Web and Book design,
Copyright, Kellscraft Studio
(Return to Web Text-ures)
Developments of Shintō
THE teaching of Herbert Spencer that the greater gods of a people — those figuring in popular imagination as creators, or as particularly directing certain elemental forces — represent a later development of ancestor-worship, is generally accepted to-day. Ancestral ghosts, considered as more or less alike in the time when primitive society had not yet developed class distinctions of any important character, subsequently become differentiated, as the society itself differentiates, into greater and lesser. Eventually the worship of some one ancestral spirit, or group of spirits, overshadows that of all the rest; and a supreme deity, or group of supreme deities, becomes evolved. But the differentiations of the ancestor-cult must be understood to proceed in a great variety of directions. Particular ancestors of families engaged in hereditary occupations may develop into tutelar deities presiding over those occupations — patron gods of crafts and guilds. Out of other ancestral cults, through various processes of mental association, may be evolved the worship of deities of strength, of health, of long life, of particular products, of particular localities. When more light shall have been thrown upon the question of Japanese origins, it will probably be found that many of the lesser tutelar or patron gods now worshipped in the country were originally the gods of Chinese or Korean craftsmen; but I think that Japanese mythology, as a whole, will prove to offer few important exceptions to the evolutional law. Indeed, Shintō presents us with a mythological hierarchy of which the development can be satisfactorily explained by that law alone.
Besides the Ujigami, there are myriads of superior and of inferior deities. There are the primal deities, of whom only the names are mentioned, — apparitions of the period of chaos; and there are the gods of creation, who gave shape to the land. There are the gods of earth and sky, and the gods of the sun and moon. Also there are gods, beyond counting, supposed to preside over all things good or evil in human life, — birth and marriage and death, riches and poverty, strength and disease.... It can scarcely be supposed that all this mythology was developed out of the old ancestor-cult in Japan itself: more probably its evolution began on the Asiatic continent. But the evolution of the national cult — that form of Shintō which became the state religion — seems to have been Japanese, in the strict meaning of the word. This cult is the worship of the gods from whom the emperors claim descent, the worship of the "imperial ancestors." It appears that the early emperors of Japan — the "heavenly sovereigns," as they are called in the old records — were not emperors at all in the true meaning of the term, and did not even exercise universal authority. They were only the chiefs of the most powerful clan, or Uji, and their special ancestor-cult had probably in that time no dominant influence. But eventually, when the chiefs of this great clan really became supreme rulers of the land, their clan-cult spread everywhere, and overshadowed, without abolishing, all the other cults. Then arose the national mythology.
We therefore see that the course of Japanese ancestor-worship, like that of Aryan ancestor-worship, exhibits those three successive stages of development before mentioned. It may be assumed that on coming from the continent to their present island-home, the race brought with them a rude form of ancestor-worship, consisting of little more than rites and sacrifices performed at the graves of the dead. When the land had been portioned out among the various clans, each of which had its own ancestor-cult, all the people of the district belonging to any particular clan would eventually adopt the religion of the clan ancestor; and thus arose the thousand cults of the Ujigami, Still later, the special cult of the most powerful clan developed into a national religion, — the worship of the goddess of the sun, from whom the supreme ruler claimed descent. Then, under Chinese influence, the domestic form of ancestor-worship was established in lieu of the primitive family-cult: thereafter offerings and prayers were made regularly in the home, where the ancestral tablets represented the tombs of the family dead. But offerings were still made, on special occasions, at the graves; and the three Shintō forms of the cult, together with later forms of Buddhist introduction, continued to exist; and they rule the life of the nation to-day.
