Book: Exploring Shinto
Chapter: 7. Underground Buddhism at the Ise Shrines
The Ise Shrines (Ise Jingū 伊勢神宮), which venerate the tutelary deities of the imperial lineage, are today presented as sites of an enduring and immutable native tradition. However, the image of Ise as the homeland of an indigenous religion untouched by Buddhism is one created by eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Nativists, promulgated by the Japanese government until the end of the Pacific War, and promoted by the Ise Shrines until today. The Separation Edicts of 1868, which segregated religious deities, clergy, institutions, and images, into the mutually exclusive categories of Buddhist or Shinto, was one of the most radical events in the history of Japanese religion and one that forever changed the status, structure, and administration of Ise. But for the previous thousand years, Buddhist practices, texts, deities, and beliefs were an integral part of Ise’s religious and institutional culture. Yet the relationship between the gods and the buddhas at Ise is neither simple nor self-evident. This article seeks to excavate one piece of that complex history.