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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Saisei Itchi : the identity of religion and government in the early Meiji years 1867-1872 Brown, William Nimmo


This thesis is a study of the interaction of religion and government in the first five years of the Meiji Restoration (1868-1872). It deals with the ideological premises as well as the political application of Shinto as an organ of government. The paper discusses the elevation to national prominence of Shinto in the form of Restoration or Revival Shinto (Fukko Shintō) and traces both the theological antecedents as well as the ancient institutional origins of the religio-political theory of state espoused by the Restoration Shinto movement. This theory found political expression in the early Meiji years through the government's re-introduction and promotion of the religious policy of saisei itchi, the identity or unity of religion and government. This thesis has three main objectives: first, to examine the Shinto administrative mechanisms in the central government and thereby define saisei itchi as both an administrative structure and a religio-political ideology; second, to investigate the practical application of, saisei itchi as a religious policy by looking at the legislation effected by Shinto administrative bodies; and third, to define the position and role of the saisei itchi construct within the context of the general pre-war alliance of Shinto and the Japanese state which is categorized under the blanket term State Shinto (Kokka Shintō). This thesis concludes that the implementation of saisei itchi was a consistent goal of the early Meiji government between 1868 and 1872. The promotion of the Restoration Shinto ideology expressed through the saisei itchi ideal provided an ideological framework which aided in the consolidation of Shinto as a religious structure and in the acceptance of the new Imperial government. The paper argues further that saisei itchi was to a significant degree religious in intent, so much so that it can be viewed as being a distinct entity within the general context of State Shinto with which it is usually fused or confused. That is, in the work of several modern historians, saisei itchi has either been treated as an integral component of State Shinto or mistaken for State Shinto itself. By highlighting saisei itchi as the major facet in the early Meiji state's involvement with Shinto, this thesis hopes to provide some insight into this oft neglected aspect of early Meiji government.

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