It was the cult of the supreme ruler that first gave to the people a written account of traditional beliefs. The mythology of the reigning house furnished the scriptures of Shintō, and established ideas linking together all the existing forms of ancestor-worship. All Shintō traditions were by these writings blended into one mythological history, — explained upon the basis of one legend. The whole mythology is contained in two books, of which English translations have been made. The oldest is entitled Ko-ji-ki, or "Records of Ancient Matters"; and it is supposed to have been compiled in the year 712 A. D. The other and much larger work is called Nihongi, "Chronicles of Nihon [Japan]," and dates from about 720 A.D. Both works profess to be histories; but a large portion of them is mythological, and either begins with a story of creation. They were compiled, mostly, from oral tradition we are told, by imperial order. It is said that a yet earlier work, dating from the seventh century, may have been drawn upon; but this has been lost. No great antiquity can, therefore, be claimed for the texts as they stand; but they contain traditions which must be very much older, — possibly thousands of years older. The Ko-ji-ki is said to have been written from the dictation of an old man of marvellous memory; and the Shintō theologian Hirata would have us believe that traditions thus preserved are especially trustworthy. "It is probable," he wrote, "that those ancient traditions, preserved for us by exercise of memory, have for that very reason come down to us in greater detail than if they had been recorded in documents. Besides, men must have had much stronger memories in the days before they acquired the habit of trusting to written characters for facts which they wished to remember, — as is shown at the present time in the case of the illiterate, who have to depend on memory alone." We must smile at Hirata's good faith in the changelessness of oral tradition; but I believe that folklorists would discover in the character of the older myths, intrinsic evidence of immense antiquity. Chinese influence is discernible in both works; yet certain parts have a particular quality not to be found, I imagine, in anything Chinese, — a primeval artlessness, a weirdness, and a strangeness having nothing in common with other mythical literature. For example, we have, in the story of Izanagi, the world-maker, visiting the shades to recall his dead spouse, a myth that seems to be purely Japanese. The archaic naïveté of the recital must impress anybody who studies the literal translation. I shall present only the substance of the legend, which has been recorded in a number of different versions1: —
When the time came for the Fire-god, Kagu-Tsuchi, to be born, his mother, Izanami-no-Mikoto, was burnt, and suffered change, and departed. Then Izanagi-no-Mikoto was wroth and said, "Oh! that I should have given my loved younger sister in exchange for a single child!" He crawled at her head and he crawled at her feet, weeping and lamenting; and the tears which he shed fell down and became a deity.... Thereafter Izanagi-no-Mikoto went after Izanami-no-Mikoto into the Land of Yomi, the world of the dead. Then Izanami-no-Mikoto, appearing still as she was when alive, lifted the curtain of the palace (of the dead), and came forth to meet him; and they talked together. And Izanagi-no-Mikoto said to her: "I have come because I sorrowed for thee, my lovely younger sister, O my lovely younger sister, the lands that I and thou were making together are not yet finished; therefore come back!" Then Izanami-no-Mikoto made answer, saying, "My august lord and husband, lamentable it is that thou didst not come sooner, for now I have eaten of the cooking-range of Yomi. Nevertheless, as I am thus delightfully honoured by thine entry here, my lovely elder brother, I wish to return with thee to the living world. Now I go to discuss the matter with the gods of Yomi. Wait thou here, and look not upon me." So having spoken, she went back; and Izanagi waited for her. But she tarried so long within that he became impatient. Then, taking the wooden comb that he wore in the left bunch of his hair, he broke off a tooth from one end of the comb and lighted it, and went in to look for Izanami-no-Mikoto. But he saw her lying swollen and festering among worms; and eight kinds of Thunder-Gods sat upon her.... And Izanagi, being overawed by that sight, would have fled away; but Izanami rose up, crying: "Thou hast put me to shame! Why didst thou not observe that which I charged thee?... Thou hast seen my nakedness; now I will see thine!" And she bade the Ugly Females of Yomi to follow after him, and slay him; and the eight Thunders also pursued him, and Izanami herself pursued him.... Then Izanagi-no-Mikoto drew his sword, and flourished it behind him as he ran. But they followed close upon him. He took off his black headdress and flung it down; and it became changed into grapes; and while the Ugly Ones were eating the grapes, he gained upon them. But they followed quickly; and he then took his comb and cast it down, and it became changed into bamboo sprouts; and while the Ugly Ones were devouring the sprouts, he fled on until he reached the mouth of Yomi. Then taking a rock which it would have required the strength of a thousand men to lift, he blocked therewith the entrance as Izanami came up. And standing behind the rock, he began to pronounce the words of divorce. Then, from the other side of the rock, Izanami cried out to him, "My dear lord and master, if thou dost so, in one day will I strangle to death a thousand of thy people!" And Izanagi-no-Mikoto answered her, saying, "My beloved younger sister, if thou dost so, I will cause in one day to be born fifteen hundred...." But the deity Kukuri-himé-no-Kami then came, and spake to Izanami some word which she seemed to approve, and thereafter she vanished away....
