Is Shinto Secular? the 2016 G7 Meeting at Ise in Light of Postwar Japanese Secularism
It has been suggested that the constitutional secularism of post-war Japan can be divided into two periods, based on how the courts have viewed Shinto. Before 1997, Shinto was generally equated with culture and hence not affected by the separation of state and religion posited in Articles 20 and 89 of the Constitution, but since the landmark Ehime Tamagushiryô case in 1997 this has changed and Shinto is now generally – but no exclusively – considered a “religion” in legal terms. This is a position that has been much criticized by the National Association of Shinto Shrines, with its central shrine at Ise.
Building on Jason Josephson’s idea of the discourse of the “Shinto Secular”, I suggest that Abe’s promotion of Ise for the G7 summit lies within the discursive field of what I call the Shinto Normative. Although this discourse has lost ground in the Supreme Court since 1997, the idea that Shinto is something else – something closely connected to what it means to be Japanese – is still common in Japanese political discourse. In this paper, I will analyze Abe’s bid to hold the G7 meeting in the vicinity of Ise in the light of Japanese secularism post 1997.