Omikuji, Goshuin, and Matsuri : How Social Pressure Transfonns Religious Ritual

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Kim, Younghoon (Richard)
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This paper examines the connection between recent changes in contemporary Shinto and the migration of the Japanese population from rural areas to the larger cities. Today, Shinto is one of the only religions that exists nationwide within a first world country. In Japan, Shinto contains more believers than other major religions - such as Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam. As a native religion of Japan, Shinto reaches beyond the mere religious structure, delving deep into the country's history and culture. However, as the desire to move into more heavily populated areas such as Tokyo and Osaka increases, there has been a great population shift in Japan. This shift has impacted the number of regular visitors to local Shinto shrines, thereby causing all Shinto shrines, both large and small, to change their practices in drastic ways in order to appeal to the modem populace. The connection between Shinto rituals and their believers and how recent population shift has transformed Shinto in contemporary society is a topic that few researchers have pursued. The central concern of this paper is revealing the stated topic through examining actual changes over time in the specific and local environments. It focuses on three examples of Shinto ritual: omikuji, goshuin, and matsuri. These three major rituals are customs that appeal to the masses. Both long-time believers and those who have never participated in a Shinto ritual before may enjoy these three simple activities. The birth of omikuji dates back to 1Oth Century, and goshuin and matsuri date even earlier than that. Revealing the connection between past and present forms of omikuji, goshuin, and matsuri will identify how religious rituals have changed in Shinto because of the changes of its demographic, which is an indirect pressure. Previous research on related topics are limited. Mieko Yamada conducted a study regarding mizuko kuyo, or the water child ritual, in which she focused on the changes within religions based on the society's technological development. Terence Lancashire has done studies stating that local kagura festivals have recently become national attractions. Both blame the change of Shinto within contemporary society on rising tourism and technology -however, these studies never touched on the population changes. Traditional changes in Shinto, from its origin, were mainly brought about by the intentions of a few forces with massive powers, rather than mass-oriented, indirect pressures such as the change of population structure. However, such changes had the nature of locality as well, due to the fact that Shinto is a locally based religion without a strong spiritual governing entity. From the very beginning, Shinto was a local religion. It was clan-based5 and later united through a rough effort from early Japanese governments. However, these earlier movements were completely different from what is known as 'State Shinto' or 'Imperial Shinto' which appears later on; these early movements were nothing but the combining of local mythologies and gods, creating a single theological universe that could appeal to the entire territory. Despite this theological unification, Shinto still had strong locality within its religious structure, such as the existence of different local gods within local mountains. 7 Each Shinto shrine was a unique place that appealed only to believers from its local area. This locality of Shinto gave a free space for each shrine to uniquely adapt and change their structure without a strong authority. In Shinto are no Popes or Dali Lamas. To examine how this aspect actually functions in contemporary society, I selected three different sites for case studies of the first two practices, omikuji and goshuin. The selected shrines are Asatsuma Shrine in Hikone, Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine in Kyoto, and Daikoku in Osaka.
29 p.
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