Friday, April 12, 2013

Japanese Shinto: the Cult of Hachiman

Japanese Shinto: the Cult of Hachiman

Shinto is a generalized term describing the non-homogeneous indigenous beliefs in Japan, an attempt to distinguish those beliefs from the imported political orientation 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 ripening and process 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 frequently the unbelievable component part surrounding his birth. A brief overview of the origin of the birth of Hachiman and its development will reveal the incongruous and political temper of the cult.

The enigmatical origin of the Hachiman cult is a result of unreliable resources and often of fantastic literary compositions. Legends of Hachiman often associate his being in connection to that of Emperor Ojin. One interpretation reveals the divine nature of the birth of Ojin, who, upon the revelation of eight banners from Heaven at his birth, changes his arouse to Hachiman.1 Alternatively, Ojin is born from a magical dove, the symbol of Hachiman, and proclaims himself to be the 16th human emperor, Homuda Tenno (Ojin), the broad-bannered Hachiman-maro.

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2 Textual evidence indicates that Ojin was the 15th ruling emperor and falsifies the suggestion that he was the sixteenth reigning emperor. The Shoku Nihongi3, the earliest document with reference to Hachiman (737 C.E.), recognized no Ojin-Hachiman connection. In fact, documents that directly connect Ojin with Hachiman date from no further than the Heian intent (794-1185 C.E.).4 Shinto priests testifying to the validity of the Ojin-Hachiman connection suggest that the existence of Hachiman precedent to the reign of Ojin is negligible or unknown.5 Quite difficult to...

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