
 an eight-fathom house with an august central pillar. Then Izanagi
 addressed Izanami, saying, “Let me and thee go round the heavenly
 august pillar, and having met at the other side, let us become united
 in wedlock.” This being agreed to, he said, “Do thou go round from the
 left, and I will go round from the right.” When they had gone round,
 Izanami spoke first and exclaimed, “How delightful! I have met a
 lovely youth.” Izanagi then said, “How delightful! I have met a lovely
 maiden.” Afterwards he said, “It was unlucky for the woman to speak
 first.” The child which was the first offspring of their union was
 the Hiruko (leech-child), which at the age of three was still unable
 to stand upright, and was therefore placed in a reed-boat and sent

Izanagi and Izanami then procreated the islands of Japan with a number
of other gods, among whom were _Iha-tsuchi-biko_ (rock-earth-prince),
_Oho-ya-biko_ (great-house-prince), the Wind-gods, a variety of marine
deities, _Ame no Mikumari_ (the heavenly water distributor), the god
of Moors (who is also the god of Herbs and Grasses), the god of Trees,
the gods of Mountains and Valleys, and the goddess of Food. The last
deity to be produced was the god of Fire, _Kagu-tsuchi_, also called
_Ho-musubi_ (Fire-growth). In giving birth to him, Izanami was burnt
so that she sickened and lay down. From her vomit, fæces, and urine
were born deities which personify the elements of metal, water, and
clay. When Izanami died, Izanagi, in his grief and rage, drew his sword
and slew Kagu-tsuchi, thereby generating a number of other deities, two
of whom, named Take-mika-tsuchi and Futsunushi, were favourite objects
of worship in later times.

The creation of the Sun and Moon is variously accounted for. Some say
that they were the children of Izanagi and Izanami, others that they
were born from the lustrations of Izanagi when he returned from Yomi. A
third child, Susa no wo, the boisterous and unruly Rain-storm god, was
produced at the same time.

When Izanami died she went to the Land of Yomi, whither she was
followed by her husband. But as she had already eaten of the food
of that region, he could not bring her back with him. She forbade
him to look on her, but he persisted and saw that she was already a
putrid corpse. Izanami then complained that he had put her to shame,
and caused him to be pursued by the Ugly Females of Hades and other
personifications of corruption and disease who dwelt there. She herself
had become Death personified. Izanagi, in his flight, flung down
various objects which delayed his pursuers—a well-known incident of
myth—until he reached the Even Pass of Hades, where he pronounced the
formula of divorce.

When Izanagi returned to earth he bathed in the sea in order to remove
the pollution incurred by his visit to Yomi, and in so doing produced
a number of deities, some of whom are Ocean-gods and others associated
with the ancient Japanese ceremonies of religious purification.

=Susa no wo and the Sun-Goddess.=—Susa no wo (the Rain-storm god)
was at first appointed to rule the Sea, but he preferred to join his
mother, Izanami, in Hades, and was accordingly despatched thither by
his father. Before taking his departure, however, he ascended to heaven
to take leave of his elder sister Amaterasu, the Sun-goddess. All the
mountains and rivers shook, and every land and country quaked as he
passed upwards. Amaterasu, in alarm, armed herself as a warrior with
sword and bow, stamped her feet into the hard ground up to her thighs,
kicking away the earth like rotten snow, and, confronting him like a
valiant man, challenged him to declare the reason of his coming. Susa
no wo protested that it was only a friendly visit, and as a proof of
his good intentions proposed that they should produce children between
them by each one crunching in his mouth and spurting out fragments
of the sword and jewels worn by the other. One of the children thus
born was called _Masaya a katsu kachi hayahi ama no oshihomimi_, the
forefather of the present Imperial dynasty. There were seven others who
figure largely in the genealogies of the Japanese nobility.

But the true nature of the Rain-storm god was not long repressed. He
destroyed his sister’s rice-fields, defiled the sacred hall where
she was celebrating the harvest festival, and flung a piebald colt
that had been flayed backwards into the sacred weaving-room where
the garments of the gods were woven. The Sun-goddess had borne his
previous outrages with calmness and forbearance, but this last (a
malicious magical practice?) was beyond endurance. She retired in
disgust and shut herself up in the Rock-cave of Heaven, leaving the
world to darkness. This proceeding of Amaterasu was followed by dire
results. ‘The voices of the evil deities were like unto the flies in
the fifth moon as they swarmed, and a myriad portents of woe arose.’
The gods, in consternation, held an assembly in the dry bed of the
River of Heaven (the Milky Way) to devise means for inducing her
to emerge from the cave, and a number of expedients were adopted
which were evidently borrowed from the ritual of the time when the
myth became current. The deities who were specially concerned with
this duty are obvious counterparts of the actual officials of the
Mikado’s Court, and included a prayer-reciter, an offering-provider,
a mirror-maker, a jewel-maker, a diviner, with—according to some
accounts—many others. All this is most convenient for the genealogists
of later times. Amaterasu at length reappeared, to the great delight
of everybody. Susa no wo was fined in a thousand tables of offerings
and expelled from Heaven. Before proceeding to Yomi, he went down to
Earth. Here he appears in a totally new character as the Perseus of a
Japanese Andromeda, whom he rescues from a huge serpent, having first
intoxicated the monster. Of course they are married and have numerous
children. Her name, Inada-hime (rice-land-lady), is probably not
without significance as that of the wife of a Rain-storm god. Another
story represents him as the murderer of the Food-goddess, who had
offended him by producing viands for his entertainment from various
parts of her body. But a different version ascribes this crime to the
Moon-god, and gives it as the reason why the Sun-goddess refused to
have any further relations with him. This, of course, explains why the
two luminaries are not seen together.

Here it may be pointed out that, notwithstanding the anthropomorphic
character of many of the above details it is evidently the sun itself
which is concealed in the Rock-cave. Modern Euhemerists deny this. But
the evidence is far too strong to be disregarded. Her names, Amaterasu
(Heaven Shining-one) and Hirume (Sun-female), are conclusive on this
point. The modern commentator Motoöri agrees, or rather maintains,
that Amaterasu is the very sun which we see in heaven. Those Japanese
who in the twentieth century talk of the imperial visit to Ise as
ancestor-worship are sorely puzzled to justify their position. Imbued
with the philosophy of China and the science of Europe, they naturally
find it difficult to understand how the Mikado can be really descended
from the sun. Some resort to the Euhemeristic theory that she was a
mortal Empress who lived in a place on earth called Takanna no hara
(plain-of-high-heaven), and speak of rice-culture and the art of
weaving being known in her reign.

The myth of the Sun-goddess and Susa no wo is the central pivot on
which the old mythology turns. All that precedes may be regarded as a
sort of genealogical introduction, and the subsequent narrative as an
epilogue designed to complete the connexion between the living Mikados
and their celestial ancestor.

=Ohonamochi.=—One of Susa no wo’s children was an Earth-god named
Ohonamochi (great-name-possessor), who is at this day a very important
deity. The _Kojiki_ relates his adventures at great length. He was
badly treated by his eighty elder brothers, but assisted by a hare
to whom he had rendered service. He went down to the land of Yomi,
where he married the daughter of Susa no wo. Susa no wo imposed tasks
upon him which by his wife’s assistance he performed successfully,
and ultimately made his escape, taking her with him. The Yomi of this
narrative has little that is characteristic of the abode of the Dead.
Ohonamochi is frequently referred to as the ‘God who made the land,’
and his various names show that he is an Earth-god. He was assisted in
reducing the country to order by his own _mitama_ or double, and by a
dwarf-god called Sukuna-bikona, who came from beyond the sea and is
credited with having instructed mankind in the arts of medicine and
brewing. Ohonamochi had a numerous progeny by various mothers. Among
them were the Harvest-god and the Food-goddess. The _Kojiki_ gives
a genealogy of them and their descendants, most of whom are wholly
unknown to us.

