- Shinto scholarship
- For early scholarship on Shinto see Kokugaku. The academic study of Shinto in the 20th century has been carried out mainly by Shinto theologians, often priests, affiliated to Shinto training institutions such as Kokugakuin or Kogakkan universities in Japan. Before 1945 they were official ideologues for the emperor-system, promoting Shinto ideas which clarified the relationship of the emperor to the people, and of Japan to its colonies and the rest of the world. In the postwar period their role has largely been to promote a positive image of Shinto as something different in character from prewar 'state Shinto' while at the same time retaining the idea that Shinto has a special and coherent role in Japanese society. This has involved stressing the vague or 'hidden' nature of Shinto spirituality, its undogmatic and benign character, its love of nature, its beautiful shrines and enjoyable festivals, its immeasurable antiquity as a component of 'Japaneseness' and its difference from Buddhism. The shock of disestablishment and the discrediting of pre-1945 Shinto thought meant that there was for some decades after the war little significant international academic interest in Shinto compared with the study of Buddhism and Japanese new religions. With economic ascendancy, diminishing memories of the second world war and widespread popular interest in 'Japaneseness' there has been renewed political and academic interest in Shinto in Japan and overseas since the 1980's. In contrast to the predominantly theological views which characterised Shinto studies in the past, recent historical and critical studies of Shinto have aimed to deconstruct the notion of Shinto as an ancient and indigenous Japanese 'Way' by analysing the meaning of the term 'Shinto' in different periods, stressing the importance of Buddhism as the dominant religious strand throughout recorded Japanese religious history, approaching pre-Buddhist Japanese religion without the presumption that it was 'Shinto' and giving proper attention to the interaction between 'Shinto' elements and Confucianism, Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, modern secular ideologies and the multitude of dissenting and sectarian Japanese traditions most of which predate Shinto as it is currently understood and practised. (See Introduction)
A Popular Dictionary of Shinto. Brian Bocking.