Religious Freedom Under State Shinto

Read Complete Research Material

Religious Freedom under State Shinto

Religious Freedom under State Shinto


In the Empire of Japan, State Shinto has been considered as the state religion. Over the period of 1868-1945, Shinto elements remained among the most overt, for providing state control and influence. Under State Shinto, Government of Japan used to control the religion, which is not the case in most of the countries (Sumimoto, 2000). In 1947, the Government interference in the religious affairs was restricted through the constitution; however Shinto can never be separated from Japanese people and Japan. The people still follow Shinto rituals and rites, they visit shrines and many marriages are executed in the Shinto style. Today, Japan provides the people with full freedom of practicing Shinto beliefs or any other religion; the people are even allowed to be a part of two religious groups at a same time. This paper will prove that religious freedom is provided to the public under current State Shinto, as it is supported with the articles of Japanese Constitution.

State Shinto: The Emperor Worship

Shinto was initially influenced by several religions including Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism. The Shinto religion, in its pure form was quite adaptable and provides the people with religious freedom along with the liberty of thoughts. In the late 19th century, the religion was polluted by the states to achieve their political goals. Under State Shinto, the emperor was made to worship in order to achieve greater control of the population of country. This strategy was first utilized when during the period of 1868-1912; the Meiji Government had to face the internal challenge of managing civil discontent at large extent. At the same time, the government also had to face the external challenge of negotiating with external powers (Sumimoto, 2000). In this situation, the new government methodology supported the country by strengthening the cultural identity, modernizing the political economy, and consolidating the loyalty for nation. The priests and religious scholars were given government positions and financial support; thus the emperor centered Shinto beliefs were integrated into the power structure. Eventually, nearly all of the priests became government officials, and State Shinto turned into a government institution. Japanese schools also promoted the ideas of State Shinto heavily (BBC, 2009). The regime also attempted to weak the culturally strong position of Buddhist religion, as this religion contradicted with the national goals of Meiji government

Post War Religious Control

After the Second World War, State Shinto was put to an end officially. The three documents including Disestablishment of State Shinto directive, post war constitution and The Imperial Rescript renouncing Divinity governed the disestablishment of State Shinto. These documents mainly aimed at purifying the religion, which was once practiced cleanly, and afterward was polluted due to the political reasons. The documents did not aim at destroying the State Shinto, but to prevent the military and political actions from preventing the religion.

Although State Shinto is no more a state religion for Japan, but a large part of Japanese population still consider as their national ...