=Ninigi.=—Meanwhile the Sun-Goddess became desirous of establishing
the rule of her own grandchild Ninigi, son of Masaya a katsu, in
Japan. After several fruitless attempts to prepare the country for
his reception by purging it of the swarms of evil deities which
infested it, two gods named Take-mika-tsuchi (Thunder?) and Futsunushi
(Fire?) were sent to summon Ohonamochi to yield over his authority.
After some demur he did so, and Ninigi was accordingly despatched
to earth, accompanied by a long train of attendants who provide
further material for the genealogists. They descended on a mountain
in Kiushiu. Here Ninigi took to wife a Mountain-god’s daughter, named
Konohana Sakuya-hime (the lady who blossoms like the flowers of the
trees), rejecting as too ugly her elder sister Iha-naga-hime (the
rock-long-lady). The latter, indignant at this slight, uttered a
curse:—‘The race of visible men shall change swiftly like the flowers
of the trees, and shall decay and pass away.’ Hence the shortness of
human life. By Konohana Ninigi had three children. The eldest, Ho no
Susori, became a fisherman, the second son, Hohodemi, a hunter.

Ho no Susori once proposed to his brother to exchange their respective
callings. Hohodemi accordingly gave over to his elder brother his bow
and arrows and received a fish-hook in return. But neither of them
profited by the exchange, so Ho no Susori gave back to his brother the
bow and arrows and demanded from him the fish-hook.

Hohodemi, however, had in the meantime lost it in the sea. He took
his sword and forged from it a number of new fish-hooks which he
piled up in a winnowing tray and offered to his brother by way of
compensation. But the latter would have none but his own, and demanded
it so vehemently of Hohodemi as to grieve him bitterly. Hohodemi went
down to the sea-shore and stood there lamenting, when there appeared
to him the Old Man of the Sea, by whose advice he descended into the
sea-depths to the abode of the god of the Sea, a stately palace with
lofty towers and battlements. Before the gate there was a well, and
over the well grew a thick-branching cassia tree into which Hohodemi
climbed. The Sea-god’s daughter Toyo-tama-hime (rich-jewel-maiden)
then came out from the palace to draw water. She saw Hohodemi’s face
reflected in the well, and returning within reported to her father
that she had seen a beautiful youth in the tree which grew by the
well. Hohodemi was courteously received by the Sea-god, Toyo-tama-hiko
(rich-jewel-prince), who, when he heard his errand, summoned before
him all the fishes of the sea and made inquiry of them for the lost
fish-hook, which was eventually discovered in the mouth of the Tai.
Toyo-tama-hiko delivered it to Hohodemi, telling him when he gave it
back to his brother to say, ‘a hook of poverty, a hook of ruin, a hook
of downfall,’ to spit twice, and to hand it over with averted face.

Hohodemi married the Sea-god’s daughter Toyo-tama-hime and remained
with her for three years. He then became home-sick and returned to
the upper world. On the beach where he came to land, he built for his
wife, who was soon to follow, a parturition house which he thatched
with cormorant’s feathers. The roofing was still unfinished when she
arrived, riding on a great tortoise. She went straight into the hut,
begging her husband not to look at her. But Hohodemi’s curiosity was
too strong for him. He peeped in and behold! his wife had become
changed into a _wani_ (sea-dragon) eight fathoms long. Deeply
indignant at the disgrace put upon her, Toyo-tama-hime abandoned her
new-born child to the care of her sister, and barring behind her the
sea-path in such a way that from that day to this all communication
between the realms of land and sea has been cut off, returned hastily
to her father’s palace.

Hohodemi’s troubles with his elder brother were renewed on his arrival
home. He was obliged to use against him two talismans given him by his
father-in-law. One of these had the virtue of making the tide flow and
submerge Ho no Susori and thus compel him to sue for mercy (another
account says that Hohodemi whistled and thereby raised the wind and the
sea). Then by a second talisman the tide was made to recede and Ho no
Susori’s life was spared. He yielded complete submission to his younger
brother and promised that he and his descendants to all generations
would serve Hohodemi and his successors as mimes and bondservants. The
_Nihongi_ adds that in that day it was still customary for the Hayato
(or Imperial guards), who were descended from Ho no Susori, to perform
a mimic dance before the Mikados, the descendants and successors of
Hohodemi, in which the drowning struggles of their ancestor were

There are several features in this story which betray a recent origin
and foreign influences. A comparatively advanced civilisation is
indicated by the sword and fish-hook forged of iron. The institution
of the Hayato as Imperial Guards belongs to a period not very long
antecedent to the date of the _Nihongi_ and _Kojiki_. The palace of the
sea-depths and its Dragon-king are of Chinese, and therefore of recent

One of Hohodemi’s grandchildren was Jimmu Tennō, who is usually
reckoned the first human sovereign of Japan. He was the youngest of
four brothers and his selection as heir shows that primogeniture,
though to some extent acknowledged in Ancient Japan, was by no means
the universal rule. At the age of forty-five he started from Kiushiu,
which had been the home of the Imperial family since Ninigi descended
there, on an expedition for the conquest of the central part of Japan,
known as Yamato. This event is dated in B.C. 667, 1,792, 470 years
after the descent of Ninigi from heaven. He finally succeeded in
establishing his capital there in B.C. 660. From this date Japanese
history is usually said to begin. In reality there is no genuine
history of Japan for one thousand years more. The chronology for all
this period is a colossal fraud and there is abundant intrinsic
evidence that the narrative itself is no better than legend when it is
not absolute fiction. There is, however, much to be learned from it of
the beliefs and customs of the ancient Japanese.

The descent of the Imperial dynasty from a Sea-god has been noted as an
auspicious omen for the development of Japan as a great naval power.




Some of the principal gods have already been introduced in the
preceding chapter. Let us now consider them separately, according to
the classification already indicated (p. 8). It is often difficult to
say whether a nature-god represents an individual object or phenomenon,
or a class. This is chiefly owing to the circumstance that Japanese,
like other Far-Eastern languages, habitually neglects the distinction
between the singular and the plural number. The idea of making verbs
and adjectives agree in number with the substantives to which they
belong does not seem to have occurred to these nations, and, even in
the case of nouns and pronouns, plural particles are very sparingly
used. _Yama no Kami_, for example, may mean either God of the Mountain,
God of Mountains, Gods of the Mountain, or Gods of Mountains.

=Amaterasu=, the =Sun-Goddess=.—The Sun-goddess belongs unmistakably
to the first class, viz., that of individual objects personified.
She is much the most prominent member of the Shinto Pantheon, and is
described as the Ruler of Heaven and unrivalled in dignity. She wears
royal insignia, and is surrounded by a court. The chief religious
ceremony of state was in her honour. Yet she is not what we should call
a Supreme Deity. She is by no means an autocrat. Even in heaven, which
she is supposed to govern, there is a Council of the Gods which decides
important matters. In some myths she has a formidable rival in _Taka
musubi_, a god of Growth.

The ascription of the female sex to the deity of the Sun has more
meaning than might be supposed. Women held a far more important and
independent position in ancient Japan than they did at a later time
when Chinese ideas of their subjection became prevalent. Several of
the ancient Mikados were women. Old Chinese books call Japan the
‘Queen-country.’ Women chieftains are frequently mentioned. Some of the
most important monuments of the old literature were the work of women.

Like the Sun-Gods of ancient Greece and Egypt, Amaterasu possesses
a sacred bird, the Yatagarasu, or eight-hand-crow. An old Japanese
dictionary identifies this bird, rightly in my opinion, with the Yangwu
or Sun-crow of Chinese myth. The Yangwu is a bird of a red colour with
three legs which inhabits the sun. The Yatagarasu was lent by the
Sun-goddess to Jimmu Tennō as a guide to his expedition against the
tribes who then held the province of Yamato. A noble Japanese family
claimed descent from this bird.

