Ko-Shintō (古神道) refers to the original animism of Jōmon period Japan which is the alleged basis of modern Shinto. The search for traces of Koshintō began with Restoration Shinto in the Edo period. Some movements which claim to have discovered this primeval way of thought are Oomoto, Izumo-taishakyo, and Shinrikyō.

The Sino-Japanese word ko () means "ancient or old"; shin () from Chinese shen, means "spiritual force" or simply "spirit", often translated as "deity" or "god"; and () from Chinese Tao, means "The Way". Thus Koshintō literally means the "Ancient Way of the Gods". The term Shinto itself originated in the 6th century (to distinguish it from continental ideas such as Buddhism and Taoism then being introduced).

Koshintō worldview

The following is deduced from studying the language of the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki which does not appear in any Chinese philosophy:

In Koshintō, the present world or utsushiyo is put in contrast to the eternal world or tokoyo. All individuals possess a tamashii, meaning a mind, heart, or soul. A tamashii without a body is called a mitama. Those whose tamashii has the nature of kami are called mikoto.

In the Age of the Kami, or Kamiyo, the Earth was ruled by kami, whose forms were akin to humans, but had pure hearts and spoke in the language of kotodama.

History of Koshintō research

There are no records of "pure" Koshintō in early Japanese literature. By the time Japan was producing literature, its native religion had already intermixed with Taoism and Buddhism. Medieval development meant that Shinto was integrated into Buddhist symbology.[1]

Koshintō research began at the same time as examinations into Early Buddhism. In this era, Japan's shrine rituals were being "purified" of their religious nature and turned into national forms, a process called State Shinto today. Religionists began looking for the origin of these forms in a primitive "nature religion".[2] Early folklorists such as Kunio Yanagita were also seeking a purely Japanese tradition.

Onisaburo Deguchi, the founder of Oomoto, was an extremely influential Koshinto researcher in the Imperial period. He influenced nearly all modern Koshinto lines except for that of Takuma Hisa. Such research continues today and is often connected with aikido and other martial arts.[3]

See also


  1. Breen, John and Mark Teeuwen, Shinto in Historical Perspective, Routledge Curzon (2000), ISBN 978-0-7007-1172-7
  2. 『(別冊歴史読本) 古神道・神道の謎』 ISBN 4404023774
  3. 大宮司朗・平上信行 『古神道と古流武術―その奥秘を語る』1996年、八幡書店 ISBN 4893501860

Further reading

  • Kornicki, Peter and I.J. McMullen (Ed), Religion in Japan: Arrows to Heaven and Earth, Cambridge University Press, (1996), ISBN 978-0-521-55028-4
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