Commonly known as Japan’s indigenous religion, Shinto is in fact an umbrella-word that refers to a wide range of religious phenomena, philosophical teachings, and ritual systems that span the entire history of Japanese culture, from imperial ceremonies to village folklore, from activities at Shinto shrines to new religious organizations, from complex philosophical arguments involving Japanese myths and traditions, Buddhist religiosity, and Chinese thought to controversial arguments about Japanese nationalism.
The University of California, Santa Barbara is one of the few academic institutions in the entire world where it is possible to carry out research on the Shinto tradition in its diversity on the basis of innovative approaches from religious studies and cultural analysis.
The International Shinto Foundation Endowed Chair in Shinto Studies was established at UCSB in 1997. The first chair holder was Professor Allan Grapard, the renowned scholar of Japanese sacred space and Shinto-Buddhist interactions. The second and current chair holder, professor Fabio Rambelli, works on the history of the Shinto tradition from the perspective of geopolitics of culture, on the impact of Tantric Buddhism and Chinese thought on Shinto-Buddhist interactions, and on larger issues of religion, cultural identity, and politics in Japan.
The International Shinto Foundation Endowed Chair in Shinto Studies, among other activities, organizes lectures and cultural events on campus related to the history of Shinto and Japanese religions in general and provides financial support to graduate students in Shinto Studies and Japanese religions and intellectual history.