The Sun-goddess is represented in the shrine of Ise by her shintai
or token, which is called the Yatakagami or eight-hand mirror. It is
related that when she sent down her grandchild Ninigi to rule the
earth, she gave him this mirror with the injunction: ‘Regard this
mirror exactly as our mitama (soul) and reverence it as if reverencing
us.’ At this day the Yatakagami is held in high reverence. It is kept
in a bag of brocade which is never opened or repaired, a new one being
added on the top of its predecessor when the latter is too much worn
for further use. The _Nihongi_ calls it the ‘Great-God of Ise.’

Amaterasu is not the only Sun-deity of Japanese myth. We hear of a
Waka-hirume (young-sun-female) who is no doubt a personification of
the morning sun, and of a Nigi-haya-hi (gentle, swift-sun). The latter
is said to have come down from heaven in a heavenly rock-boat, and
to have become the chieftain of one of the tribes subdued by Jimmu
Tennō. He may, however, have been a human being named as a compliment
after the Sun. This proceeding is not unknown in Japanese history. But
I rather suspect that he is a real Sun-god. Then there is the Hiruko
mentioned at p. 22 as the first-born of all the deities. Now Hiruko,
though written with Chinese characters which mean leech-child, may also
mean Sun-male-child, and this is obviously its proper meaning. The
Hiruko was a male Sun-deity who afterwards became obsolete. For some
unknown reason Hiruko has been identified with a popular modern deity
named Yebisu, who has to all appearance nothing to do with either the
sun or the leech. He is pictured as an angler with a fish dangling
at the end of his line. He has a smiling countenance and wears old
Japanese costume. Merchants pray to him for success in trade.

At the present day the title Amaterasu no oho-kami (the great
deity who illumines heaven) is generally replaced by its Chinese
equivalent Tenshōdaijin. The meaning of the latter is less clear to
the uneducated, who forget that she has any connection with the sun.
Sun-worship, however, proceeds independently. Women and children
especially call it by the respectful name of Otentō sama, without
attribution of sex, with no formal cult, and no myth, but endowed
with moral attributes, punishing the wicked and rewarding the just.
Dr. Griffis describes a scene which he witnessed in Tokio when, late
one afternoon, Otentō sama, which had been hidden behind clouds for a
fortnight, shone out on the muddy streets. In a moment scores of people
rushed out of their houses, and with faces westward began prayer and
worship before the great luminary. Many people keep awake all night on
the last day of the year so as to worship the rising sun on the first
day of the New Year.

=Tsuki-yomi.=—The Sun being feminine, Tsuki-yomi, the moon-deity, is
naturally masculine. Though he has shrines at Ise and other places, he
occupies a far less prominent place in Japanese myth and cult than his
elder sister Amaterasu.

=Susa no wo.=—The true character of this deity had been forgotten by
the Japanese themselves until he was shown by an American scholar,
Dr. Buckley of Chicago, to be a personification of the Rain-storm.
The generally accepted etymology of his name derives it from a verb
_susamu_, to be impetuous. This accords well with his character
as described in the _Kojiki_ and _Nihongi_. Mr. B. H. Chamberlain
translates by ‘the Impetuous Male,’ and he may be correct. But there is
a town in Idzumo called Susa where this god had a shrine, and it seems
possible that it was from this that he took his name.

=Star-Gods= are few and unimportant in Shinto.

=Earth-worship.=—The direct worship of the Earth is well-known in
Japan. At the present day, when a new building is erected or new
rice-land brought under cultivation, the ground is solemnly propitiated
by a ceremony called Ji-matsuri or earth-worship. Localities were
personified under names which recall Erin, Britannia, Dea Roma, etc.
Such deities were called Kunidama, country or province spirit. The
greatest of these, and one of the three greatest gods of Shinto, is
Ohonamochi. His shrine at Kitsuki in Idzumo is known as the Taisha or
great shrine, and he has numerous other shrines, called Sannō or Hiye,
in all parts of the country. In his case the deification has proceeded
beyond the mere personification of the soil. Legend represents him
as the maker of the land, not the land itself, and in modern times
nobody thinks of him as an Earth-god. His various names, however, show
conclusively that he is as much an earth-deity as the Greek Gaia, who,
like him, was ‘one shape of many names.’ Lafcadio Hearn would make
him out to be the god of the dead, though there are already two other
rulers of Hades, and Dr. Buckley thinks that he is a Moon-god. With
Ohonamochi there is associated his minister, an important deity named
Kotoshiro-nushi, and a dwarf-god, Sukuna-bikona, who is credited with
the invention of medicine, magic, and the art of brewing sake.

Another Earth-god is Asuha, an obscure personage, who is supposed to be
the deity of the courtyard. Mud, sand, and clay are deified under the
names of Uhijini, Suhijini, and Hani-yasu-hime, the last name meaning
clay-easy (in the sense of plastic) lady. Clay was deified because
it supplied the material for the domestic cooking furnace, a defence
against the encroaches of that unruly power, fire.

=Mountain-Gods.=—Most mountains have their deity, which is sometimes
conceived of as the mountain itself, at others as a god of the
mountain. Mountain gods do not take high rank in the Shinto Pantheon.
They were propitiated before trees were cut for building purposes.

=Earthquake-Gods= are little heard of. But any god might cause an
earthquake if offended.

=Sea-Gods.=—The chief Sea-gods of Shinto are Sokotsu-wata-dzumi
(bottom-sea-body), Nakatsu-wata-dzumi (middle-sea-body), and
Uhatsu-wata-dzumi (upper-sea-body), three deities produced from
Izanagi’s ablutions in the sea when he returned from Hades. They
are also represented as forming one deity. So that we have here an
example—not the only one—of a Japanese Trinity. They have a famous
shrine at Sumiyoshi near Osaka, and are much prayed to for safety from
shipwreck and for fair winds.

Another Sea-god, Toyotama hiko, has been already mentioned above (p.

=River-Gods= are represented as dragons or serpents. The resemblance
of a river with its winding serpentine course, and its mysterious
motion without legs, to a great serpent, has struck mankind in many
countries. The Chinese, the Mexicans, and the Semitic nations concur in
associating water with the serpent. It is mostly the maleficent aspect
of rivers that is thus symbolised. There are traditions in Japanese
legend of human sacrifices to rivers.

=Rain-Gods.=—Special Rain-gods are mentioned in the old myths, but in
practice any deity might be appealed to for aid in time of drought.

=Wells.=—There are sacred wells from which the water required in
sacrifice was drawn. The water itself was made a female deity under the
name of Midzuha no me. At the present day, the ordinary well or stream
from which water is taken for domestic purposes is propitiated early on
the morning of the New Year by small offerings.

=Wind-Gods.=—Sometimes one Wind-god is spoken of, sometimes two, one
masculine and one feminine. They were formerly much prayed to for
good harvests. One legend calls them the Ame no mihashira and Kuni no
mihashira (august pillar of heaven and august pillar of earth). The
idea that the winds support the sky is not unknown in other mythologies.

TAKE-MIKA-DZUCHI and =Futsunushi=.—The proper character of these
two deities is not quite clear. The name of the former is frequently
written with Chinese characters which imply that he is a Thunder-god,
and Futsunushi is probably a god of fire, perhaps more specifically
the lightning. They are constantly associated in legend and worship.
They were sent down from heaven together to prepare Japan for the
advent of Ninigi, the Sun-Goddess’s grandchild, and their shrines
at Kashima and Katori, on the east coast of Japan, are adjacent to
one another. At the present day they are universally recognised as
War-gods. This accounts for the choice of Kashima and Katori as the
names of recently-launched battle-ships of the Imperial Japanese Navy.
These deities also predict the weather. The Japanese equivalent of old
Moore’s Almanac is the Kashima no Kotofure, _i.e._ notification from

There is another Thunder-god called Ikadzuchi (dread father) or Naru
Kami (sounding-god).

