Accepted paper:

The effects of shinbutsu bunri through iconographical change and compromise at Dewa Sanzan


Gaynor Sekimori (SOAS)

Paper short abstract:

The re-identification of deity and accompanying iconographic changes reflect the impact of shinbutsu bunri at Dewa Sanzan. An examination of popular prints from the area reveals the extent of compromise permitted, while a topographical study castes doubt on the wanton destruction of fabric.

Paper long abstract:

The shinbutsu bunri legislation had an almost immediate impact on the visual culture of Japanese religion, and this can be seen particularly well in the printed images of deities (osugata, mie; "ofuda") that were issued by shrines before and after the early years of the Meiji period. At Dewa Sanzan, an area with a checkered history of opposition and compromise to the new order, the reconfiguration of deity was set in motion following the appointment of a nativist bureaucrat as head of the new Haguro Shrine in 1873. Buddhist images were removed from its principal hall, and all the subsidiary halls on the three mountains were renamed in a consistent way as shrines of orthodox Shinto kami. The iconographic changes are well illustrated by a comparison between popular pre- and post-Meiji prints of the buddhas (honjibutsu) and kami (suijaku). Post-Meiji prints also illustrate changes in depiction over time, revealing the development of an orthodox "Shinto" style. The prints show too a reconfiguration of the location of the prime sacred site, from Yudonosan to Gassan, which reflects both a Meiji kami hierarchy (Gassan was identified as Tsukiyomi no mikoto) and the political reality of Hagurosan domination in the new order. Prints of popular deities such as Daikoku, Shōmen Kongō and Gozu Tennō show varying degrees of iconographic compromise and change. Whereas Daikoku's image continued unchanged except for name (Ōkuninushi no mikoto), the change was more obvious between Shōmen Kongō and Sarutahiko, while Gozu Tennō became completely obscured as the deity of Yasaka Shrine. A further aspect of changing deity at Hagurosan is topographical. The topography today bears little resemblance to what is shown in Edo period and early Meiji maps. It is generally held that this was due to intentional destruction of small shrines by Shintoists. However an examination of the religio-political sitation of the late Meiji period suggests the loss of fabric was due rather to the breakdown of the traditional system of caretakers (dōmori) on the one hand and the government policy of shrine mergers on the other.

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Aspects of the Effect of Kami-Buddha Separation (Shinbutsu bunri) at Dewa Sanzan: Iconography, Liturgy and the Reconstruction of Popular Faith