Religious Beliefs

Do millennialism or messianism have a place in Shinto thinking?

Mainstream Shinto thought has not developed millennialist or messianic themes of any significance. Some recent sectarian movements, however, have centered around such notions. Events surrounding and in the aftermath of World War II not surprisingly raised questions of Japan’s historical destiny for many Japanese. So-called “new religions” of Japan, many with roots deep in Shinto tradition, have been fertile soil for messianic expectations. One such organization is Ananai-kyo, which teaches open relationships with and among the “five” (nai) religious traditions—Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism. Various relatively recent Shinto-related cults and sects have centered around charismatic leaders whose teachings focus on preparation for an apocalyptic end of this world. For much of the 1990s, for example, members of a group called Aum Shinri Kyo attempted to implement the doomsday doctrine of their leader, Shoko Asahara. Conspiring to plant biological and chemical agents in Tokyo subways, they planned the final act of human history.


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