=Fire-Gods.=—_Kagu-tsuchi_, mentioned above (p. 22), is the chief
fire-deity. He is also known as Ho-musubi (fire-growth), and his shrine
stands on the summit of the high hill of Atago near Kioto. Hence
the name Atago-Sama by which he is usually called. Hill-shrines are
dedicated to him at the chief cities of Japan; and he is believed, when
duly propitiated, to preserve them from conflagration. In the old State
religion the god and fire are regarded as identical.

The sacrificial fire was deified, and also the _Nihabi_, a fire kindled
with the object of producing sunshine. Both in ancient and modern times
the domestic cooking-furnace has been considered as a deity.

=Ukemochi=, the Food-goddess, is one of the two great gods worshipped
at Ise, the Sun-goddess being the other. There is a tendency in modern
times to identify her with Inari, a male grain-deity. Shrines of Inari
are to be seen in every village, and even in many houses. They may
be recognised by two figures of foxes which stand before them. These
animals are thought by many to be the god himself, and small offerings
of such food as is thought acceptable to foxes are placed before
them. Shinto scholars say that they are only the god’s attendants
or messengers. But grain is often represented by an animal in other
mythologies, and possibly this may be the case in Shinto also. Inari is
much invoked by the peasant to grant him good crops, but as is so often
the case, his proper agricultural character is frequently forgotten,
and he is appealed to for help in all imaginable difficulties, as for
the cure of small-pox or the discovery of a thief.

There are several harvest-gods not very clearly distinguished from the
grain-deities. One of these, as well as Ukemochi, is said to be the
child of Ohonamochi, the great Earth-god.

=Tree-Gods.=—Trees of great size and age are worshipped in almost
every village in Japan. They are girt with honorary cinctures of
straw-rope, and have tiny shrines erected before them. Other sacred
trees are not themselves gods, but only offerings to the deities
before whose shrines they are planted. Orchard trees are the object
of a quaint ceremony which has its counterpart in many other places,
Devonshire amongst the number, of cajoling or intimidating the trees
into bearing good crops. In Japan one man climbs the tree, while
another stands at the bottom with an axe, threatening to cut it down if
it does not promise to bear plentifully. The man above responds that it
will do so. Perhaps, however, the pleasure of acting a little drama has
more to do with such customs than any real belief in their efficacy.

We also meet with a Kukunochi (trees-father) and a Kaya nu hime
(reed-lady). Their worship was probably prompted by gratitude for their
providing materials for house-building and thatching.

=A House-God= named Yabune is mentioned in one of the old rituals. A
certain sanctity attaches to the Daikoku-bashira, or central pillar of
the house, corresponding to our king-post. There is also a Gate-god (or
gods), who guards the dwelling against the entrance of evil things,
and, in modern times, a God of the Privy.


=Izanagi and Izanami.=—I have little doubt that these deities (see
above, p. 21) were suggested by the Yin and Yang, or male and female
principles, of Chinese philosophy. They were probably introduced into
Japanese myth in order to account for the existence of the Sun-goddess
and other deities, and to link them together by a common parentage.
Their names are supposed to be connected with a verb, _izanafu_, to
invite, and to refer to their mutual invitation to become husband and
wife. They are not important in ritual.

=Musubi= means growth or production. In the old myths there are two
Musubi deities, viz. Taka-musubi and Kamu-musubi (high-growth and
divine-growth). It is not difficult to conjecture that ‘high’ and
‘divine’ were originally nothing more than laudatory epithets of one
and the same personage. Poetry recognises only one God. In later times
there were no fewer than eight Musubi who had shrines in the precincts
of the Imperial palace. The worship of this god is now much neglected.

=Kuni-toko-tachi.=—Nothing is really known of this deity. The name
means literally ‘land (or earth)-eternal-stand,’ and I offer as a mere
conjecture that he is a personification of the durable character of the
earth. The circumstance that he is the first god of the _Nihongi_ myth
led to his receiving a prominence in later times which is justified by
nothing in the older religion. There was an abortive attempt to make of
him a sort of Supreme Deity, and to substitute his worship for that of
the Food-goddess at Ise.


Though all the greater gods of the old Shinto were Nature-gods, we
cannot affirm that none of the numerous obscure deities mentioned in
the _Kojiki_ and _Nihongi_ were deified individual men. The impulse to
exalt human beings to the rank of deity has always existed, and may
have left traces in the older Shinto, though the evidence that this was
so in any particular case is not forthcoming.

=Take-minakata=, the god of Suha, in the province of Shinano, _may_
be a deity of this class. He was a son of Ohonamochi, who refused
allegiance to the Sun-goddess and fled to Suha, where he was obliged to
surrender. Tradition says that the present high priests of his shrine
are his direct descendants. They are held to be his incarnation, and
are called Ikigami or ‘live deities.’ There are at the present day
shrines to Suha Sama in many parts of Japan.

=Hachiman= is not mentioned in the _Kojiki_ or _Nihongi_. His history
is a curious one. The original place of his worship was Usa in Kiushiu,
near the Straits of Shimonoseki, an old, perhaps the oldest, Shinto
centre of Japan. He first came into notice in 720, when he helped
to repel a piratical descent by Koreans. At a somewhat later period
he became associated with the great Minamoto family, and attained
to popularity as a War-god. But his cult is deeply tinctured with
Buddhism. In his oracles he calls himself by the Buddhist title of
Bosatsu (Boddhisattwa), something like our ‘saint,’ and ordains
humanitarian festivals for the release of living things, a thoroughly
Buddhist institution, and quite incongruous with his character as a
Japanese Mars. It is explained that the reason for his deification as a
War-god is that he was an unborn child in his mother Jingo’s womb when
she achieved her famous conquest of Korea. His identification with the
Emperor Ôjin, however, dates from long after he became popular.

=Temmangu=, the God of Learning and Caligraphy. If we pass over the
honours paid to living and dead Mikados as of doubtful religious
quality, the first genuine deified human being on the Shinto record
is Sugahara Michizane, who was raised to divine rank under the name
of Temmangu. Michizane was born in 845. His family had a hereditary
reputation for learning, and traced its descent from the Sun-goddess
herself. His erudition gained him high rank in the government, and a
system of national education which he established acquired for him the
gratitude of the people, who called him the ‘Father of letters.’ But
owing to the calumnies of a rival he was banished to Kiushiu, where he
died in exile. Great calamities followed, which were attributed to the
wrath of Michizane’s ghost, and it was not until his sentence had been
formally cancelled, shrines erected, and other honours paid him that it
ceased to plague his enemies and the nation. The story has come down to
us enriched with a profuse embroidery of legendary details drawn from
Buddhist and Chinese sources.

Temmangu is, or was until recently, one of the most widely worshipped
of Shinto deities, especially by pedagogues and school-boys. In 1820,
there were twenty-five shrines to him in Yedo and its neighbourhood.
His cult was probably suggested, and was certainly promoted, by the
corresponding Chinese honours to Confucius.

=Later Deifications.=—In the Kojiki and Nihongi, a sort of titular
divinity is ascribed to some of the Mikados. It was not until a later
period that they had shrines or regular offerings. Chief among deified
Mikados are Jimmu, Jingo, and Kwammu, the founder of Kioto. Takechi
no Sukune, Jingo’s chief counsellor; Prince Yamatodake, the legendary
hero who, in the second century of our era, subdued the eastern parts
of Japan to the Mikado’s rule; Nomi no Sukune, the patron deity of
wrestlers; Hitomaro, the poet and Sotoörihime, the poetess, though
treated as ordinary human beings in the old records, were deified in
subsequent times. Quasi-divine honours are paid to Iyeyasu, the founder
of the Tokugawa dynasty of Shōguns, and to many other distinguished
men. Strange to say, a kind of religious cult is rendered to remarkable
criminals, such as the famous robber Kumazaka Chōhan, and to Nishi no
Buntaro, who in our own day assassinated the Minister of Education,
Mori Arinori, because he raised with his walking-stick a curtain which
screened off part of the shrine of Ise from vulgar gaze.


