Watarai Shinto

Doctrines Watarai Shinto was a medieval priestly movement of the Watarai family which gave prominence to the worship of the Outer Shrine (Gekuu) at Ise. Initially it incorporated Buddhist and Yin-Yang ideas into the conduct of shrine rituals to make rites of purification available to ordinary individuals. The deities of Ise were identified as the source of Buddhist 'original enlightenment' (hongaku), hence a visit to Ise or participation in Watarai-style shrine-rites was a form of purification or progress towards enlightenment. In the seventeenth century Watarai Shinto was reformulated in a Neo-Confucian idiom which interpreted pilgrimage to Ise as a means of attaining closer union of one's own inner nature with ri, the cosmic principle of order.

History The Ise shrines were originally the private shrines of the imperial family but as financial support for the shrine declined from about the thirteenth century the Watarai priestly clan became active in promoting the outer shrine as a centre for popular devotion, not just imperial rites. Pilgrimages to the shrine were co-ordinated by oshi, regional priests who were agents of the Watarai. Later, periodic okage-mairi 'thanks' or 'blessings' visits took place; spontaneous mass pilgrimages which reflected popular discontent in the form of ritual rebellion and an expression of desire for 'world-renewal'. The pilgrimages, which were founded on Watarai Shinto beliefs, reached their height in the Tokugawa period, with major spontaneous pilgrimages involving up to five million people occurring approximately every sixty years in 1705, 1771 and 1830 and many lesser pilgrimages in between. The influence of the Watarai had declined by the time of the Meiji restoration in 1868. It gave way to anti-Confucian kokugaku ideas which emphasised the centrality of the Inner Shrine of Amaterasu. Nevertheless the role of the Ise shrine as a focus of popular devotion and organised pilgrimage has continued, in tandem with the revitalised concept of the shrine as the private household shrine of the imperial family dedicated to worship of the sun goddess Amaterasu.

Symbols The tradition has no distinctive symbol system.

Adherents No contemporary adherents

Main Centre
 Ise jingu, Mie-ken