Abstract

This article responds to Jeffrey Perl’s argument (in “Regarding Change at Ise J i ngū,” Common Knowledge, Spring 2008) that, while there is a “paradigm shift” at Ise every twenty years, when the enshrined deity Amaterasu “shifts” from the current site to an adjacent one during the rite of shikinen sengū, the Jingū paradigm itself never changes and never ages. The author confirms Perl’s conclusion by examining the politicized scholarship, written since the 1970s, maintaining that Shinto is a faux religion, invented prior to World War II as a means of unifying Japan behind government policies of ultranationalism and international expansion. This article shows, instead, how emperors—who are not political but religious figures in Japan—and the Jingū priesthood have acted together over the past thirteen hundred years to sustain the imperial shrine at Ise and its ancient rites. The so-called Meiji Restoration actually continued an imperial policy of restoring and intensifying the observance of Shinto rituals that were threatened by neglect. Meiji intervened personally in 1889 to ensure the continuity of hikyoku, an unvoiced and secret serenade to Amaterasu, by extending its venue from the imperial palace shrine to performance at Jingū as well. The author’s archival and ethnographic research at Ise and in the National Archives shows how the arguments that Shinto is a modern invention are punitive rather than dispassionately historical.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4578
Print ISSN
0961-754X
Pages
pp. 484-509
Launched on MUSE
2015-09-30
Open Access
No
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