In the older Shinto, gods of types or classes occupy a fairly prominent
position. They represent the hereditary corporations by which the
government of Japan was carried on in early times. The officials of the
Mikado’s Court had their mythical counterparts in the ministers of the
Sun-goddess, who were supposed to be their ancestors. Thus the Nakatomi
family, who besides holding other high offices, were the recognised
vicars of the Mikado in the discharge of his priestly functions, traced
their descent from Koyane, a deity who, by reading a liturgy in honour
of the Sun-goddess, helped to entice her from the dark Rock-cave of
heaven. The Imbe, who provided the offerings for the state Shinto
ceremonies, recognised as their ancestor a god called Futo-dama (great
offering), who fulfilled the same office in heaven. Uzume, the Dread
Female of heaven, had descendants in the female officials of the
palace. There is a _norito_ in her honour, in which she is besought to
preserve order among the courtiers of all ranks. May we not trace a
relationship between her and our own ‘Dread Female’ deity, Mrs. Grundy?
The mirror-makers of the palace had their prototype in Ishikoridome,
the jewellers in Toyotama (rich-jewel), and so on.


Students of Far-Eastern mythology and literature have observed the
feeble grasp of personality which distinguishes them from the similar
products of the Western mind.[1] They are characterised by a certain
poverty of imagination which is manifested in various directions, and
more especially by the almost total absence of personified abstractions
of human qualities. We look in vain for such conceptions as Age, Youth,
Love, Fear, Patience, Hope, Charity, and a host of other personified
qualities. Ta-jikara no wo (hand-strength-male) is one of the few
examples of this class. He it was who, when the Sun-goddess partly
opened the door of the Rock-cave to which she had retired, took her by
the hand and dragged her out. But he is little worshipped, and indeed
is only a poetical adjunct to the mythical narrative. In this respect
he greatly resembles the Kratos and Bia of Hesiod and Æschylus.

  [1] See Percival Lowell’s _Soul of the Far East_.

=Phallic Gods.=—Far more important are the Sahe no Kami, or phallic
deities. Their symbols were a familiar sight by the roadsides
and at crossings in ancient Japan. They might be seen even in the
busy thoroughfares of the capital itself. At first representatives
of the procreative, life-giving power, they were used as magical
appliances for promoting fertility. But they became symbolical of life
generally—the enemy of death and disease—and, on the well-known
principle of magic that the symbol possesses something of the actual
physical virtue of the thing which it represents, were employed as
prophylactics against death and pestilence. For their services in this
capacity they were deified. Their cult has long ago disappeared from
the state religion, but it still lingers in the out-of-the-way parts of
Eastern Japan.



In ancient Japan, the sacred and the secular were imperfectly
differentiated from one another. The Department of Shinto was simply
a Government bureau. Miya meant equally shrine and palace. Matsuri, a
Shinto festival, is the same word that we also find in Matsurigoto,
government. The Mikado was at once the high priest and the sovereign
of the nation. In the oldest legends he appears frequently in a
sacerdotal capacity, and, even at the present day, he takes a personal
part in some of the Shinto rites. Only last year he went to Ise to
perform the ceremony of Nihiname, or tasting the first rice of the
new harvest after making an offering of it to the Sun-goddess. But
even in the oldest records there occur instances of his deputing his
sacerdotal functions. Jimmu Tenno is said to have appointed Michi No
Omi (minister-of-the-way) as ‘Ruler of a festival.’ The rubrics of the
_norito_ (rituals) show that they were intended to be read by a deputy
and not by the Mikado in person.

=The Nakatomi.=—The chief officials of the Bureau of Shinto were
appointed from the hereditary clan or family of the Nakatomi, from
which the principal ministers of state and the Imperial Consorts were
also selected. The great Fujiwara House, so famous in later times, was
a branch of the Nakatomi.

=The Imbe= had the duty of preparing the offerings for sacrifice. Their
name, which includes the word ‘imi,’ signifying religious abstinence,
purity, refers to the strict avoidance of ritual pollution which was
incumbent on them in the discharge of this function.

=The Urabe= were diviners attached to the bureau of Shinto.

=Kannushi= is the ordinary word for a Shinto priest. The Kannushi
are not celibates, and are not distinguishable from the laity except
when in the actual discharge of their functions. Even the costume
which they wear on these occasions is not properly sacerdotal. It is
only an ancient court uniform. All Shinto priests are appointed by
the civil authorities. They have no ‘cure of souls,’ and their duties
are confined to reading the litanies and seeing to the repairs of the

=Priestesses.=—In ancient times it was the custom to attach a virgin
princess of the Imperial blood to the great shrine of Ise. All great
shrines have a corps of girl dancers for the performance of the sacred
pantomimes (Kagura). The latter, on reaching a marriageable age,
usually resign their office, and are merged in the general population.



With a few exceptions, of no great importance in Shinto, the outward
forms of the worship of the gods have been previously made use of as
tokens of respect to living men. Whether I take off my hat to a lady or
on entering a church, the act is the same, it is the ideas associated
with it that make the difference. The word worship must therefore
be used with caution. We ought not, for example, to assume that
ancestor-worship is necessarily divine worship. It may only mean acts
indicating affection and reverence for the dead, common to ourselves
with non-Christian peoples, and need not involve any superstitious
belief in a supernatural power exercised by dead forefathers or heroes.
In modern Japan, ancestor-worship is a comparatively rational cult, and
it is surely undesirable that missionaries should create for themselves
great and needless difficulties by condemning it indiscriminately.

=Gestures of Worship.=—In Shinto, as in other religions, bowing is
a common form of respect to the gods. It is the custom to bow twice
before and after making an offering. Kneeling is also known, but is
less usual. I have not met with any case of prostration as an act
of adoration. Clapping hands was in ancient Japan a general token
of respect, now confined to religious worship. Sometimes a silent
hand-clapping is prescribed in the rituals. Offerings and other objects
used in worship were raised to the forehead as a mark of reverence.

=Offerings= were in the older Shinto regarded as tokens of respect, and
were not supposed to be eaten, worn, or otherwise enjoyed by the deity.
There is, however, a more vulgar current of opinion according to which
the god actually benefits in some obscure physical way by the offerings
made to him.

The general object of making offerings is to propitiate the god or to
expiate offences against him. Sometimes it is very plainly intimated
that a _quid pro quo_ is expected.

The original and most important form of offering was food and drink of
various kinds. The cardinal feature of the great ceremony by which the
Mikado inaugurated his reign was an offering of rice and sake to the
Sun-goddess. Other food-offerings were cakes, fruit, vegetables, edible
seaweed, salt, water, and the flesh of deer, pigs, hare, wild boar,
and birds. There were no burnt-offerings or incense. Next to food,
clothing took the most important place. Hemp and mulberry-bark fibre,
with the stuffs woven from them, are frequently mentioned. They are now
represented by the Gohei. These are wands to which scollops of paper
are attached, and are to be seen in every shrine and at every Shinto
ceremony. Sometimes the god is supposed to come down and take up his
temporary abode in the Gohei.

Skins, mirrors, jewels, weapons, and many other articles are mentioned
in the Yengishiki enumerations of offerings.

=Human Sacrifice.=—We nowhere hear of human sacrifices in connection
with official Shinto. But there are several indications of the
existence of this practice in ancient times. River-gods especially
were propitiated by human victims. Human figures of wood or metal are
frequently mentioned, but it is doubtful whether these were by way of
substitutes for living persons.

