Shakaku seido
   Shrine-rank system. The methods for ranking shrines, the number of shrines ranked in any system and the authorities empowered to confer ranks have varied considerably in different periods of Japanese history. Before the Meiji period we cannot speak of a country-wide system, only of some shrines or local deities receiving various kinds of official acknowledgement while the vast majority did not. In the Engi-shiki 2,861 named shrines (now proudly referred to as shikinai-sha, 'shrines in the [Engi]-shiki') were divided into kampeisha, entitled to receive visits from imperial messengers, and kokuheisha, provincial shrines. Further subdivisions of major and minor (dai, sho) shrines reflected the nature of offerings made. Other shrine elites emerged in the Heian period such as the ichi/ni/san-no-miya rankings (see Ichi-no-miya) and the ni-juni-sha or twenty-two shrines in the Kyoto-Ise-Nara region. Before the Meiji period the shinkai ('status of the kami' i.e. of the shrine) could in principle be changed by imperial decree. From 1665 the authority to recognise a shrine or raise the rank of its kami (its shinkai) was in most cases, that is outside the imperial court itself, the responsibility of the Yoshida family whose decisions were made in response to petitions and donations from supporters of a shrine. The study of shinkai provides interesting insights into the rise and fall in popularity of individual shrines before the Meiji period. In the years just before the Meiji restoration, gaining official recognition as a shrine from the Yoshida was an important means for 'Shinto' type new religious movements (such as Konko-kyo) to escape harrassment by local authorities. There was however no reason before 1868 to bring all shrines in the country into a single hierarchical system since (a) the country was divided into virtually autonomous fiefs and (b) kami were not seen as separate from Buddhism, so the status of shrines also depended on their role within Buddhist temple-shrine complexes (jinguji, jisha). A modern, centralised, national shrine-ranking system (properly termed a shakaku seido) with Ise Jingu at its apex was introduced in the Meiji period to underpin 'state Shinto' developments. In 1871/1872 recognised shrines were categorised into 209 'governmental' (kansha) shrines and over 100,000 'general' (shosha) shrines, with subdivisions such as fusha (metropolitan) and sonsha (village) relating to size, importance and location. The effectiveness of the system rested on the separation of shrines from Buddhism (shinbutsu bunri), the identification and as time went on merger of unrecognised shrines (jinja gappei), and the establishment of Shinto as the state cult with consequent government support for recognised shrines (see Kokka Shinto). The government's role in determining the status of shrines ended in 1945 and in its place the Jinja Honcho now governs the ranking of its member shrines, about 90% of shrines in the country (see e.g. Taisha).

A Popular Dictionary of Shinto. .

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