It is not such a long time ago that Shinto was widely regarded as a timeless feature of Japaneseness, affected by historical change only on a superficial level. Recently, however, a range of scholars have sought to overcome such essentialism by putting the abstract concept of Shinto to one side, and focusing instead on the impact of Shinto on selected sites, rites, and myths at specific historical junctions. By restoring the concrete contexts of “Shintoization,” such studies expose the historicity of supposedly timeless practices and notions and reveal the motivations and strategies of human agents both in adopting or imposing Shintoization in the real world, and indeed in developing the concept of Shinto in the first place.
To a great extent, Shintoization has taken the form of assimilation to the imperial shrines of Ise. Ise, however, is itself not an a-historical phenomenon. In post-Meiji times, new visions of Shinto have been applied most drastically to Ise, and the site has then served as a model for similar reforms at other shrines. Ise, therefore, has not only been a passive object of Shintoization, but also the main pioneer and referent of the concept of Shinto itself. In fact, “Shinto” was first conceptualized at Ise, by Ise priests.
In this talk, I will pinpoint the concrete historical circumstances in Ise surrounding the early emergence of some fundamental Shinto orientations, leading to the first tentative conceptualization of Shinto in the Kamakura period.
Mark Teeuwen, professor of Japanese studies at Oslo University, is one of the leading experts of the premodern history of Shinto. Starting from the intellectual history of Watarai (or Ise) Shinto, he is currently working on a history of the Ise Shrines, combining religious, political, and institutional history of one of Japan’s most important religious sites. He received his PhD from Leiden (1996) and lectured at the University of Wales Cardiff 1994–99. His numerous works on Japanese religious history include, most recently, A New History of Shinto (Blackwell 2010, with John Breen).