Slaves were dedicated to some of the more important shrines. Presents
of horses are often mentioned. Albinos are usually selected for this
purpose. They may be seen at the present day stabled near the entrance
to all the important shrines. Pictures of horses are often substituted
for the animals themselves. Galleries are sometimes provided for the
reception of these and other _ex voto_ works of art. The carriage
(mikoshi) in which the deity, or rather his _shintai_, is promenaded
on the occasion of his annual festival is a very elaborate and costly
vehicle. The miya or shrine may be regarded as a kind of offering. Miya
means august house, and applies equally to the palace of a sovereign or
prince. Originally there was no building but only a consecrated plot
of ground which was deemed to be the dwelling of the deity. The miya
is not a tomb. The shrines are purposely small and simple edifices. In
771 a ‘greater shrine’ had only eighteen feet frontage. The majority of
the existing 150,000 to 200,000 shrines of Japan are tiny structures
easily transportable in a cart or even a wheelbarrow. To the larger
shrines are usually attached an ema-do (horse-picture hall), a small
oratory for the use of the Mikado’s envoy, and a stage for the Kagura,
or pantomimic dance. A number of smaller shrines to other gods who are
in some way associated with the chief deity may usually be seen within
the precincts. The approach to a Shinto shrine is marked by one or
more honorary gateways of the special form known as tori-i, literally
bird-rest, from its resemblance to a henroost. It has its analogues in
the Indian turan and the Chinese pailoo, and is doubtless of exotic
origin. It is not mentioned in the older books.

=Prayer.=—The _Kojiki_ and _Nihongi_ contain scarcely any notices
of private individual prayer. But there are abundant examples in the
_Yengishiki_, and other authorities, of the official liturgies known as
_norito_, addressed by the Mikado, or his vicars, to various Gods or
categories of Gods, on ceremonial occasions. They contain petitions for
rain in time of drought, good harvests, preservation from fire, flood,
and earthquake, for children, health and long life to the sovereign.
Sometimes the wrath is deprecated of deities whose services had been
vitiated by ritual impurity, or whose shrines had been neglected.
Important national events were announced to them. There were no
_norito_ addressed to deceased Mikados before 850, when Jimmu Tenno was
supplicated to spare the life of the reigning sovereign, who was then
dangerously ill. Shinto prayers are for material blessings only.

=Rank of Deities.=—In the seventh century a system of official
ranks was introduced into Japan from China. It was extended from the
Court functionaries to the Gods, and was very prevalent in the eighth
century. A curious feature of this practice was the low rank given to
the deities. It was seldom that they received so high a rank as that of
a Minister of State.

=Kagura.=—The Kagura, or pantomimic dances with masks and music,
representing some incident of the mythical narrative, has been at all
times a prominent part of Shinto religious festivals, and, as in other
countries, has become the parent of the secular drama.

=Pilgrimages= are an ancient institution in Japan. Even the Mikado
paid occasional visits to the shrines in or near Kioto. At the present
day most Japanese think it a duty to make a pilgrimage at least once
in their lifetime to one or more of the most famous Shinto fanes, and
believe that their success in life depends on their doing so. Clubs are
formed for the purpose, the subscriptions going to pay the expenses of
these fortunate members who are selected to represent their fellows.
Pilgrim trains take the place of our excursion trains. Boys and girls
frequently run away from home in order to make a pilgrimage to Ise.



=Moral Code.=—Shinto has hardly anything in the shape of a code
of morals. The Ohoharahi, a service in which the Mikado, by divine
authority, declared to his ministers and people the absolution of
their offences against the gods, makes no mention of any one of the
sins of the Decalogue. M. Revon, the author of a valuable treatise
on Shinto, challenges this statement, which I had already made in my
_History of Japanese Literature_. He maintains that from a comparison
of the Decalogue and the Ohoharahi, ‘Il résulte avec évidence que tous
les commandements essentiels du Décalogue (sur le meurtre, le vol, la
fornication, etc.), se retrouvent dans notre rituel.’[2] In view of the
importance of the subject, and of M. Revon’s acknowledged competence
as a writer on Shinto, it is desirable to examine this assertion more
closely. His ‘etc.’ puzzles me. I am unable to find in the Ohoharahi
the smallest trace of any of the seven commandments which it covers,
and can only suppose that it is a mere flourish of M. Revon’s exuberant
imagination. It will be seen that for the ‘adultery’ of the Decalogue
M. Revon has substituted ‘fornication.’ Is it not a _cas pendable_ to
tamper with the ten commandments in this way? But neither adultery
nor fornication are mentioned in the Ohoharahi. Incest _is_ included
in the latter’s schedule of offences, but, _pace_ M. Revon, incest
and adultery are distinct offences. Theft is _not mentioned_ in the
Ohoharahi. The planting of skewers (of offerings in rice-fields) is one
of its offences, but even if the commentator is right who conjectures
that this was done for a dishonest purpose, I submit that so highly
specific an offence is by no means the same thing as the far more
general theft of the Decalogue. The case of ‘murder’ of the Mosaic
code, and ‘the cutting of living bodies’ of the Ohoharahi is more
complicated. Murder is at the same time more and less comprehensive
than the corresponding Shinto offence. The Jewish prohibition is more
extensive, as it includes murder by poison, strangling, drowning,
etc., and it is more restricted as it omits minor injuries. But there
is a profound difference between the motives which prompted the two
prohibitions. It is the crime of taking away human life which is
condemned in the Decalogue: the Ohoharahi objects to wounds as nasty,
unsightly things, unmeet for a God to look upon or to be in any way
associated with. Self-inflicted wounds, the cutting of dead bodies,
or wounds inflicted by others, caused uncleanness just as much as the
wounding of others. Justifiable homicide required absolution equally
with felonious murder. In a word, the Japanese offence was ritual, the
Jewish moral.

  [2] See his _Shintoisme_, p. 15, _note_.

There are moral elements in the Ohoharahi, but they are scanty, and
M. Revon greatly overestimates their importance. Not only does it
contain no explicit mention of any of the sins of the Decalogue—which
is all that I contended for—but it has hardly anything which even
implicitly condemns them. Shintoists do not deny this feature of their
religion, but claim that the absence of a code of ethics is a proof of
the superior natural goodness of the Japanese nation. It needs no such
artificial aids to virtuous conduct.

=Purity.=—But if ethics are conspicuously absent from Shinto, the
doctrine of uncleanness holds a prominent position. Actual personal
dirt was obnoxious to the gods, as is evidenced by the frequent
mention of bathing and putting on fresh garments before the discharge
of religious functions. Sexual acts of various kinds, such as the
consummation of a marriage, incest (within narrow limits), interference
with virgin priestesses, menstruation and child-birth, were accompanied
with disabilities for the service of the gods. Curiously enough,
adultery, though cognisable by the courts of justice, did not entail
religious uncleanness. Disease, especially leprosy (as in the Mosaic
legislation), wounds and sores involved various degrees of pollution.
The death of a relative, attendance at a funeral, touching a dead
body, pronouncing or executing a capital sentence, all incapacitated a
man temporarily for the discharge of religious duties. Lafcadio Hearn
thought that the _miya_ or shrine was a development of the _moya_ or
mourning house, where the dead bodies of sovereigns and nobles were
deposited until their costly megalithic tombs could be got ready. This
view harmonises nicely with Herbert Spencer’s well-known theories, but
an ancient Shintoist would have considered it not only erroneous, but
blasphemous. As in ancient Greece, the gods had nothing to do with
such a polluting thing as death. Shinto funerals, of which we have
heard a good deal of late, were unknown in ancient Japan. They date
from 1868. Shinto shrines have no cemeteries attached to them. Eating
flesh was formerly not considered offensive to the gods, but later,
under Buddhist influence, it fell under prohibition. The fire with
which impure food was cooked also contracted impurity. To avoid the
danger of such defilement, fresh fire was made by a fire-drill for
all the more important ceremonies. Everything Buddhist, rites, terms,
etc., were at one time placed under a Shinto tabu. When a festival was
approaching, the intending participant was specially careful to avoid
(_imi_) all possible sources of pollution. He shut himself up in his
house, refrained from speech and noise and ate food cooked at a pure
fire. A special _imi_ of one month was observed by the priests before
officiating at the greater festivals. An _imi-dono_ (sacred hall) was
a hall in which purity was observed, _imi_-axes and _imi_-mattocks
were used to cut the first tree and turn the first sod when a sacred
building was to be erected. If, in spite of all precaution, defilement
took place, consciously or unconsciously, various expedients were
resorted to for its removal. Lustration was the most common. After
a funeral, it has been the rule at all periods of Japanese history
for the relatives of the deceased to purify themselves in this way.
Izanagi, after his visit to Hades, washed in the sea. Salt is sometimes
dissolved in the water used for this purpose, and is employed in
other ways to avert evil influences. Spitting, rinsing the mouth, and
breathing on an object to which the impurity is communicated, are
familiar practices. Human figures were sometimes breathed upon and
flung into the sea in order to carry off pollution. In modern times a
gohei is shaken over the person to be purified.

