Buddhism & Shinto as 2 in 1. Syncretic Architecture Voices of Japan

Shinto is a religion peculiar to Japan. There are no gurus or founders in Shinto such as Christian Jesus, Islamic Muhammad, or Buddhist Buddha, and there are no scriptures such as the Bible, Koran, or Lotus Sutra. In other words, it is called nature worship, ancestral spirits (ancestor spirits), and eight million gods without having a specific symbol or basis, but faith based on the idea of ​​such naturally occurring gods. It is the foundation of Shinto. It is a religion that has permeated and cherished Japanese culture and life before the introduction of Buddhism.

 Buddhism arrived in Japan in the middle of the 6th century. Since then, Shinto and Buddhism have not been taken in by one or the other, and have been integrated and coexisted in a well-balanced manner until the Edo period to support the religious nature of the Japanese people. This is called “Shinbutsu”.

 However, when entering the Meiji era, a modern nation based on Shinto with the emperor at the top was aimed at (State Shinto), so this Shinto-Buddhist practice was forcibly separated by the new Meiji government (Shinto-Buddhist separation). It was also at this time that the black history of “Haibutsu Kishaku,” which destroyed temples, Buddhist statues, and scriptures, engraved in Japanese history. State Shinto was abolished with the end of World War II. After that, the shrines and temples became religious corporations and continue to this day.


Shinto, which is considered to be one of the spiritual foundations of the Japanese, has a mysterious aspect. It coexisted with other religions without showing any resistance, as Shinto, which is nothing more than a local religion, has survived continuously despite the influx of advanced religions and ideas such as Buddhism and Confucianism.

Shinto and Buddhism are different religions. However, until the Edo period, the two religions were mixed. The evidence still remains on the small island of Lake Biwa. It is rare for a country where different religions coexist in harmony. That is something that Japanese people should be proud of.


There is a remote island called Chikubu Island in Shiga Prefecture.

If you have a good intuition, you may think that “Shiga Prefecture does not face the sea.” As a matter of fact, Chikubu Island is a small island with a circumference of about 2km in the northern part of Lake Biwa. By the way, Bentenjima in Shinobazunoike, Ueno, Tokyo, was created in the Edo period, imitating Chikubujima in Lake Biwa.

Chikubu Island is a very important sanctuary when talking about the history of religion in Japan. This is because the ancient style of Shinbutsu Shugo, which lasted from the Heian period to the Edo period, is still preserved.

In the early Meiji era, Japanese shrines and temples were in danger of survival due to the Shinbutsu bunri policy. In other words, until the Edo period, temples and shrines were in the form of mixed religions in which each element was mixed. A decree of the new Meiji government was issued to strictly separate it into “God is God” and “Buddha is Buddha”.

This Shinbutsu bunri policy led to the destruction of temples and Buddhist statues called “Haibutsu Kishaku”, and many temples were destroyed. It is said that Japan’s national treasure would have been three times as much as it is today without the abolition of Buddha.


A rare place where you can still observe the coexistence of God and Buddha

However, here Chikubu Island is still a rare place where you can observe the coexistence of God and Buddha. 

Imazu, Nagahama City, Kosai, near the border of Fukui Prefecture. There is a ship crossing the island from here. About 30 minutes after departure. An island with exposed granite rocks appeared in front of me. Chikubu Island is said to have opened a monk Gyoki in the Nara period. Currently, there are no residents on the family register. Every day, temple monks, shrine priests, and souvenir shop owners come to the island.

The religious facility of Shinbutsu Shugo, which enshrines Benzaiten, was built in the 8th century. Benzaiten originates from the Hindu water goddess Saraswati. In Japan, Benzaiten is mixed with Shinto and Buddhism, and is positioned as one of the guardian deities in Buddhism, especially after the Middle Ages. It is also known to be one of the Seven Lucky Gods along with Daikokuten, Ebisu, Bishamonten, etc. There is a torii gate with a mountain number on the mountain road of Hogonji Temple.

Currently, “Hogonji” (Shingon sect Toyoyama school) is built on the island at a high place, and “Tsukubusuma Shrine” is built at a low place next to each other. Hogonji Temple is listed in the 30th temple of the Kannon Pilgrimage Site in Saigoku. On the other hand, Tsukubusuma Shrine is one of the three major Bensaiten in Japan, along with Itsukushima Shrine (Hiroshima Prefecture) and Enoshima Shrine (Kanagawa Prefecture).

In particular, the main shrine of Tsukubusuma Shrine is a majestic one designated as a national treasure. 


The two religions were “one” until the Edo period

At first glance, the two religious institutions appear to be on the island separately. Currently, under the Religious Corporation Law, the two facilities are different religious groups. However, it was originally a facility. Until the Edo period, Hogonji Temple and Tsukubusuma Shrine were united and known as “Chikubu Island Gongen Benzaitensha”. “Gongen” is the idea of ​​Shinbutsu Shugo, which assumes that the Buddha Bodhisattva appeared in the world in the form of a god in order to save sentient beings.

At Chikubujima Gongen Benzaiten Shrine, a priest of Hogonji Temple became a priest (priest) and worshiped Benzaiten as the principal image (Gongen). Chikubu Island was a typical Shinto and Buddhist island.

However, at the turning point of the Meiji Restoration, the new government completely denied Shinbutsu Shugo. Before the introduction of Buddhism, the Shinto Buddhist decree was issued to clearly separate temples and shrines with the aim of becoming a Shinto-centered nation. Then, dark clouds hang down on Chikubu Island.

In 1869 (Meiji 2), an official named Kyubei Tanaka was sent to the island by the Otsu Prefectural Office. And he rushed to take the Benzaiten that he had been worshiping with to the outside of the shrine. The name Gongen was also abolished, and it was ordered to be unified as Tsukubusuma Shrine in the future.


A facility in the form of Shinto and Buddhism was divided into a temple and a shrine.

In the historical materials at that time (“Shinbutsu bunri historical materials”), it seems that Kyubei Tanaka imposes an unreasonable challenge on the priesthood of Myokakuin, which was the head of the Hogonji Temple (attached temple), and urges him to change his name. It is written. The crown of Benzaiten enshrined in Hogonji is the “Torii”.

“The Engi-shiki (detailed rules for the enforcement of the decree of the Heian period)” mentions Tsukubusuma Shrine. However, no official notification has been issued to indicate the origin of such auspiciousness.To show evidence of the auspiciousness of the island (Benzaitensha). If you defend yourself, it is considered to be the same as the morning enemy. It may be the same as if the Buddhist altar was burned down. What would happen if we didn’t receive the message from the prefectural office? Think carefully about that. “

In other words, the shrine is the main body, and the temple is an attached facility of the shrine. Therefore, the theory is that it would not be a problem to cut off the temple.

The temples and believers showed fierce resistance to this order, and barely escaped the abandoned temple. However, the state of religion between Hogonji Temple and Tsukubusuma Shrine had to be resolved. As a result, the main hall of Hogonji Temple was surrendered to Tsukubusuma Shrine and transformed into the main shrine. Two of the Hogonji treasures were selected and enshrined. The original Benzaiten statue was moved to the temporary hall of Myokakuin.Hogonji main hall built 73 years after Haibutsu Kishaku.

On top of that, it is said that the chief priest of Hogonji Temple was renamed Tsunenoshin Ikushima and became a priest. The new main hall of Hogonji Temple was built in 1942 , more than 70 years later.

In this way, the temple and the shrine were forcibly separated. There are numerous cases where the chief priest changed his job to a priest and the facility, which was a form of Shinto-Buddhist practice, was divided into a temple and a shrine, such as Chikubu Island.