The strange mingling of pathos with nightmare-terror in this myth, of which I have not ventured to present all the startling naïveté, sufficiently proves its primitive character. It is a dream that some one really dreamed, one of those bad dreams in which the figure of a person beloved becomes horribly transformed; and it has a particular interest as expressing that fear of death and of the dead informing all primitive ancestor-worship. The whole pathos and weirdness of the myth, the vague monstrosity of the fancies, the formal use of terms of endearment in the moment of uttermost loathing and fear, all impress one as unmistakably Japanese. Several other myths scarcely less remarkable are to be found in the Ko-ji-ki and Nihongi; but they are mingled with legends of so light and graceful a kind that it is scarcely possible to believe these latter to have been imagined by the same race. The story of the magical jewels and the visit to the sea-god's palace, for example, in the second book of the Nihongi, sounds oddly like an Indian fairy-tale; and it is not unlikely that the Ko-ji-ki and Nihongi both contain myths derived from various alien sources. At all events their mythical chapters present us with some curious problems which yet remain unsolved. Otherwise the books are dull reading, in spite of the light which they shed upon ancient customs and beliefs; and, generally speaking, Japanese mythology is unattractive. But to dwell here upon the mythology, at any length, is unnecessary; for its relation to Shintō can be summed up in the space of a single brief paragraph:—
In the beginning neither force nor form was manifest; and the world was a shapeless mass that floated like a jelly-fish upon water. Then, in some way — we are not told how — earth and heaven became separated; dim gods appeared and disappeared; and at last there came into existence a male and a female deity, who gave birth and shape to things. By this pair, Izanagi and Izanami, were produced the islands of Japan, and the generations of the gods, and the deities of the Sun and Moon. The descendants of these creating deities, and of the gods whom they brought into being, were the eight thousand (or eighty thousand) myriads of gods worshipped by Shintō. Some went to dwell in the blue Plain of High Heaven; others remained on earth and became the ancestors of the Japanese race.
Such is the mythology of the Ko-ji-ki and the Nihongi, stated in the briefest possible way. At first it appears that there were two classes of gods recognized: Celestial and Terrestrial; and the old Shintō rituals (norito) maintain this distinction. But it is a curious fact that the celestial gods of this mythology do not represent celestial forces; and that the gods who are really identified with celestial phenomena are classed as terrestrial gods, — having been born or "produced" upon earth. The Sun and Moon, for example, are said to have been born in Japan, — though afterwards placed in heaven; the Sun-goddess, Ama-terasu-no-oho-Kami, having been produced from the left eye of Izanagi, and the Moon-god, Tsuki-yomi-no-Mikoto, having been produced from the right eye of Izanagi when, after his visit to the under-world, he washed himself at the mouth of a river in the island of Tsukushi. The Shintō scholars of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries established some order in this chaos of fancies by denying all distinction between the Celestial and Terrestrial gods, except as regarded the accident of birth. They also denied the old distinction between the so-called Age of the Gods (Kami-yo), and the subsequent period of the Emperors. It was true, they said, that the early rulers of Japan were gods; but so were also the later rulers. The whole Imperial line, the "Sun's Succession," represented one unbroken descent from the Goddess of the Sun. Hirata wrote: "There exists no hard and fast line between the Age of the Gods and the present age; and there exists no justification whatever for drawing one, as the Nihongi does." Of course this position involved the doctrine of a divine descent for the whole race, — inasmuch as, according to the old mythology, the first Japanese were all descendants of gods, — and that doctrine Hirata boldly accepted. All the Japanese, he averred, were of divine origin, and for that reason superior to the people of all other countries. He even held that their divine descent could be proved without difficulty. These are his words: "The descendants of the gods who accompanied Ninigi-no-Mikoto [grandson of the Sun-goddess and supposed founder of the Imperial house,] — as well as the offspring of the successive Mikados, who entered the ranks of the subjects of the Mikados, with the names of Taira, Minamoto, and so forth, — have gradually increased and multiplied. Although numbers of Japanese cannot state with certainty from what gods they are descended, all of them have tribal names (kabané), which were originally bestowed on them by the Mikados; and those who make it