Japanese Shinto: The Cult Of Hachiman

1139 words - 5 pages

Japanese Shinto: the Cult of HachimanShinto is a generalized term describing the various indigenous beliefs in Japan, an attempt to distinguish those beliefs from the imported ideology of Buddhism. The success of such efforts, however, was only partial, leading to the evolution of the Honji-Suijaki principle of coexistence. One of the more popular Shinto deities was Hachiman, the kami of war, whose development and growth was a secondary feature resulting from its political manipulation by Buddhist priest and feudal warlords. The origin of Hachiman is corrupted by incoherencies in the textual support of Hachiman and often the unbelievable circumstances surrounding his birth. A brief overview ...view middle of the document...

5 Quite difficult to grasp, some of the legends surrounding the origin of Hachiman contain unbelievable circumstances and events, rendering the task of the historian more problematic since they have to make isolate the facts from fantasies.Nakano Hatayoshi, an esteem Shinto scholar, in his work Studies in the Hachiman Cult offers a credible interpretation of the disputable nature of the Hachiman origin. Nakano theorizes, based on the proven practiced of cultural exchanges in old Japan between local clans, that Hachiman and all he entails was actualized by the union of the clans Usa, Karijima, and Omiwa.6 Usa is the agreeable homeland of Hachiman, and logically the source of many Hachiman myths and legends. Nakano tackles the issue of the Ojin-Hachiman connection as a product of Omiwa influence on the local kami of Usa. The Omiwa clan was an administrative branch of the Nara Court and their reverence for Emperor Ojin lead them to deify Ojin in the image of Hachiman. His theory, however, cannot be taken for an actualization of events. This shows the incongruous nature of the Hachiman origin, which is less inherent in the origin of the cult's development and growth.The development and growth of the Hachiman cult spawned from Buddhist efforts to absorb Shinto into Buddhism. Buddhist priests invoked the aid of Hachiman in the construction of the famed Todai-ji and Daibutsu during the reign of Emperor Shomu.7 This complex arrangement by the priest to involve a Shinto kami in the building of a Buddhist Shrine was an early attempt by Buddhism to ingest the influences of Shinto by careful manipulation of the Hachiman deity. The efforts of the Buddhist priests were actualized when Hachiman, under the principle of Honji-Suijaki,8 became identified as a bodhisattva, being known thereafter as Hachiman Daibosatsu. The successful completion of the Todai-ji, coupled with the strong influences of Buddhist ideology within the Imperial institution, saw to a significant increase in the popularity of Hachiman within the Court.Under the influence of Minamoto Yorimoto, during the Kamakura Period, the Hachiman cult underwent massive expansion throughout the Kanto region. Minamoto had a natural affection for the Hachiman deity because of the latter's association with military prowess.9 The construction of the Tsurugaoka...

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