Shinto : A History

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From time immemorial, the Japanese people have worshipped Kami-spirits that inhabit or represent a particular place, or embody natural forces like the wind, rivers, and mountains. Whenever a new settlement was founded a shrine would be erected for the spirits of that place to honor them and ensure their protection. It was believed that Kami could be found everywhere, that no place in Japan was outside their dominion. Shinto encompasses the doctrines, institutions,
ritual, and communal life based on Kami worship. The ideal of Shinto, central to this study, is a construct in which a monarch rules through rituals for the Kami, a priestly order assists the sovereign by coordinating rituals, and the people who fulfill their obligations to the collective are in turn
blessed by the Kami. Center and periphery join together in untroubled harmony through this theatre of state.

Helen Hardacre offers for the first time in any language a sweeping, comprehensive history of Shinto, which is practiced by some 80% of the Japanese people. The basic building blocks of this vast and varied tradition, she shows, include the related concepts of imperial rule and ritual, the claim that rituals for the Kami are public in character, and the assertion that this complex web of ideas and institutions devoted to the Kami embodies Japan's "indigenous" tradition. This study addresses the
story of the emergence and development of these elements and the debates that surround them to this day.

Because Shinto is centered on the Kami, it might be assumed that it is a religion, but Hardacre resists that assumption, instead questioning the character of the tradition at each stage of its history. She analyzes and deconstructs the rhetoric of Shinto as a defining feature of Japan's racial identity, inextricably woven into the fabric of Japanese life. This definitive study represents a first, momentous step towards a more developed understanding of Shinto.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 720 pages
  • 161 x 241 x 38mm | 1,140g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0190621710
  • 9780190621711
  • 658,097

Table of contents


Chapter One: Shinto in the Ancient Period
Chapter Two: The Kami in Myth
Chapter Three: The Coalescence of Early Shinto
Chapter Four: Shinto During the Middle and Late Heian Period, Tenth Through Twelfth Centuries
Chapter Five: The Esotericization of Medieval Shinto
Chapter Six: Medieval Shinto and the Arts
Chapter Seven: The Late Medieval Period
Chapter Eight: Early Edo-Period Shinto Thought and Institutions
Chapter Nine: Edo Period Shrine Life and Shrine Pilgrimage
Chapter Ten: Shinto and Revelation
Chapter Eleven: Shinto and Kokugaku
Chapter Twelve: Shinto and the Meiji State
Chapter Thirteen: Shinto and Imperial Japan
Chapter Fourteen: Shinto From 1945 Through 1989
Chapter Fifteen: Shrine Festivals and their Changing Place in the Public Sphere
Chapter Sixteen: Heisei Shinto

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Review quote

Descriptions of Shinto's influence on art and culture in the medieval era and in popular culture today enrich the readers understanding of Shinto's importance in Japanese society. Although the book is immense, it is also immensely readable, even for non-specialists. * Nova Religio * At nearly seven hundred pages, it is difficult to think of any adjective other than "magisterial" to describe Hardacre's new survey on Shinto... As the single most comprehensive book on Shinto, Hardacre's book is a must-read...her focus on the problems of indigeneity and the public/private distinction moves the field forward considerably. * Jolyon B. Thomas, H-Net Reviews * Hardacre's achievement in this work will be hard to supersede. This book could be used in all kind of courses, from introductory or advanced undergraduate to graduate seminars, not only on Japanese religions but Japanese culture in general and even on comparative subjects. Students will benefit from the comprehensive and in-depth narration, while the book provides ample clues and opportunities for additional research and revisions. Shinto: A History, which
in its comprehensive and encyclopedia nature does not even have a counterpart in Japanese, is a scholarly milestone that will orient for years the study of Shinto and Japanese religions as a whole. * Fabio Rambelli, Journal of Religion in Japan * Her portrayal of the history of Shinto is based on decades of her own research, and undoubtedly this work will occupy the rank of a standard work for a long time, both for students and specialists in the field. Shinto research will benefit greatly as a whole. After the turning point marked by the revolutionary approach of Kuroda Toshio, international research on Shinto has since then led to a sometimes ideological dogmatization of what might be said and not. Helen
Hardacre's book gives a fresh breath to the debate, which can only deepen our further understanding of the still-puzzling topic of Shinto. * Klaus Antoni, Journal of Religion * This brilliant study... is a welcome addition... a source of valuable teaching material, and more in general a must-read * Ugo Dessi, Religious Studies Review * Shinto: A History is a well written and interesting book, worth the time of readers with an interest in Shinto or Japanese history in general. * Kenneth J. Valencich, Reading Religion *
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About Helen Hardacre

Helen Hardacre is Reischauer Institute Professor of Japanese Religions and Society at Harvard University. Concentrating on Japanese religious history of the modern period, she has done extended field study of contemporary Shinto and Buddhist religious organizations, the religious life of Japan's Korean minority, and contemporary ritualization of abortion. She has also researched State Shinto and directs a research project on constitutional revision
in Japan.
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