their province to study genealogies can tell from a man's ordinary surname, who his remotest ancestor must have been." All the Japanese were gods in this sense; and their country was properly called the Land of the Gods, — Shinkoku or Kami-no-kuni. Are we to understand Hirata literally? I think so but we must remember that there existed in feudal times large classes of people, outside of the classes officially recognized as forming the nation, who were not counted as Japanese, nor even as human beings: these were pariahs, and reckoned as little better than animals. Hirata probably referred to the four great classes only — samurai, farmers, artizans, and merchants. But even in that case what are we to think of his ascription of divinity to the race, in view of the moral and physical feebleness of human nature? The moral side of the question is answered by the Shintō theory of evil deities, "gods of crookedness," who were alleged to have "originated from the impurities contracted by Izanagi during his visit to the under-world." As for the physical weakness of men, that is explained by a legend of Ninigi-no-Mikoto, divine founder of the imperial house. The Goddess of Long Life, Iha-naga-himé (Rock-long-princess), was sent to him for wife; but he rejected her because of her ugliness; and that unwise proceeding brought about "the present shortness of the lives of men." Most mythologies ascribe vast duration to the lives of early patriarchs or rulers: the farther we go back into mythological history, the longer-lived are the sovereigns. To this general rule Japanese mythology presents no exception. The son of Ninigi-no-Mikoto is said to have lived five hundred and eighty years at his palace of Takachiho; but that, remarks Hirata, "was a short life compared with the lives of those who lived before him." Thereafter men's bodies declined in force; life gradually became shorter and shorter; yet in spite of all degeneration the Japanese still show traces of their divine origin. After death they enter into a higher divine condition, without, however, abandoning this world.... Such were Hirata's views. Accepting the Shintō theory of origins, this ascription of divinity to human nature proves less inconsistent than it appears at first sight; and the modern Shintōist may discover a germ of scientific truth in the doctrine which traces back the beginnings of life to the Sun.
More than any other Japanese writer, Hirata has enabled us to understand the hierarchy of Shintō mythology, — corresponding closely, as we might have expected, to the ancient ordination of Japanese society. In the lowermost ranks are the spirits of common people, worshipped only at the household shrine or at graves. Above these are the gentile gods or Ujigami, — ghosts of old rulers now worshipped as tutelar gods. All Ujigami, Hirata tells us, are under the control of the Great God of Izumo, — Oho-kuni-nushi-no-Kami, — and, "acting as his agents, they rule the fortunes of human beings before their birth, during their life, and after their death." This means that the ordinary ghosts obey, in the world invisible, the commands of the clan-gods or tutelar deities; that the conditions of communal worship during life continue after death. The following extract from Hirata will be found of interest, not only as showing the supposed relation of the individual to the Ujigami, but also as suggesting how the act of abandoning one's birthplace was formerly judged by common opinion: —
"When a person removes his residence, his original Ujigami has to make arrangements with the Ujigami of the place whither he transfers his abode. On such occasions it is proper to take leave of the old god, and to pay a visit to the temple of the new god as soon as possible after coming within his jurisdiction. The apparent reasons which a man imagines to have induced him to change his abode may be many; but the real reasons cannot be otherwise than that either he has offended his Ujigami, and is therefore expelled, or that the Ujigami of another place has negotiated his transfer...."2
It would thus appear that every person was supposed to be the subject, servant, or retainer of some Ujigami, both during life and after death.
There were, of course, various grades of these clan-gods, just as there were various grades of living rulers, lords of the soil. Above ordinary Ujigami ranked the deities worshipped in the chief Shintō temples of the various provinces, which temples were termed Ichi-no-miya, or temples of the first grade. These deities appear to have been in many cases spirits of princes or greater daimyo, formerly ruling extensive districts; but all were not of this category. Among them were deities of elements or elemental forces, — Wind, Fire, and Sea, — deities also of longevity, of destiny, and of harvests, — clan-gods, perhaps, originally, though their real history had been long forgotten. But above all other Shintō divinities ranked the gods of the Imperial Cult, — the supposed ancestors of the Mikados.
