Shinto and death

From cultural roots to contemporary thought

Authored by: Stuart D. B. Picken

The Routledge Companion to Death and Dying

Print publication date:  May  2017
Online publication date:  May  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138852075
eBook ISBN: 9781315723747
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315723747.ch15

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Abstract

Shinto is less associated with death in Japan than Buddhism. However, while Japanese Buddhism became the religion of the funeral, known colloquially as ?????, ososhiki Bukkyo (“funeral Buddhism”) it did so in order to come to terms with the amorphous agglomeration of local cults it encountered, spoken of collectively as Shinto (? ?, the way of the kami). Joseph Kitagawa (1966: 85) commented: “Some people hold that Japan became a Buddhist country during the Heian period (794–1185), when Buddhism in effect absorbed Shinto. Yet, is it not equally true that Buddhism surrendered to the ethos of that nebulous religion of Japan, which lay deeper than the visible religious structure, commonly referred to as Shint?” That was the price of Buddhism’s acceptance. Consequently to understand death and dying in modern Japan the logical starting point remains the pre-Buddhist cultural perception of death, since even in Buddhist rituals, the underlying view of death is and remains that of ancient Shinto.

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