SHINTO: The Substratum of Japanese Nationalism

Assistant Professor, Centre for Japanese Studies, SLL&CS, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. E-mail:


Shinto has functioned as the élan vital for all the forms and facets of Japanese nationalism. The pervasive presence of Shinto as the substratum of identity is evident from the historical analysis of Japanese nationalism. Shinto is a rudimentary belief system that connects Japanese people’s history to their primordial myth. The origin of Japan and its divinity, imperial institution, and infallibility are deeply entrenched in Japanese minds. The imperial house has been the venerated institution, and the emperor serves as the chief priest of Shinto. These are the products of the Japanese myth and Shinto belief system, which translate into the structuring of Japanese identity. The nucleus of the idea of nationalism is identity formation and its articulation through innumerable media at different junctures. Shinto provides Japanese people with the foundation for this collective identity by indirectly influencing the Japanese heart and mind. The preservation of the spirit of Japan and the essence of Yamato has also been emphasised and expressed through
the concept of kokutai since the Edo period. This work attempts to shed interpretive light on Shinto’s imprint on Japanese nationalism.

Keywords Shinto . Nationalism . Myth . Substratum . Kokutai .