• John Breen University of London, UK


In January 2010, the Supreme Court delivered a historic verdict of unconstitutionality in a case involving Sorachibuto, a Shinto shrine in Sunagawa city, Hokkaido. All of the national newspapers featured the case on their front pages. As the case makes abundantly clear, issues of politics and religion, politics and Shinto, are alive and well in 21st century Japan. In this essay, I seek to shed light on the fraught relationship between politics and Shinto from three perspectives. I first analyze the Sorachibuto case, and explain what is at stake, and why it has attracted the attention it has. I then contextualize it, addressing the key state-Shinto legal disputes in the post war period: from the 1970s through to the first decade of the 21st century. Here my main focus falls on the state, and its efforts to cultivate Shinto. In the final section, I shift that focus to the Shinto establishment, and explore its efforts to reestablish with a succession of post LDP administrations the sort of intimacy, which Shinto enjoyed with the state in the early 20th century.

Keywords: Shinto, Supreme Court rulings, Sorachibuto, ‘object and effective’, Yasukuni, National Association of Shrines (NAS), Ise, State foundation day (kenkoku kinen no hi)


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