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Friday, April 29, 2011

Shinto Directive: Hirohito's response

(Hirohito as a Shinto Emperor)
During the post-war U. S. military occupation of Japan, it was widely believed that “State Shinto” was responsible for much of the nationalistic fervor that had fueled Japan’s role in World War II. The United States was therefore determined to separate Shinto from Empire under the guise of constitutional rights.

The result of this American fervor is commonly called the Shinto Directive, its proper title being SCAPIN 448: Abolition of Governmental Sponsorship, Support, Perpetuation, Control and Dissemination of State Shinto (Kokka Shinto, Jinja Shinto).  Its very name belies the fact that it went above and beyond mere separation of Shinto and state.

Along with this Directive came the rigid enforcement of restrictions upon religious rites at state funerals and commemorations.  This was met with such dismay by the Japanese people that it had to be revised about halfway through the occupation period.  Other restrictions specifically targeted Shinto doctrines concerning the emperor, people, and islands of Japan.  According to Wikipedia, claims that Japanese emperors descended from the sun-goddess, Amaterasu, were no longer allowed.  Accompanying claims regarding Japan's divine superiority were also banned.

Although Emperor Showa (aka “Hirohito” outside of Japan) was often a humble man, he was also a man
who had taken his Shinto-leadership role seriously.  Wikipedia reports that he had at times “stressed the need for peaceful resolution of international problems.”  He found inspiration in these lines that his grandfather, Emperor Meiji, had written:  Across the four seas, all are brothers.  In such a world why do the waves rage, the winds roar?

He therefore must have had intensely mixed feelings when directed by the Americans to renounce the Shinto
claims about his sun-goddess ancestry.  His purported “renunciation of divinity” may not have fully occurred.
Wikipedia quotes him as saying this about it:  It is permissible to say that the idea that the Japanese are
descendants of the gods is a false conception; but it is absolutely impermissible to call chimerical the idea that the emperor is a descendant of the gods.  


Copyright April 29, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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