Book: Exploring Shinto
Chapter: 1. What is Shinto?
This paper explores ways in which the term “Shinto” has been used, and contested, both in Japan, within the world of Shinto itself, and in international discussion. While cognizant of the difficulties, the argument proposes a broad working characterization of Shinto as it is today, giving essential introductory information. It is then suggested that the question “What is a shrine?” could be seen as a more focused way of asking “What is Shinto?” This question is pursued both generically and with detailed reference to a specific shrine, Himukae Daijingū, in an outlying area of Kyoto. The paper then concludes with a discursive statement which is intended as a tentative answer to the question “What is Shinto?” from an observer’s point of view.