Bernhard Scheid, Kate Wildman Nakai (eds.), 2013
Kami Ways in Nationalist Territory: Shinto Studies in Prewar Japan and the West. (BKGA 78.) Wien: VÖAW, 2013 (order online). (277 + xi S.)

Reading example: Introduction


Shinto, literally the way of the kami (gods), is often regarded as Japan’s indigenous religion retaining archaic elements of animism and nature worship. At the same time, Shinto is sometimes seen as nothing else than a nationalistic political ideology. After all, in 1868 Japan turned into a modern nation state and worship at Shinto shrines became a national cult. This so-called State Shinto was eventually abolished under the Allied Occupation in 1946 but the historical links between Shinto and Japanese nationalism led to an ambivalent attitude towards Shinto not only at the popular level but also at the level of scientific research.

The present volume comprises eight essays by leading experts of Japanese intellectual history from Japan, Europe, and the USA who tackle this issue from the point of view of research history: What is the impact of State Shinto on Shinto research before and after the Second World War? How did Japanese and international scholars contribute and/or react to the ideological framework of Japanese nationalism? How did nationalist discourses of other countries (in particular German National Socialism) influence the conception of Shinto? As each essay addresses these issues from a specific angle, it becomes clear that there never was just one ideology of State Shinto. Moreover, from the 1880s onward the political authorities emphasized shrine ritual at the cost of Shinto theology. This so-called nonreligious-shrine doctrine also weakened the significance of academic research of Shinto as a tool of propaganda. Regarding the concept of Shinto proper, the impact of modern, “westernized” religious studies seems at least as important as traditional, “nativist” approaches.

Table of contents

  • Introduction: Shinto Studies and the Nonreligious-Shrine Doctrine (Bernhard Scheid)
  • Religion, Secularity, and the Articulation of the “Indigenous” in Modernizing Japan (Isomae Jun’ichi)
  • Nationalism and the Humanities in Modern Japan: Religious, Buddhist, Shinto, and Oriental Studies (Hayashi Makoto)
  • Colonial Empire and Mythology Studies: Research on Japanese Myth in the Early Shōwa Period (Hirafuji Kikuko)
  • Coming to Terms with “Reverence at Shrines”: The 1932 Sophia University–Yasukuni Shrine Incident (Kate Wildman Nakai)
  • Shinto Research and Administration in the First Half of the Twentieth Century: The Case of Miyaji Naokazu (Endō Jun)
  • The Ethnographer, the Scholar, and the Missionary: French Studies on Shinto at the Beginning of the Twentieth Century (Jean-Pierre Berthon)
  • “A Living Past as the Nation’s Personality”: Jinnō Shōtōki, Early Shōwa Nationalism, and Das Dritte Reich (Michael Wachutka)

In Search of Lost Essence: Nationalist Projections in German Shinto Studies (Bernhard Scheid)