Of the higher forms of Shintō worship, that of the imperial ancestors proper is the most important, being the State cult; but it is not the oldest. There are two supreme cults: that of the Sun-goddess, represented by the famous shrines of Isé; and the Izumo cult, represented by the great temple of Kitzuki. This Izumo temple is the centre of the more ancient cult. It is dedicated to Oho-kuni-nushi-no-Kami, first ruler of the Province of the Gods, and offspring of the brother of the Sun-goddess. Dispossessed of his realm in favour of the founder of the imperial dynasty, Oho-kuni-nushi-no-Kami became the ruler of the Unseen World, — that is to say the World of Ghosts. Unto his shadowy dominion the spirits of all men proceed after death; and he rules over all of the Ujigami. We may therefore term him the Emperor of the Dead. "You cannot hope," Hirata says, "to live more than a hundred years, under the most favourable circumstances; but as you will go to the Unseen Realm of Oho-kuni-nushi-no-Kami after death, and be subject to him, learn betimes to bow down before him."... That weird fancy expressed in the wonderful fragment by Coleridge, "The Wanderings of Cain," would therefore seem to have actually formed an article of ancient Shintō faith: "The Lord is God of the living only: the dead have another God."...
of the Living in Old Japan was, of course, the Mikado, — the deity incarnate, Arahitogami, — and his palace was the
national sanctuary, the Holy of Holies. Within the precincts of that palace was
the Kashiko-Dokoro ("Place of
Awe"), the private shrine of the Imperial Ancestors, where only the court
could worship, — the public form of the same cult being maintained at Isé. But
the Imperial House worshipped also by deputy (and still so worships) both at
Kitzuki and Isé, and likewise at various other great sanctuaries. Formerly a great
number of temples were maintained, or partly maintained, from the imperial
revenues. All Shintō temples of importance used to be classed as greater and
lesser shrines. There were 304 of the first rank, and 2828 of the second rank.
But multitudes of temples were not included in this official classification,
and depended upon local support. The recorded total of Shintō shrines to-day is
upwards of 195,000.
We have thus — without counting the great Izumo cult of Oho-kuni-nushi-no-Kami — four classes of ancestor-worship: the domestic religion, the religion of the Ujigami, the worship at the chief shrines [Ichi-no-miya] of the several provinces, and the national cult at Isé. All these cults are now linked together by tradition; and the devout Shintōist worships the divinities of all, collectively, in his daily morning prayer. Occasionally he visits the chief shrine of his province; and he makes a pilgrimage to Isé if he can. Every Japanese is expected to visit the shrines of Isé once in his lifetime, or to send thither a deputy. Inhabitants of remote districts are not all able, of course, to make the pilgrimage; but there is no village which does not, at certain intervals, send pilgrims either to Kitzuki or to Isé on behalf of the community, — the expense of such representation being defrayed by local subscription. And, furthermore, every Japanese can worship the supreme divinities of Shintō in his own house, where upon a "god-shelf" (Kamidana) are tablets inscribed with the assurance of their divine protection, — holy charms obtained from the priests of Isé or of Kitzuki. In the case of the Isé cult, such tablets are commonly made from the wood of the holy shrines themselves, which, according to primal custom, must be rebuilt every twenty years, — the timber of the demolished structures being then cut into tablets for distribution throughout the country.
Another development of ancestor-worship — the cult of gods presiding over crafts and callings — deserves special study. Unfortunately we are as yet little informed upon the subject. Anciently this worship must have been more definitely ordered and maintained than it is now. Occupations were hereditary; artizans were grouped into guilds — perhaps we might even say castes; — and each guild or caste then probably had its patron-deity. In some cases the craft-gods may have been ancestors of Japanese craftsmen; in other cases they were perhaps of Korean or Chinese origin, — ancestral gods of immigrant artizans, who brought their cults with them to Japan. Not much is known about them. But it is tolerably safe to assume that most, if not all of the guilds, were at one time religiously organized, and that apprentices were adopted not only in a craft, but into a cult. There were corporations of weavers, potters, carpenters, arrow-makers, bow-makers, smiths, boat-builders, and other tradesmen; and the past religious organization of these is suggested by the fact that certain occupations assume a religious character even to-day. For example, the carpenter still builds according to Shintō tradition: he dons a priestly costume at a certain stage of the work, performs rites, and chants invocations, and places the new house under the protection of the gods. But the occupation of the sword-smith was in old days the most sacred of crafts: he worked in priestly garb, and practised Shintō rites of purification while engaged in the making of a good blade. Before his smithy was then suspended the sacred rope of rice-straw (shimé-nawa), which is the oldest symbol of Shintō: none even of his family might enter there, or speak to him; and he ate only of food cooked with holy fire.