=Ceremonial= is the combination for some specific purpose of the
various elements of worship described above. The great ceremony of the
Shinto religion is that known as the Ohonihe or Daijôwe, which means
‘great-food-offering.’ It is the equivalent of our coronation, and its
cardinal feature was the Mikado’s offering in person to the god or
gods, represented by a cushion, the first rice of the new harvest, and
of sake brewed from it. A modern Japanese writer says:—

  ‘Anciently the Mikado received the auspicious grain from the Gods
 of Heaven, and therewithal nourished the people. In the Daijôwe (or
 Ohonihe) the Mikado, when the grain became ripe, joined unto him the
 people in sincere veneration, and, as in duty bound, made return to
 the Gods of Heaven. He thereafter partook of it along with the nation.
 Thus the people learnt that the grain which they eat is no other than
 the seed bestowed on them by the Gods of Heaven.’

The Ohonihe was a most elaborate and costly function. The preparations
were begun months in advance. In times of scarcity, it had to be
omitted as too great a burden on the nation.

=The Nihiname=, or new-tasting, is the annual harvest festival when the
new season’s rice was first tasted by the Mikado. The Ohonihe was only
a more sumptuous form of it. The English counterpart of the Nihiname
is Lammas, _i.e._ loaf-mass, in which bread made from the new season’s
wheat was used for the first time in the Holy Communion. There was, in
former times, a household as well as an official celebration of this
rite. Strict people will not eat the new rice until it is over.

=The Toshigohi= (praying for harvest) was another important ceremony
of the state religion. Not only the special gods of harvest, but
practically all the divinities were propitiated by offerings, and a
_norito_ recited in their honour, of which the following is a passage:—

  ‘If the Sovran Gods will bestow in ears many a hand’s breadth
 long and ears abundant the latter harvest which they will bestow,
 the latter harvest produced by the labour of men from whose arms
 the foam drips down, on whose opposing thighs the mud is gathered,
 I will fulfil their praises by humbly offering first fruits, of
 ears a thousand, of ears many a hundred, raising up the tops of the
 sake-jars, and setting in rows the bellies of the sake-jars, in
 juice and in ear will I present them, of things growing in the great
 moor-plain, sweet herbs and bitter herbs, of things that dwell in
 the blue sea-plain, the broad of fin and the narrow of fin, edible
 seaweed, too, from the offing and seaweed from the shore, of clothing,
 bright stuffs and shining stuffs, soft stuffs and coarse stuffs—with
 these I will fulfil your praises.’

=Kiu no matsuri= (praying for rain) was a service in which the gods of
eighty-five shrines were asked to send rain. To some of these a black
horse was offered as a suggestion that black rain-clouds would be

=Ohoharahi=, great purification or absolution. This is one of the most
curious and interesting of the great ceremonies of the state religion.
It is often called the Nakatomi no Ohoharahi, because a member of
the Nakatomi priestly clan performed it on behalf of the Mikado. It
was celebrated twice a year, on the last day of the sixth and of the
twelfth month, with the object of purifying the ministers of state,
officials, and people from their ceremonial offences committed during
the previous half year. It was also celebrated on occasions of
national calamity, such as an outbreak of pestilence, or the sudden
death of a Mikado. The offerings made were thrown into a river or the
sea, and were supposed, like the scapegoat of Israel, to carry with
them the sins of the people. The offences more specifically referred
to are various mischievous interferences with agricultural operations,
flaying animals alive, flaying backwards, cutting living or dead
bodies, leprosy and other loathsome disease, incest, calamities from
the high gods and from high birds, and killing animals by bewitchment.
There were also local and individual purifications. In the latter case,
the person to be purified had to pay the expenses of the celebration,
and so a regular system of fines for such offences came into existence.

=Ho-shidzume no matsuri=, or fire-calming-ceremony. The object of this
rite was to deprecate the destruction of the Imperial Palace by fire.
The Urabe made fire with a fire-drill and worshipped it. The service
read is anything but reverent. The Fire-god is reminded that he is ‘an
evil-hearted child’ who caused his mother’s death when he came into the
world, and that she had come back from Hades purposely to provide the
means of keeping him in order. If, however, he would be on his good
behaviour, he should have offerings of the various kinds specified.

Numerous other services are mentioned in the _Yengishiki_, such as the
‘Luck-wishing of the Great Palace,’ the _Michiahe_, which is a phallic
ritual for the prevention of pestilence, a festival in honour of the
Food-goddess, one in honour of the Wind-gods, etc.

=Modern ceremonies.=—At the present day, most of the former elaborate
ritual of Shinto is neglected or shorn of its ancient magnificence. One
of the most important state ceremonies which is still kept up is the
_Naishidokoro_, so-called from the chamber in the palace where it is
performed. It is here that the regalia are kept, consisting of a mirror
which represents the Sun-goddess, a sword, and a jewel or jewels. The
ceremony, which is performed by the Mikado in person, was formerly in
honour of these sacred objects, but is now apparently addressed to
the tablets of the Emperors from Jimmu downwards—an instance of the
progressive development of ancestor-worship in Shinto. In many private
dwellings there is a Kami-dana (god-shelf) where a harahi, consisting
of a piece of wood from the Ise shrine, and tickets with the names of
any gods whom the household has any special reason for worshipping,
are kept. Lafcadio Hearn says that nowadays there is also a Mitamaya
(august-spirit-dwelling), which is a model Shinto shrine placed on a
shelf fixed against the wall of some inner chamber. In this shrine
are placed thin tablets of white wood inscribed with the names of the
household dead. Prayers are repeated and offerings made before them
every day. The annual festivals (_matsuri_) of the Ujigami or local
patron-deity are everywhere important functions. Offerings are made,
and the god, or rather his emblem, is promenaded in a procession which
reminds one of the carnivals of Southern Europe. There are Kagura
performances which go on all day and late into the night. There are
also booths for the sale of toys and sweetmeats, wrestling, fireworks,
races, conjurors and tumblers’ performances. In short, the _matsuri_ is
not unlike an English fair. With the pilgrimages, it does much to help
to keep alive the not very ardent flame of Shinto piety.



=Divination.=—The most ancient official method of divination was
by interpreting the cracks made by fire on the shoulder-blade
of a deer. This process is known in many places from Siberia to
Scotland, in which latter country it is called ‘reading the speal’
(_épaule_). A tortoise-shell was afterwards substituted for the deer’s
shoulder-blade, in imitation of China. There was attached to the palace
a college of diviners whose business it was to ascertain by this means
whether a proposed expedition would be successful, the best site for
a shrine, a tomb, or a dwelling-house, from what provinces the rice
for the Ohonihe should be taken, etc. etc. With private persons,
the Tsuji-ura, or cross-road divination, was a favourite method of
ascertaining the future. The person who wished to consult the god
went out at dusk to a cross-roads and inferred the answer to his
question from the chance words spoken by the first person who made his
appearance. Other kinds of divination were by the sound of a boiling
cauldron, or of a harp, by lots, by beans boiled in gruel, by the head
of a dog or fox that had been starved to death, and by dreams and
omens. Ordeal was practised by fire and boiling water.

