Shintō is the Indigenous Religion of the World

Deguchi Onisaburō and His “Shintō Universalism”

In: Journal of Religion in Japan
Takashi Miura University of Arizona USA

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This article responds to a call for more research on the theme of “universality” in Japanese religion as articulated by Michel Mohr in his recent monograph (2014). The article focuses on Deguchi Onisaburō 出口王仁三郎 and examines the ways in which he utilized “Shintō” as a self-universalizing framework. He argued that Shintō is the spiritual foundation of the entire world, a kind of cosmic principle that pervades the universe. Based on this, he claimed that all religions around the world are merely different forms of Shintō. Onisaburō was not the first to advance this type of universalizing argument, as a number of Shintō thinkers had made comparable claims since the medieval period. What was at stake for Onisaburō and his predecessors, in other words, was not Shintō’s “indigeneity” to Japan, but its universality. This observation helps to further relativize and historicize the prevailing characterization of Shintō as Japan’s “indigenous religion.”

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