Japanese Beliefs


Zōjō-ji (増上寺); Together with Kan'ei-ji, during the Edo period Zōjō-ji was the Tokugawa's family temple. Tokugawa Ieyasu had the temple moved, first to Hibiya, then in 1590, at the time of expansion of Edo Castle, to its present location.

Buddhism and Shintō under the Tokugawa shogunate

During The Edo period, Jōdo Shinshū Buddhism adapted, along with the other Japanese Buddhist schools, into providing memorial and funeral services for its registered members (檀家制度, dan’ka seido), which was legally required by the Tokugawa shogunate (徳川幕府) in order to prevent the spread of Christianity in Japan. The dan’ka seido system continues to exist today, although not as strictly as in the premodern period, causing Japanese Buddhism to also be labeled as "Funeral Buddhism" since it became the primary function of Buddhist temples. In the 18th century, various Japanese scholars, in particular Motoori Norinaga (本居 宣長, 1730 – 1801), tried to tear apart the "real" Shintō from various foreign influences, the attempt that set the stage for the arrival of state Shintō.

Haibutsu kishaku

Haibutsu kishaku (廃仏毀釈) (lit. abolish Buddhism and destroy Shākyamuni) is a term that indicates a current of thought continuous in Japan's history which advocates the expulsion of Buddhism from Japan.

The abolition of Buddhism during the Meiji Restoration

The haibutsu kishaku (廃仏毀釈, lit. The abolition of Buddhism and the destruction of Shākyamuni) during the Meiji Restoration (明治維新, Meiji Ishin, a chain of events that restored imperial rule to Japan), the most famous instance of the phenomenon, was an event triggered by shinbutsu bunri (神仏分離, the official policy of separation of Shintō and Buddhism) that after 1868 caused great damage to Buddhism in Japan. The violence had just released pent-up popular anger at the Buddhists which had been brewing for a couple of centuries because of their close alliance with the Tokugawa (徳川) in the dan’ka seido; an alliance from which the religion had derived immense benefit. Another factor that explains the violence is that Buddhism was so deeply involved with the shoguns (将軍) that it had become one of its symbols, and therefore an enemy of all the parties who wanted the shogunate's fall. There were definite political and economic motivations too, in that the Meiji government wanted to restore public finances at Buddhists's expense, and the shinbutsu bunri offered a pretext to appropriate Buddhist lands.

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  • The haibutsu kishaku 廃仏毀釈

    More narrowly, it also indicates a particular historic movement and specific historic events based on that ideology which, during the Meiji Restoration, produced the destruction of Buddhist temples, images and texts, and the forced return to secular life of Buddhist monks.