The 195,000 shrines of Shintō represent, however, more than clan-cults or guild-cults or national cults.... Many are dedicated to different spirits of the same god; for Shintō holds that the spirit of either a man or a god may divide itself into several spirits, each with a different character. Such separated spirits are called waka-mi-tama ("august-divided-spirits "). Thus the spirit of the Goddess of Food, Toyo-uké-bimé, separated itself into the God of Trees, Kukunochi-no-Kami, and into the Goddess of Grasses, Kayanu-himé-no-Kami. Gods and men were supposed to have also a Rough Spirit and a Gentle Spirit; and Hirata remarks that the Rough Spirit of Oho-kuni-nushi-no-Kami was worshipped at one temple, and his Gentle Spirit at another.3... Also we have to remember that great numbers of Ujigami temples are dedicated to the same divinity. These duplications or multiplications are again offset by the fact that in some of the principal temples a multitude of different deities are enshrined. Thus the number of Shintō temples in actual existence affords no indication whatever of the actual number of gods worshipped, nor of the variety of their cults. Almost every deity mentioned in the Ko-ji-ki or Nihongi has a shrine somewhere; and hundreds of others — including many later apotheoses — have their temples. Numbers of temples have been dedicated, for example, to historical personages, — to spirits of great ministers, captains, rulers, scholars, heroes, and statesmen. The famous minister of the Empress Jingō, Take-no-uji-no-Sukuné, — who served under six successive sovereigns, and lived to the age of three hundred years, — is now invoked in many a temple as a giver of long life and great wisdom. The spirit of Sugiwara-no-Michizané, once minister to the Emperor Daigō, is worshipped as the god of calligraphy, under the name of Tenjin, or Temmangu: children everywhere offer to him the first examples of their handwriting, and deposit in receptacles, placed before his shrine, their worn-out writing-brushes. The Soga brothers, victims and heroes of a famous twelfth-century tragedy, have become gods to whom people pray for the maintenance of fraternal harmony. Kato Kiyomasa, the determined enemy of Jesuit Christianity, and Hideyoshi's greatest captain, has been apotheosized both by Buddhism and by Shintō. Iyéyasu is worshipped under the appellation of Tōshōgu. In fact most of the great men of Japanese history have had temples erected to them; and the spirits of the daimyō were, in former years, regularly worshipped by the subjects of their descendants and successors.
Besides temples to deities presiding over industries and agriculture, — or deities especially invoked by the peasants, such as the goddess of silkworms. the goddess of rice, the gods of wind and weather, — there are to be found in almost every part of the country what I may call propitiatory temples. These latter Shintō shrines have been erected by way of compensation to spirits of persons who suffered great injustice or misfortune. In these cases the worship assumes a very curious character, the worshipper always appealing for protection against the same kind of calamity or trouble as that from which the apotheosized person suffered during life. In Izumo, for example, I found a temple dedicated to the spirit of a woman, once a prince's favourite. She had been driven to suicide by the intrigues of jealous rivals. The story is that she had very beautiful hair; but it was not quite black, and her enemies used to reproach her with its color. Now mothers having children with brownish hair pray to her that the brown may be changed to black; and offerings are made to her of tresses of hair and Tōkyō coloured prints, for it is still remembered that she was fond of such prints. In the same province there is a shrine erected to the spirit of a young wife, who pined away for grief at the absence of her lord. She used to climb a hill to watch for his return, and the shrine was built upon the place where she waited; and wives pray there to her for the safe return of absent husbands.... An almost similar kind of propitiatory worship is practised in cemeteries. Public pity seeks to apotheosize those urged to suicide by cruelty, or those executed for offences which, although legally criminal, were inspired by patriotic or other motives commanding sympathy. Before their graves offerings are laid and prayers are murmured. Spirits of unhappy lovers are commonly invoked by young people who suffer from the same cause.... And, among other forms of propitiatory worship I must mention the old custom of erecting small shrines to spirits of animals, chiefly domestic animals, either in recognition of dumb service rendered and ill-rewarded, or as a compensation for pain unjustly inflicted.
