Sunday, November 24, 2013

Shinto Is Growing Force In Japanese Politics

The Japan Times yesterday carried an interesting article on the growing influence of Shinto in Japanese politics. Japan’s education minister, Hakubun Shimomura, is concerned about the negative self-image Japanese high schoolers have. His solution is more moral and patriotic education. This is part of a broader political movement:
Many of the nation’s top elected officials, including [Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Education Minister Shimomura] ... are members of ... Shinto Seiji Renmei (officially, the Shinto Association of Spiritual Leadership...). A sister organization, the Shinto Political Alliance Diet Members’ Association boasts 240 lawmakers, including 16 out of the government’s 19-member Cabinet....
Seiji Renmei sees its mission as renewing the national emphasis on "Japanese spiritual values." In principle, this means pushing for constitutional revision and patriotic and moral education, and staunchly defending conservative values....
The American Occupation of 1945-51 ended Shinto’s status as a state religion and attempted to banish its influence from Japan’s public sphere, notably its emphasis on a pure racial identity linked to the Emperor. The core element of this belief, ruthlessly enforced through the education system, was the emperor’s divine status as a direct descendant of the sun goddess Amaterasu. Though weakened, Shinto conservatives in Japan “were simply biding their time” until they could restore the religion’s rightful place in Japanese society.... 

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