Membership, Community, Diversity

Are there any sub-communities or denominations within Shinto?

Numerous varieties and schools of Shinto have come and gone over the past thirteen hundred years. Here briefly are a few of the more important: An ascetical “mountain” sect called Shugendo began as early as the Nara period (710-94), and small groups remain active today. Beginning during the Middle Ages, several schools have arisen under the patronage of important members of powerful clans. Now identified by the names of those families or of the schools’ individual founders, the larger groups are Urabe (also known by the later family name of Yoshida, and Yui-itsu—“unification”— Shinto), Watarai (also called Ise Shinto), the Confucian-oriented school of Yoshikawa, and Kurozumi-kyo, named after its nineteenth-century founder. Several other schools are identified by terms that suggest their principal teaching or emphases. For example, a seventeenth-century school called Suiga (“Bestowal of Blessings”) Shinto laid groundwork for the growth of National Learning. Sanno-ichijitsu blended Shinto themes with esoteric teachings of Tendai Buddhism in the seventeenth century, focusing on the divine manifestation of a “mountain king.” Finally, Minkan Shinko is a general designation for a host of developments called “folk” religious beliefs and practices, incorporating elements of Shinto as well as other traditions. Japanese governments have promulgated various types of legislation, especially since the late nineteenth century, aimed at keeping track of the many religious groups that have occasionally leveled severe criticism at the imperial form of governance.


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