=Inspiration.=—There are frequent notices of oracles in the old
records. Legend has preserved an ‘inspired utterance’ given forth
by the Goddess Uzume before the Rock-cave of Heaven to which the
Sun-goddess had retired. It consists of the numerals from one to
ten! The famous legendary invasion of Korea by the Empress Jingo was
suggested by a deity. Oracles had generally reference to the worship of
the god concerned, directing that a shrine should be built for him, or
religious observances inaugurated in his honour. They were sometimes
used for political purposes. There is evidence that the inspired
person, generally a woman, delivered the divine message when in a
hypnotic trance. This is undoubtedly the case at the present time. Mr.
P. Lowell’s _Occult Japan_ gives a detailed description of a séance of
this kind at which he was present. There are mediums in Japan as there
are nearer home, who, for a consideration, will place their customers
in communication with deceased friends or relatives.

Divination and the hypnotic trance are not recognised by modern or
official Shinto.



Buddhism was introduced into Japan in the sixth century, but it had
at first little influence on the native religion. Two centuries
later a process of pacific penetration began which had some curious
and important results. The missionaries of Buddhism applied to the
Shinto gods a principle which had been already adopted in China.
They discovered that whether Nature-gods or Man-gods they were
nothing more than avatars or incarnations of the various Buddhas. The
Sun-goddess, for example, was made out to be Vairochana, the Buddhist
personification of essential _bodhi_ (enlightenment) and absolute
purity; and deified men received the Buddhist titles of _Gongen_
(avatar) or _Bosatsu_ (saint). Iyeyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa
dynasty of Shoguns, is the Gongen-sama _par excellence_.

=Ryôbu Shinto=, which was in practice little more than a form of
Buddhism, was the result of this process. Its principal founder was
the famous Kōbō Daishi. At a later time other similar schools or sects
were originated which drew their inspiration from Chinese philosophy
or from Buddhism. Under these influences the true Shinto was much
neglected. The Mikados themselves, after a few years of reign, shaved
their heads and became Buddhist monks. One of them called himself a
slave of Buddha. The greater Shinto ceremonies were omitted, or worse
still, were performed by Buddhist monks, who also took possession of
many of the Shinto shrines and celebrated Buddhist rites there.

It should not be forgotten that the foreign religion contained valuable
elements unknown to the older Shinto, and that the latter had much to
gain by their absorption. The Ryōbu Shinto inculcated uprightness,
purity of heart, charity to the poor, humanity, and the vanity of mere
outward forms of worship; of all which there is little trace in the
older cult.

=Chinese Learning.=—The civilisation of Japan during the Tokugawa
dynasty of Shōguns (1603-1868) was modelled on Chinese originals.
Its moral ideals were drawn from the writings of the ancient sages
Confucius and Mencius, and the sceptical philosophy of the Sung
dynasty (960-1278). But in the eighteenth century a patriotic reaction
set in, which strove to establish more purely national standards of
ethics and principles of government and religion. This movement, known
as the ‘Revival of Pure Shinto,’ was first revealed to Europeans by a
paper contributed by Sir E. Satow to the _Transactions of the Asiatic
Society of Japan_ in 1875. The principal promoters were Motoöri and
his pupil Hirata, two earnest, able, and stupendously learned writers
who devoted their lives to an endeavour by oral teaching and in a
series of voluminous works to the dethronement of the established
Chinese ethics and philosophy in favour of a Shinto purified from
Buddhist and other foreign adulterations of later times. They succeeded
to some extent in this object. It was no doubt partially owing to
their teachings that the Mikado was restored in 1868 to his sovereign
position as the descendant of the Sun-goddess, the Shinto shrines
purified from Buddhist ornaments and practices, and the monks expelled
from them. In reality Motoöri and Hirata’s movement was a retrograde
one. The old Shinto, which they wished to restore, could not possibly
hold its own as the national faith of a people familiar with the
far higher religious and moral ideas of India and China, not to
speak of civilised Europe. Without a code of morals, or an efficient
ecclesiastical organisation, with little aid from the arts of painting,
sculpture, and architecture, and with a sacred literature scanty and
feeble compared with those of its foreign rivals, Shinto is doomed
to extinction. Whatever the religious future of Japan may be, Shinto
will assuredly have little place in it. Such meat for babes is quite
inadequate as the spiritual food of a nation which in these latter days
has reached a full and vigorous manhood.


 1. _History of Japan_, by Engelbert Kaempfer, 1727-1728. Worthless for

 2. _Nippon Archif._, 1897 (new edition), by P. F. von Siebold. Good
 when first published, but superseded by later works, in so far as
 Shinto is concerned.

 3. _Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan._

 (_a_) A series of papers on ‘The Revival of Pure Shinto’ and ‘Ancient
 Japanese Rituals,’ by Sir Ernest Satow. 1874-81. The serious student
 may safely neglect all that precedes these epoch-making articles.

 (_b_) The _Kojiki_, translated by B. H. Chamberlain, 1883. Accurate,
 indispensable for myth.

 (_c_) _Ancient Japanese Rituals._ The _Ohoharahi_, with translation
 and notes by Dr. Karl Florenz, 1899. Valuable.

 4. _Transactions of the Japan Society._ the _Nihongi_, Translated By
 W. G. Aston, 1896. Similar in Scope To The _Kojiki_.

 5. _Japan, an Appreciation_, by Lafcadio Hearn, 1904. Sympathetic
 insight, admirable style, blind acceptance of H. Spencer’s philosophy,
 imperfect knowledge. His outlook is seen at its best in the recently
 published _Life and Letters_ (Constable, 1907).

 6. _The Mikado’s Empire_, by W. E. Griffis. Useful for some aspects of
 modern Shinto, and the Folk-lore associated with it.

 7. _The Religions of Japan_, by W. E. Griffis, 1895. Shows the
 relations of Shinto to Buddhism and Confucianism.

 8. _The Development of Religion in Japan._ Lectures by G. W. Knox,
 1907. Judicious and up-to-date.

 9. _German Asiatic Society of Japan. Japanische Mythologie_, by Dr.
 Karl Florenz. 1901. A good German translation of the mythological part
 of the _Nihongi_, with useful notes.

 10. _Japan and China_, by Captain Brinkley. 1903. Throws light on some
 aspects of modern Shinto.

 11. _Murray’s Japan_, by B. H. Chamberlain and W. B. Mason. 7 ed. 1903.

 12. _Things Japanese_, by B. H. Chamberlain. 5 ed. 1905.

 13. _Shintoisme_, by M. Revon, in the _Revue de l’Histoire des
 Religions_, 1905-1907. Highly recommended for its up-to-date theory,
 and as a comprehensive collection of facts.

 14. _Shinto_, by W. G. Aston, 1905. Of similar scope to the present
 work, but more comprehensive.

 15. _Ancestor Worship and Japanese Law_, by Nobushige Hodzumi. 1901.

 16. _A Fantasy of Far Japan_, by Baron Suyematsu. 1905. These two
 works represent the attitude of modern Japanese towards the old Shinto.

 17. A _Bibliography of the Japanese Empire_ (1895). Gives a classified
 list of books, essays, and maps in European languages relating to
 Japan. Tolerably comprehensive, but inaccurate.

Printed in Great Britain by T. and A. CONSTABLE LTD. at the Edinburgh
University Press

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber’s Notes

Obvious typographical errors have been silently corrected. Variations
in hyphenation, accents, spelling and punctuation remain unchanged.

Italics are represented thus _italic_, bold thus =bold=.

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