In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Buddhism and Shinto

  • Introduction
  • Primary Sources
  • Shinto’s Historical Relationship to Buddhism
  • Shinto Histories
  • Buddhist Conceptualizations of Local Deities
  • Kami Cults and Continental Traditions in Ancient Japan
  • Early Modern Shinto and Buddhism
  • Studies of Specific Sites
  • Shugendō
  • Art
  • The Modern Separation of Shrines from Temples

Buddhism Buddhism and Shinto
Mark Teeuwen
  • LAST REVIEWED: 13 January 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 13 January 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393521-0188


The historical relationship between Buddhism and Shinto in Japan has been a hotly debated topic within the field of Japanese religion beginning in the 1980s. Since then, views on this topic have changed rather radically. The debate began in earnest when the traditional understanding of Shinto, as Japan’s original indigenous religion, was challenged by Kuroda Toshio (see Kuroda 1981, cited under Shinto’s Historical Relationship to Buddhism). This traditional view posited the existence of a “pure” Shinto tradition in ancient times, which was increasingly “mixed” with Buddhism in the medieval period. In the 18th and 19th centuries, scholars of Kokugaku (Japanese studies) then rediscovered and reconstructed “original” Shinto by cleansing it of Buddhist contamination. Since the 1980s, the history of Shinto has been conceptualized in new ways. As a general tendency, newer accounts of Shinto history stress that cults of kami deities of diverse origin were integrated in Buddhism already in classical times (notably the 8th century), and that “Shinto,” as an abstract concept denoting a non-Buddhist kami-based religion, developed from Buddhist kami practice only in the later medieval period (the 14th century or 15th century). Anti-syncretic notions of a “pure” Shinto gained currency even later, culminating in the government-led separation of Shinto and Buddhism in 1868.

Primary Sources

A wealth of Japanese research is available on all the topics introduced in this article; however, mapping the scope of this literature is beyond the scope of this article. It will be useful, though, at least to include a short list of some of the main source collections of texts related to Buddhist Shinto. Shintō Taikei Hensankai 1977–1994 and Shintō Taikei Hensankai 1995–2007 include editions of a large number of texts, ranging from the medieval period to the Edo period; not all editions, however, are of prime quality (e.g., Reikiki in Shingon Shinto, vol. 2). Kokubungaku Kenkyū Shiryōkan 1998–2011 and Itō, et al. 2000 include facsimiles, transcriptions, and comments by the best experts, and these works are truly superb; their span, however, is limited to the medieval period. Ōmiwa Jinja Shiryō Hensan Iinkai 1967–1991 contains large amounts of little-studied documents from the Edo period, and Nihon Daizōkyō Hensankai 2000 includes the most central texts of Shugendō lineages, spanning both the medieval and the Early Modern periods. Finally, Tsuji Zennosuke, et al. 1983–1984 gives a detailed overview of the dismantling of temple-shrine complexes and Buddhist shrines in the late 19th century.

  • Itō Satoshi, Hara Katsuaki, and Matsuo Kōichi, eds. Ninnaji Shiryō, Shintō-hen, Shintō Kanjō Injin (仁和寺資料【神道篇】神道灌頂印信). Nagoya Daigaku Hikaku Jinbungaku Kenkyū Nenpō 2. Nagoya, Japan: Nagoya Daigaku Hikaku Jinbungaku Kenkyūshitsu, 2000.

    The imperial temple of Ninnaji was another center of Buddhist Shinto transmissions, some of which are included (in both facsimile and transcription) in this volume.

  • Kokubungaku Kenkyū Shiryōkan. Shinpukuji Zenpon Sōkan (真福寺善本叢刊). 24 vols. Kyoto: Rinsen Shoten, 1998–2011.

    This series offers facsimiles and transcriptions from the rich archives of Shinpukuji in Nagoya, which holds an important collection of medieval Shinto texts. Of special interest are volumes on Ise Shinto, Ruiju jingi hongen, Ryōbu Shinto, and Chūsei Nihongi.

  • Nihon Daizōkyō Hensankai. Shugendō shōso (修験道章疏). 3 vols. Tokyo: Kokusho Kankōkai, 2000.

    This collection of Shugendo scriptures was initially part of Nihon Daizōkyō, a Japanese expansion of the Buddhist canon compiled in the Taishō period. Originally published in 1916 (5 vols., Tokyo: Nihon Daizōkyō Hensankai).

  • Ōmiwa Jinja Shiryō Hensan Iinkai. Ōmiwa Jinja Shiryō (大神神社史料). 12 vols. Sakurai, Japan: Ōmiwa Jinja Shiryō Hensan Iinkai, 1967–1991.

    This collection includes many texts and initiation documents of (mostly Edo period) Miwa Shinto, in addition to essays about the history of Miwa and its shrines and temples.

  • Shintō Taikei Hensankai. Shintō Taikei (神道大系). 120 vols. Tokyo: Shintō Taikei Hensankai, 1977–1994.

    This series, which includes most of the significant texts related to Shinto, includes a number of volumes with editions of Buddhist Shinto works: Ise Shinto (3 vols.), Tendai Shinto (2 vols.), Shingon Shinto (2 vols.), Unden Shinto, Shugendō, Shintōshū, Chūsei Shintō Monogatari.

  • Shintō Taikei Hensankai. Zoku Shintō Taikei (続神道大系). 50 vols. Tokyo: Shintō Taikei Hensankai, 1995–2007.

    This continuation of the Shintō Taikei includes the volumes Shūgō Shinto (Jindaikan hiketsu, Mudaiki), Sendai kuji hongi taiseikyō (4 vols.), and Uden Shinto (4 vols.).

  • Tsuji Zennosuke, Murakami Senjō, and Washio Junkei, eds. Shinpen Meiji Ishin Shinbutsu Bunri Shiryō (新編明治維新神仏分離史料). 10 vols. Tokyo: Meicho Shuppan, 1983–1984.

    Based on a nationwide survey conducted between 1920 and 1926, this series documents the concrete impact in various regions of Japan of the separation of shrines and temples in the Meiji period.

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