View Full Version : Another question

9th May 2001, 10:35
Something that I have been wondering is, what influence does shinto have on the Japanese Martial Arts?

I have read about the influence of Buddhism, but where do the local religious traditions play a role?

On a similar note, I am working towards becoming a more active participant in Shinto; what does this entail, and where could I find shrines? Also, what resources would be useful for me to check out?

I already have "Shinto: The Kami Way," by Sokyo Ono (published by Charles E. Tuttle Co. Rutland, VT & Tokyo, JP; ISBN 0-8048-1960-2).


Karl Friday
11th May 2001, 15:50
Originally posted by Aicerno
Something that I have been wondering is, what influence does shinto have on the Japanese Martial Arts?

My book, Legacies of the Sword (Hawaii, 1997) is a good place to start for information on this topic. You can also follow up on some of the sources I cited there. "Shinto" seems, BTW, to have become something of a dirty word among specialists in Japanese religious studies, at least in reference to religious practices prior to the modern period. The reason for this is that the use of the term promotes the idea of a distinct body of doctrine that existed in parallel to or in syncretic combination with the various schools of Buddhism. The reality is that medieval and early modern Japanese religion was mainly locale-specific, centered on local religious institutions--shrines or temples--associated with various kami or Buddhist divinities. (For more on this, check out Allan Grapard's Protocol of the Gods (UC Press, 1992) or his "Religious Practices" chapter in volume 2 of the Cambridge History of Japan.)

A number of bugei ryuha that developed in the Kanto area have close associations with the Kashima or Katori Grand Shrines. In modern times proponents of those styles (particularly nationalistic types, like the late Kunii Zen'ya of the Kashima-Shinryu) have characterized this connection in terms of their arts being grounded in "shinto" beliefs. But the distinction is anachronistic, and somewhat misleading--the notion that his style was based on "shinto" would probably not have meant anything to most medieval and early modern practitioners of these arts.

Earl Hartman
12th May 2001, 01:47
Dr; Friday:

That reminds me of an experience I had in Japan.

I was walking home from kyudo practice in the evening, when I heard what sounded like shrine music coming from down the street. I looked and saw some lanterns hanging at the entrance of a building, where sat a couple of old guys in yukata (it was summer or spring, and pretty warm). They saw me and motioned me to come over, saying "O-miki, O-miki!" (sake which has been blessed by the kami, or something along those lines, although I didn't know it at the time). Anyway, I got down there and saw that a carport had been converted into a temporary shrine, which, in addition to the O-mikoshi, was filled with offerings of sake and food. I asked what was going on and was informed that it was the annual festival of the uji-gami that protected that particular neighborhood. The shrine would be carried around the borders of the area it protected to effect divine protection for the coming year, after which everyone would repair to the shrine for plays and dancing with religious themes, in addition to all of the normal fun and games associated with shrine festivals (cotton candy, broiled squid on a skewer, roast corn, and goldfish catching).

Aha, I though, I am finally learning first-hand about Shinto, real Japanese religion, about which everyone had given me blank stares, much sucking of teeth and innumerable "Sssa-a-a-a-s" when I had innocently asked "Can you tell me about Shinto beliefs?"

When I thanked the old men for teaching me about Japanese religion (shukyo), they looked perplexed, waved their hands in front of their faces rapidly, and stated emphatically that this was not religion. Obviously, the word "shukyo" must mean only foreign religion or doctrine and does not, in the minds of the Japanese refer to Shinto.

My feeling is that a lot of bugei ryuha were influenced by Shinto. It is just that it was a natural and unconscious influence, and since the Japanese do not think about religion in the way that Westerners do, no one has ever really considered whether or not "religion" has influenced bugei. It has, obviously, I think, but since Shinto is so much of an unconscious part of the warp and woof of Japanese life, nobody had ever thought about trying to explain it to a foreigner. When they do, it is anachronistic, sicne no one ever sat down and said "OK, I will now create a bugei which has Shinto dogma as part of its foundation".

Anyway, just a thought.