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SMkichi Tsuda — is perhaps the bestknown critical historian of Shinto and early Japanese history to have run afoul of governmental authorities for demonstrating that the historical chronology of the ancient imperial chronicles was unreliable. Kuroda Toshio —93 , for his part, argued persuasively that Shinto and Buddhism were institutionally intertwined through most of Japanese history. The organizational structure of Shinto has varied greatly over time and from place to place.
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The early kami cults were local and independent in nature. Over time some shrines or shrine-temple multiplexes began to establish networks of branch shrines. This led to different "schools" of Shinto for example, Yoshida Shinto having their own organizational structures. At various points in history Japan's central government also sought to organize, and exercise control over, religious institutions. The Heianperiod Engishiki listed 22 shrines in rank order, with Ise at the top. The later establishment of a system relating specific shrines to the imperial shrines of Ise is another example of how these institutions were organized.
This section will discuss the general internal organization of Shinto shrines today and the current national organizational structure. This group represents the collective interests of the shrines in the political and legal spheres; it also takes the lead in handling public relations , both domestically and internationally. The association publishes a newspaper or newsletter, distributed to all members and to subscribers, which serves as the main vehicle for representing Shinto as a whole to the shrines themselves and to the world. The association also ranks shrines, as well as priests, in a hierarchy with the imperial shrines at Ise ranked at the top, as might be expected.
The Jinja honchM is intimately involved in priestly appointments and licenses priests through examinations. Shrines dedicated to the kami Inari have their own organization and are not members of the Jinja honchM. Locally, priestly ranks are color coded, with the color of a priest's hakama silk pantaloons indicating his status. For example, in some shrines the head priest wears purple hakama with insignia; an assistant head priest wears purple with no insignia; and others wear light blue.
Nationally, priests may be awarded one of four ranks, usually based on length of service, which are distinct from an individual's local rank and status. All shrine priests are ordained after requisite studies at either Kogakkan University in Ise or Kokugakuin University in Tokyo. The latter was originally established as an institution dedicated to kokugaku, or nativist studies.
Most Shinto shrines should be thought of as both buildings and the sacred sites on which these stand. This is because Shinto worship does not require physical structures to house the kami. Indeed, most of the earliest religious sites in the Japanese archipelago were holy sites where contact with the deities was possible. In prehistoric Japan circular arrangements of stones around a vertical pillar sometimes marked such spots. At other times trees or rocks demarcated such holy places.
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In presentday Japan himorogi sacred sites are demarcated by straw-plaited ropes shimenawa , which are decorated with branches from evergreen sakaki trees and paper strips shide. Kami are also regularly worshiped in open spaces known as iwasaka.
Priests are not in residence at all shrines; rather, there are innumerable small and miniature shrines throughout Japan where a Shinto priest might occasionally be called to perform a ritual but where more often laypersons offer their own prayers. Small, unattended shrines are also sometimes found in the midst of rice paddies, where the farmers offer their own prayers to the ta no kami rice paddy kami for a successful harvest.
Visitors to the roofs of Japanese department stores, where carnival rides and in the summer beer gardens are located, will also often find miniature Shinto shrines, where rites of blessing and purification are occasionally performed by priests engaged for these services. Shrines may also be found in the wedding halls of hotels and department stores.
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All of these different forms represent places where the kami were and are ritually invited to descend in order to receive worship and prayers for practical, this-worldly concerns. Shinto shrine buildings differ in architectural style. Some styles are named after the most famous shrines where they were used, such as the Gion, Hie, Hachiman, Kasuga, and Sumiyoshi styles.
More readily recognizable as a distinctly Shinto architectural feature are the torii, or gate markers, at the entrances to shrine grounds. Torii generally consist of two upright pillars with two cross beams, which may be straight or curved. There is usually at least one torii at each entrance to the shrine grounds, although there can be more.
Some shrines have a corridor of torii—sometimes consisting of hundreds of these gates—through which visitors walk. Individuals, families, businesses, or confraternities donate funds to purchase the torii, as well as the stone lanterns that dot the pathways. In addition, they may create endowments for the upkeep of the torii.
Translating the term kami, which is used to refer to Shinto divinities, has been a persistent problem, especially because Shinto concepts of divinity are different from Western ones. Etymologically the term means "high" or "superior," but in usage it refers more generally to all beings, places, and things that provoke a sense of awe or reverence in human beings. The eighteenth-century nativist scholar Motoori Norinaga offered one of the most famous definitions: "Generally speaking, 'kami' denotes, in the first place, the deities of heaven and earth that appear in the ancient texts and also the spirits enshrined in the [Shinto] shrines; further-more, among all kinds of beings—including not only human beings but also such objects as birds, beasts, trees, grass, seas, mountains, and so forth—any being whatsoever which possesses some eminent quality out of the ordinary, and is awe-inspiring, is called kami.
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Shrine and temple grounds are often islands of green in the concrete jungle of modern industrial and urban centers in contemporary Japan. Visitors to Shinto shrines in urban centers are often struck by the atmosphere created by the mature trees, mosses, and ferns and the play of light and shadow surrounding the shrine buildings. It is important, however, to recognize the extent to which the contemporary religio-aesthetic experience of Shinto shrine grounds is shaped by the contrasting experience of the surrounding space. The sense of sacredness is not necessarily the same over time.
Prior to the industrial age, the green space around Shinto shrines would not have been anything of special note or distinction, for most of the countryside was forested. It was only after the processes of industrialization and urbanization had covered over much of the green space in the cities of Japan that Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples became places where one could commune with nature.
It is a mistake—indeed, a form of anachronism—to project the modern concept of "nature" and a modern spiritual feeling for nature into the past. To be sure, many modern Japanese and Western scholars have made much of Shinto's being a nature religion or a "green" religion, with a built-in ecological sensitivity, but this characterization has been overdone. When this view is offered by Shinto priests and Japanese nationalists, it represents, at best, an overly romantic self-image and, at worst, a crass attempt to deflect attention from the extensive environmental destruction that Japanese industrialization and capitalist economic growth policies, which were not opposed by the Shinto establishment, have caused domestically and internationally.
When Western scholars offer this representation of Shinto, they are participating either in an unexamined parroting of Japanese claims or in the continuing Western romanticization of an enchanted "traditional Japan" that, it is implied, is somehow still accessible.
The assumption that nature is the same over time and in all places may be true in a pedantic sense the sun and the moon are the same celestial objects everywhere, for example , but it is misleading in more important ways. The religious significance of, say, the rising and setting of the sun or the waxing and waning of the moon varies considerably not only among different cultures but over time within a given culture as well. Shinto kami are associated with phenomena of various sorts.
Specific natural sites are considered to be sacred, including mountains, volcanoes, rivers and streams, rocks, waterfalls, caves, natural springs, ponds, and groves or individual trees. Some kami are identified with certain types of locations, such as roads, crossroads, paddy fields ta no kami , and even toilets. Natural phenomena—including the wind, lightning, the sun, the moon, and the stars—also have kami associated with them. It is misleading, however, to suggest that Shinto is a nature religion, for many kami are not natural phenomena, nor is everything in the natural world sacred.
In order to define kami, some Western scholars have had recourse to Rudolf Otto's famous phenomenological definition of "the numinous" in his book Das Heilige ; The Idea of the Holy  , but again the parallel is far from exact. For Otto "the holy," or the numinous, involves a sense of the wholly other ganz ander ; many kami, however, are immanent in this world or, indeed, a part of it.