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This is the fourth volume in a continuing series designed to introduce recent studies on Japanese religion to the international English-speaking audience. The three earlier volumes were Matsuri, New Religions and Folk Beliefs in Modern Japan. For the fourth volume, we selected the concept of kami as the theme.

While Shinto is normally categorized as a form of polytheism, the concept of kami, which is one of the core concepts of Shinto, is quite complicated, so much so that even most Japanese do not grasp it fully. For example, the kami which are systematically compiled in classical documents like Kojiki and Nihon Shoki are different from the gods venerated by people in their daily life. In other cases, kami have been compounded with the buddhas and boddhisattvas of Buddhism throughout the course of Japanese history.

In this volume, we collected five essays originally published in Japanese, hoping that they will provide readers with various dimensions of the concept of kami in Japan. Editor Inoue added an original essay as the introductory chapter, in order to help clarify the general structure of discussions in this book, and translator Havens provided a closing essay in which he discusses various aspects of the kami concept, particularly in relation to its role in the process of religious legitimation.

Itô Mikiharu's paper discusses the issue of how the concept of kami evolved. He refers to a hypothesis that the concepts of chi, mi, and tama took shape together with the concept of kami. He also discusses the integration of kami and coexistence of plural deities. Regarding the relationship between kami and tama, he refers to the thesis of Orikuchi Shinobu, who claimed that although tama was originally an abstract entity, it came to be viewed as having the two aspects of good and evil, namely kami and mono. Itô has provided a general overview of the historical integration of kami, and way in which the the concept of oya kami or "parent kami" developed.

Matsumura Kazuo's paper focuses on female deities in Japanese myths. On confirming that the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki possess no stories independent from foreign myths and share many elements in common with them, he tries to analyze the unique character of Amaterasu who is, of course, one of the most important deities in Japanese myths.

Matsumura concludes that Amaterasu does not reflect the popular conception of an age in which females wielded actual political power, but was depicted as a symbol for the purpose of displaying the orthodoxy of male political powers.

Ueda Kenji's paper discusses various theological issues in Shinto studies, especially concerning the "kami of evil," based primarily on the theories of Motoori Norinaga, the famous Tokugawa-period scholar of Nativism (Kokugaku). After denying the view that Motoori was the first proponent of a theory of Magatsubi no kami as a kami of evil, Ueda analyzes Moroori's discussion of Magatsubi no kami carefully, pursuing it in the effort to make clear how Motoori desired to deal with the problem of "evil." While admitting that Motoori presupposed the existence of a kami of evil, Ueda places stress on the fact that good and evil are mutually relative in Shinto. Ueda concludes that the divine will was not the will of an absolute god, but should be interpreted as the august will of the collective kami of heaven, as the core nature of Shinto.

Sasaki Kiyoshi's paper deals with concepts of kami held by famous Nativist scholars, focusing primarily on Hirata Atsutane and his followers' ideas of kami. It has been claimed by some scholars that Hirata was strongly influenced by the Christian concept of a supreme being when he established his own concept of kami. After considering this theory, Sasaki closely scrutinizes the kami concept as held by Nativist scholars of the Hirata school at the end of the Tokugawa era, in the effort to determine whether they were indeed influenced by the Christian idea of God.

Inoue Nobutaka's paper discusses the concept of kami held by Sano Tsunehiko, founder of the religious groups Shinrikyô. Shinrikyô was one of the bodies of sectarian Shinto in the prewar period, located in the Northern part of Kyushu. Most of the group's members continue to live in Kyushu today. Sano was educated as a doctor around the end of the Tokugawa era, but decided to become a Shinto priest out of his fear that Christianity would overwhelm Japan, thus establishing the sectarian Shinto group Shinrikyô. Sano drew a number of "Shinri-zu" in order to provide simple explanations of the work of kami and the relationship between kami and human beings. His activities and claims can be considered typical for sectarian Shintoists in the Meiji era.

In the volume in this series, we are planning to present a series of articles dealing with Japanese views of death.

As always, I would like to express my deep gratitude to Mr. Havens for his work on these translations, together with my thanks to Mr. Timothy Kelly for assisting with the English on my introductory paper.

In closing, I like to note that IJCC now has a home page on the Internet where readers can find electronic versions of the entire texts of the first three volumes in this series, as well as our Shinto glossary, Basic Terms of Shinto. Set your browser to the following URL:


INOUE Nobutaka, General Editor

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$Date: 2000/12/20 01:52:28 $