Yet another class of tutelar divinities remains to be noticed, — those who dwell within or about the houses of men. Some are mentioned in the old mythology, and are probably developments of Japanese ancestor-worship; some are of alien origin; some do not appear to have any temples; and some represent little more than what is called Animism. This class of divinities corresponds rather to the Roman dii genitales than to the Greek δαίμονες. Suijin-Sama, the God of Wells; Kojin, the God of the Cooking-range (in almost every kitchen there is either a tiny shrine for him, or a written charm bearing his name); the gods of the Cauldron and Saucepan, Kudo-no-Kami and Kobe-no-Kami (anciently called Okitsuhiko and Okitsuhimé); the Master of Ponds, Ike-no-Nushi, supposed to make apparition in the form of a serpent; the Goddess of the Rice-pot, O-Kama-Sama; the Gods of the Latrina, who first taught men how to fertilize their fields (these are commonly represented by little figures of paper, having the forms of a man and a woman, but faceless); the Gods of Wood and Fire and Metal; the Gods likewise of Gardens, Fields, Scarecrows, Bridges, Hills, Woods, and Streams; and also the Spirits of Trees (for Japanese mythology has its dryads): most of these are undoubtedly of Shintō. On the other hand, we find the roads under the protection of Buddhist deities chiefly. I have not been able to learn anything regarding gods of boundaries, — termes, as the Latins called them; and one sees only images of the Buddhas at the limits of village territories. But in almost every garden, on the north side, there is a little Shintō shrine, facing what is called the Ki-Mon, or "Demon-Gate," — that is to say, the direction from which, according to Chinese teaching, all evils come; and these little shrines, dedicated to various Shintō deities, are supposed to protect the home from evil spirits. The belief in the Ki-Mon is obviously a Chinese importation.
One may doubt, however, if Chinese influence alone developed the belief that every part of a house, — every beam of it, — and every domestic utensil has its invisible guardian. Considering this belief, it is not surprising that the building of a house — unless the house be in foreign style — is still a religious act, and that the functions of a master-builder include those of a priest.
This brings us to the subject of Animism. (I doubt whether any evolutionist of the contemporary school holds to the old-fashioned notion that animism preceded ancestor-worship, — a theory involving the assumption that belief in the spirits of inanimate objects was evolved before the idea of a human ghost had yet been developed.) In Japan it is now as difficult to draw the line between animistic beliefs and the lowest forms of Shintō, as to establish a demarcation between the vegetable and the animal worlds; but the earliest Shintō literature gives no evidence of such a developed animism as that now existing. Probably the development was gradual, and largely influenced by Chinese beliefs. Still, we read in the Ko-ji-ki of "evil gods who glittered like fireflies or were disorderly as mayflies," and of "demons who made rocks, and stumps of trees, and the foam of the green waters to speak," — showing that animistic or fetichistic notions were prevalent to some extent before the period of Chinese influence. And it is significant that where animism is associated with persistent worship (as in the matter of the reverence paid to strangely shaped stones or trees), the form of the worship is, in most cases, Shintō. Before such objects there is usually to be seen the model of a Shintō gateway, torii.... With the development of animism, under Chinese and Korean influence, the man of Old Japan found himself truly in a world of spirits and demons. They spoke to him in the sound of tides and of cataracts, in the moaning of wind and the whispers of leafage, in the crying of birds, and the trilling of insects, in all the voices of nature. For him all visible motion — whether of waves or grasses or shifting mist or drifting cloud — was ghostly; and the never moving rocks — nay, the very stones by the wayside — were informed with viewless and awful being.
1 See for these different versions Aston's translation of the Nihongi, Vol I.