Temple Buddhism and the Japanese Social Classification: A Brief Historical Overview

  • Mitsutoshi Horii


This chapter examines how Buddhist priests have historically been conceptualised within the Japanese social classification system. As discussed in previous chapters, the notion of ‘religion’ did not exist in Japan before the late-nineteenth century. Jason Josephson (2006, p. 144) describes Japanese semantics before the arrival of ‘religion,’ in which Temple Buddhism had been conceptualised:

There was no indigenous word that referred to something as broad as “religion,” nor a systematic way to distinguish between “religions” as members of a larger generic category. Instead, words such as shū 宗, kyō 教, ha 派, or shūmon 宗門 were used interchangeably to designate Christianity, divisions within Buddhism, distinctions between Daoism and Confucianism, and different strands of intellectual thought (such as different schools of painting or mathematics).


  1. ACA (Agency for Cultural Affairs). 1972. Japanese Religion: A survey by the Agency for Cultural Affairs. Tokyo: Kodansha International.Google Scholar
  2. Adolphson, Mikael S. 2000. The Gates of Power: Monks, Courtiers, and Warriors in Premodern Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.Google Scholar
  3. BBS (Bunkachō Bunkakyoku Shūmuka). 2015. Shūkyō kanren tōkei ni kansuru shiryōshū. Available at:
  4. Bunkachō 2009. Heisei 20 nendo Shūkyōnenkan. Tokyo: Gyōsei.Google Scholar
  5. Bunkachō 2016. Heisei 27 nendo Shūkyōnenkan. Tokyo: Gyōsei.Google Scholar
  6. Frank, Ronald. 2004. A Battle for Minds: Regulating Buddhism in Sixteenth-Century Japan. Asia Pacific: Perspectives 5(1): pp. 12–17.Google Scholar
  7. Goodwin, Janet. 1994. Alms and Vagabonds: Buddhist Temples and Popular Patronage in Medieval Japan, Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.Google Scholar
  8. Hirano, Takaaki. 2000. Sōryo Nyūmon. Tokyo: Tōhō-Shuppan.Google Scholar
  9. Horii, Mitsutoshi. 2016. The American Imperialism and the Japanese Encounter with ‘Religion’: 1853–1858. Studi e Materiali di Storia delle Religioni 82(2): pp. 838–869.Google Scholar
  10. Hur, Nam-lin. 2007. Death and Social Order in Tokugawa Japan: Buddhism, Anti-Christianity, and the Danka System. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Jaffe, Richard. 1997. The Buddhist Clerics and Japanese Subject: Buddhism and the Household Registration System. In Helen Hardacre and Adam Kern eds. New Directions in the Study of Meiji Japan. New York: Brill, pp. 506–530.Google Scholar
  12. Jaffe, Richard. 1998. Meiji Religious Policy Sōtō Zen, and Clerical Marriage Problem, Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 25: pp. 45–85Google Scholar
  13. Jaffe, Richard. 2001. Neither Monk nor Layman: Clerical Marriage in Modern Japanese Buddhism. Princeton. Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Josephson, Jason Ānanda. 2006. When Buddhism Became a “Religion”: Religion and Superstition in the Writings of Inoue Enryō. Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 33(1): pp. 143–168.Google Scholar
  15. Josephson, Jason Ānanda. 2012. The Invention of Religion in Japan. London: The University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ketelaar, James Edward. 1990. Of Heretics and Martyrs in Meiji Japan: Buddhism and Its Persecution. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Matsuno, Junkō. 1976. Sōron. In Hajime Nakamura, Kazuo Kasahara, Hidetomo Kaneoka eds. Ajia Bukkyōshi nihonhen IX. Tokyo. Kosei Shuppansha, pp. 9–54.Google Scholar
  18. Matsuo, Kenji. 2002. Obōsan no nihonshi. Tokyo: Nippon hōsōkyōkai shuppan.Google Scholar
  19. Maxey, Trent E. 2014. The “Great Problem”: Religion and State Formation in Meiji Japan. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. McMullin, Neil. 1984. Buddhism and the State in Sixteenth-century Japan, Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  21. MHLW (Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare). 1999. Rōdōshōhen Shokugyōbunrui. Tokyo. Gyōsei.Google Scholar
  22. Mokushōja Henshūjo ed. 2005. Ima Sōro e no Michi. Tokyo: Sanshū-sha.Google Scholar
  23. Nakajima, Takanobu. 2005. Otera no Keizaigaku. Tokyo. Tōyōkeizai Shinpō-sha.Google Scholar
  24. Nemoto, Seiji. 1999. Narajidai no sōryo to shakai. Tokyo: Yūzankaku shuppan.Google Scholar
  25. Sato, Masahiko. 2010. Shūkyōka no seikei rinri eno torikumi – bukkyō no tachibakara, Shūkyō kenkyū 83(4): pp. 1184–1185.Google Scholar
  26. Shimada, Hiromi. 1996. Shūkyōka ni naruniwa (lit: How to become a religious professional), Tokyo: Perikan-sha.Google Scholar
  27. Snodgrass, Judith. 2003. Presenting Japanese Buddhism to the West: Orientalism, Occidentalism, and the Columbian Exposition. London: The University of North Carolina Press.Google Scholar
  28. Soka Gakkai. 1995–2017. Sōka gakkai ni tsuite. Sokanet. Available at:
  29. Tamamuro, Fumio. 1997. On the Suppression of Buddhism. In Helen Hardacre and Adam Kern eds. New Directions in the Study of Meiji Japan. New York: Brill, pp. 499–505.Google Scholar
  30. Tamamuro, Fumio. 2001. Local Society and the Temple-Parishioner Relationship within the Bakufu’s Governance Structure. Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 28: pp. 261–292.Google Scholar
  31. ZNBSK (Zen Nihon Bukkō Seinen Kai) ed. 2003. Sōshiki Bukkō wa Shinanai. Kyoto Hakuba-sha.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mitsutoshi Horii
    • 1
  1. 1.Shumei UniversityChibaJapan

Personalised recommendations