Shinto: A History
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Oxford University Press / 2016 / Hardcover
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Shinto: A History

Oxford University Press / 2016 / Hardcover

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"Hardacre, a professor of Japanese religions and society at Harvard, surveys the history of Shinto from ancient Japan to the present in this even-handed and detailed treatment. Few single-volume histories are this comprehensive. This will stand as the definitive factual treatment for years to come,"---Publishers Weekly. 720 pages, hardcover. Oxford University.

Product Information

Format: Hardcover
Vendor: Oxford University Press
Publication Date: 2016
ISBN: 0190621710
ISBN-13: 9780190621711

Publisher's Description

Distinguished scholar of Japanese religions and culture Helen Hardacre offers the first comprehensive history of Shinto, the ancient and vibrant tradition whose colorful rituals are still practiced today. Under the ideal of Shinto, a divinely descended emperor governs through rituals offered to deities called Kami. These rituals are practiced in innumerable shrines across the realm, so that local rites mirror the monarch's ceremonies. Through this theatre of state, it is thought, the human, natural, and supernatural worlds will align in harmony and prosper.

Often called "the indigenous religion of Japan," Shinto's institutions, rituals, and symbols are omnipresent throughout the island nation. But, perhaps surprisingly, both its religiosity and its Japanese origins have been questioned. Hardacre investigates the claims about Shinto as the embodiment of indigenous tradition, and about its rightful place in the public realm. Shinto has often been represented in the West as the engine that drove Japanese military aggression. To this day, it is considered provocative for members of the government to visit the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which honors the Japanese war dead, and this features as a source of strain in Japan's relations with China and Korea. The Yasukuni Shrine is a debated issue in Japanese national politics and foreign relations and reliably attracts intensive media coverage. Hardacre contends, controversially, that it was the Allied Occupation that created this stereotype of Shinto as the religion of war, when in fact virtually all branches of Japanese religions were cheerleaders for the war and imperialism.

The history and nature of Shinto are subjects of vital importance for understanding contemporary Japan, its politics, its international relations, and its society. Hardacre's magisterial work will stand as the definitive reference for years to come.

Author Bio


Helen Hardacre is Reischauer Institute Professor of Japanese Religions and Society at Harvard University. Concentrating on Japanese religious history of the modern period, she has done extended field study of contemporary Shinto and Buddhist religious organizations, the religious life of Japan's Korean minority, and contemporary ritualization of abortion. She has also researched State Shinto and directs a research project on constitutional revision in Japan.

Editorial Reviews


"Hardacre's achievement in this work will be hard to supersede. This book could be used in all kind of courses, from introductory or advanced undergraduate to graduate seminars, not only on Japanese religions but Japanese culture in general and even on comparative subjects. Students will benefit from the comprehensive and in-depth narration, while the book provides ample clues and opportunities for additional research and revisions. Shinto: A History, which in its comprehensive and encyclopedia nature does not even have a counterpart in Japanese, is a scholarly milestone that will orient for years the study of Shinto and Japanese religions as a whole."--Fabio Rambelli, Journal of Religion in Japan


"At nearly seven hundred pages, it is difficult to think of any adjective other than 'magisterial' to describe Hardacre's new survey on Shinto As the single most comprehensive book on Shinto, Hardacre's book is a must-read her focus on the problems of indigeneity and the public/private distinction moves the field forward considerably."--Jolyon B. Thomas, H-Net Reviews


"This work has been long anticipated. The culmination of a lifetime's dedication to the study of Japanese religions by a major scholar in the field, Shinto: A History is both authoritative and comprehensive. Professor Hardacre manages to lead us carefully and judiciously on a long journey through what can often be recalcitrant, complex material. The notoriously difficult question 'What is Shinto?' has finally been answered." --Richard Bowring, Professor Emeritus, Japanese Studies, University of Cambridge


"Shinto: A History is a milestone work for the study of Shinto. Hardacre provides a comprehensive vision to integrate the usually unrelated research on Shinto in the West and in Japan. Calling into question our conventional wisdom about Shinto, the author masterfully demonstrates that Shinto is a heterogeneous tradition that changed with time, and it encompasses not only shrine Shinto and state Shinto but also popular cultural practices including public festivals seemingly unconstrained by the Japanese emperor system." --Jun'ichi Isomae, Study of Religions, Research Department, International Research Center for Japanese Studies


"Hardacre's study is particularly useful for understanding the religious resources that the Japanese people drew on to build and maintain their local communities. Her subject is their worship of spirits. She argues that spirit worship emerged in earliest times at the core of nativist (Shinto) beliefs. This leads her to investigate in chronological sequence Shinto debates, rituals, and the practices of its priesthood in which the emperor was the chief priest. The result is a very rich, comprehensive account." --Herbert P. Bix, Professor of History, Binghamton University


"Hardacre, a professor of Japanese religions and society at Harvard, surveys the history of Shinto from ancient Japan to the present in this even-handed and detailed treatment of the topic. Few single-volume histories are this comprehensive... this will serve as a valuable primer for college classes, or for those simply interested in Shinto, and it will be sure to stand as the definitive factual treatment for years to come."--Publishers Weekly


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