- Jinja gappei
- Shrine merger. Also referred to as jinja goshi 'joint enshrinement'. It refers to a process where shrines (and their kami) A and B are 'merged' with shrine C, such that shrine C remains as the place of enshrinement of all the kami, and shrines A and B disappear. Some mergers of shoshi (small, unattended and often private shrines) had been undertaken in the kokugaku stronghold of Mito and elsewhere before the Meiji period but the term jinja gappei is generally understood to mean the late Meiji government's massive programme of merging assorted local shrines with a district's main shrine—or what thereby became its main shrine—on the principle of 'one village, one shrine' ('isson issha'). Shrine mergers began in earnest in the early 1900's, with Mie prefecture, the home of the Ise jingu, setting an example for other parts of the country. The policy resulted in the dissolution of around 83,000 shrines in Japan, about half the total number. These were mainly unranked (mukakusha) or district (gosha) shrines but shrines which disappeared included even venerable shikinai-sha in several cases. The policy was unevenly enforced. In Mie prefecture over 90% of shrines disappeared, including nearly two-thirds of the officially recognised 'village shrines' (sonsha). Most of the mergers took place between 1906-1912 but the process continued until the late 1920's. From the government's point of view the object of shrine mergers was to rationalise local administration in order to assist economic progress, especially in the wake of the costly Russo-Japanese war of 1904-6. For some time the authorities had wanted to create larger local district units. 'Merging' shrines was perceived as a way of overcoming traditional divisions by creating a new common loyalty to a shrine among previously independent local communities. Merger also reduced the number of shrines which might claim monetary offerings (shinsen heihakuryo) from the state. At the same time the policy aimed to raise the status of each government-approved shrine and hence the status of Shinto generally by merging into it one or more other shrines. This would make it easier to control shrine activities and bring shrines into the service of the state. The ideal was to make shrine parishes fit local authority units of administration such as large villages or city wards. In practice shrine merger meant the demolition of buildings and transfer or disposal of the land of the minor shrine. Only the shintai remained, to be ritually transferred to the remaining shrine. Although minor kami joining the main shrine might in theory enjoy an enhanced status, parishioners of the destroyed shrine had to become new and hence lower status ujiko of a shrine with which they had no previous affiliation and which might be some distance away. Moreover the kami of a small shrine was often thought of simply as the sacredness of that particular locality, and a locality does not move. Many people saw merger as the isolation of their local kami in a distant place. The shrine merger policy was carried through despite a good deal of public opposition and criticism. It generated efforts among some local communities even in the prewar period unofficially to restore their lost shrines or to maintain buildings at the site as places for yohaijo ('worship from afar') of their removed deity. In some cases local authorities acted under the law to 'restore' to a local shrine the officially sanctioned kami of the main merged shrine (see Jinja fukkyu). Shrine merger was a cause of considerable concern amongst Shinto priests, mainly because the shrine mergers rode roughshod over traditional social, economic and religious networks reflected in the location of shrines, and priests were expected to justify the mergers. In the postwar period there have been many cases of re-establishment of lost shrines in their original settings, or the development of locally-administered rites or festivals within the area previously covered by the shrine. Nevertheless the religious map of Japan was again radically changed by jinja gappei, as it had previously been by the shinbutsu bunri of 1868.
A Popular Dictionary of Shinto. Brian Bocking.