This article takes up the fundamental question of when in Shintō history structures that could be called Shintō shrines first appeared. Inoue begins with a consideration of problems with the traditional view, here associated most closely with Fukuyama Toshio, who drew on the research of Tsuda Sōkichi, Yanagita Kunio and Ōba Iwao. Fukuyama had held that Shintō shrines emerged naturally out of the animism of Japan’s early agricultural society. Against this view, Inoue argues that the establishment of Shintō shrines must be seen as intimately connected with the establishment of the Ritsuryō state in the late seventh century, the state based on the criminal and administrative law system introduced from China. Further Inoue asserts that in the background of that development must be seen the influence of the Chinese Sui and Tang Empires and the introduction and spread of Buddhism into Japan. Inoue argues that, far from being a natural development, the appearance of Shintō shrines was the result of deliberate governmental action inspired by Chinese models as they were adapted to the Japanese situation.