Hayashi Makoto

Comparative observations on Shugendō, Shintō, Onmyōdō


It has been assumed that since Shugendō, Shintō and Onmyōdō studies have so far all been conducted separately, there had been little interest for each other. However, because in premodern religious history, shugenja, Shintō priests, masters of Onmyōdō were acknowledged through a common and systematic framework of governance via main temples and religious institutions, it is easy to conduct comparative research. In this presentation, I intend to give a comparative outline of the Sengoku and the early modern period in five points:

  1. With regard to the formation of the Honzan and Tōzan branches, as well as of Yoshida Shintō, the Sengoku period (end of 15th – 16th c.) is important, but not for Onmyōdō. I believe that the rise of Honzan, Tōzan and the Yoshida house can be seen in the light of the decline of exo-esoteric Buddhism. The particularity of Onmyōdō is that it did not interact with exo-esoteric Buddhism.
  2. With the Edict on Shugendō in 1613 and the Edict on shrine priests in 1665, the Tokugawa bakufu formalized the governance of religious professionals, which main temples and religious institutions had already put in place. In the case of the governance system adopted by the Tsuchimikado household, it was ratified in 1683 through a private message from the emperor and an official document from the shogunate.
  3. As for reproduction of identity, shugenja derived their identity from the mountain-entry rituals, while Shintō priests used Shintō rituals. In the case of Yin Yang masters there was no a specific ritual heritage to which they could refer.
  4. Under the influence of the Edo period terauke system, which imposed a certification by Buddhist temples of their parishioners, all Buddhist professionals were forced to develop Buddhist funerals. Shugenja and Shintō priests started performing their own funerary rituals toward the end of the Edo period, whereas Yin Yang masters never developed an independent type of funerals.
  5. In the modern period, Shintō priests were reorganized under the supervision of state institutions, and Shintō rituals were standardized in order to support State-Shintō. In 1870, Onmyōdō was abolished and Yin Yang masters disappeared. Shugendō was declared illegal in 1872, and shugenja became Shingon or Tendai monks. Nevertheless, around 1900, Shugendō saw a process of revival. Specialized reviews such as Jinben started to be published, networks of shugenja were reconstituted, and a section dedicated to Shugendō texts — “Shugendō shōso” — was included in the Nihon daizōkyō.