Kate Wildman Nakai

Shrine, Church, and State in Prewar Japan
The Catholic Church and Shinto, 1858-1936

  • Datum: Di, 6. Nov. 2012, 17:00—19:00
  • Ort: Zentrum für Asienwissenschaften, Seminarraum 1 (Erdgeschoß)
  • Apostelgasse 23, 1030 Wien
  • Organisation: Bernhard Scheid

Thema/ Topic

The Catholic Church’s position on Shinto shifted significantly between the return to missionary activity in Japan in the mid-nineteenth century and the 1930s. From the 1850s onward, the Church put Shinto-related practices, including visiting or worshiping at shrines (jinja sanpai), together with Buddhist rites as expressions of superstition forbidden to Catholic believers. Until the first decade of the twentieth century, however, missionaries seem to have seen jinja sanpai as a minor issue compared to the challenges presented by their Buddhist and Protestant rivals and by the reluctance of many “hidden Christians” to return to orthodox Catholicism. In the 1910s this situation changed. New government emphasis on jinja sanpai as a school activity led to friction with Christian (and some Buddhist) groups, who argued that requiring sanpai contravened the Meiji Constitution’s guarantee of religious freedom. Government authorities countered that jinja sanpai was not “religious” but an expression of patriotic respect. For foreign Catholic missionaries and for native clergy and lay leaders alike dealing with this situation became a major preoccupation.

From the 1910s to the 1930s, the mainstream within the Japanese Church remained adamant in its rejection of government arguments and refusal to countenance any form of participation in shrine rites by Catholics. Some sought grounds for accommodation, however, and in the wake of a series of clashes over jinja sanpai in the late 1920s and early 1930s that threatened to undermine the Church’s place in Japan, these latter voices came to the fore. The result was a step-by-step reversal of the Church’s view of jinja sanpai, culminating in 1936 in the Vatican’s formal endorsement of it, as per the Japanese government interpretation, as a civil expression of patriotic respect in which the faithful should be encouraged to join. These developments over seven decades provide an occasion to consider questions of cultural and religious encounter and the process of intellectual change, as well as the more historically specific issues of the nature of “State Shinto” and the place of Christianity in modern Japan.

Vortragende/ Speaker

Kate Wildman Nakai, professor emerita at Sophia University, is widely known as a long-time editor of Monumenta Nipponica, one of the leading non-Japanese-language journals in the field of Japanese Studies, and as a Professor of Japanese history at Sophia University, Tokyo. Earlier, she held teaching posts at Harvard and the University of Oregon. Her field of research is intellectual history focusing on discourses about Japan in the Early Modern Period. Particularly well-known are her studies on Arai Hakuseki and on various aspects of the late Mito school. She is currently engaged in a study of the 1932 Sophia University–Yasukuni Shrine incident and the late Edo and Meiji history of Shinto.