Shinbutsu-bunri (Separation of Buddhism and Shintoism) (神仏分離)

Shinbutsu-bunri is to prohibit conventional syncretization of Shinto with Buddhism and to distinguish between Shintoism and Buddhism, Kami (Shinto) and Buddha, and shrines and temples.

The earliest movement had already appeared in the Medieval Period, but the Shinbutsu-bunri usually refers to the separation carried out in accordance with the advancement of Confucianism, Kokugaku (the study of Japanese classical literature), and the Fukko-shinto (Reactionary Shintoism) which occurred in and after the mid or late Edo period.In a more limited sense, it refers to the separation carried out throughout the country according to the ordinance issued by the new Meiji government, called Shinbutsu Bunri-rei (officially named Shinbutsu Hanzen-rei, which means the Edict for Separation of Shinto and Buddhism), which was a general term representing a series of official notices issued between April 5, 1868 and December 1, 1868, such as the edict of the Daijokan (Grand Council of State), the notification of the Jingikan (Department of Worship), and the notification of the Daijokan. This Ordinance meant collectively a series of notifications issued by the Meiji government between April 5, 1868 and December 1, 1868, which included edicts of Daijokan (the Grand Council of State), and notifications of Jingikan (the Department of Worship) and Daijokan.

Separation of Buddhism and Shintoism, before Modern Times

The policy to separate Buddhism and Shintoism was adopted in Domains where Confucianism flourished, such as the Okayama Domain, the Mito Domain, and the Yodo Domain.

Separation of Buddhism and Shintoism in the Meiji period

Although the Edict for Separation of Shinto and Buddhism was not issued for the purpose to exclude Buddhism from the country, it triggered a nationwide anti-Buddhism campaign, and people destroyed temples and {Buddhist altar fittings} across the country. Shinto priests and scholars of Japanese classical literature in rural areas incited people who believed that they had been exploited under the parishioner system to join the campaign.

The government advanced the policy of the separation of Buddhism and Shintoism to prepare to establish Shinto as the state religion, but their intention met with a setback due to the abolition of the Jingisho (Ministry of Divinities) and the establishment of the Kyobusho (Ministry of Religion) of April 21, 1872, and they paved the way to the cooperative system for the propagation of Shintoism and Buddhism.

Since the Meiji period, the anti-Buddhism campaign had been promoted by some radical Shintoists and some people who followed such ideology until the end of World War II, but it eventually failed to prevail among ordinary people except for some areas. It is said that many people still do not know the difference between Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples even now. Although some shrines and temples inherit or try to revive the custom of the syncretism of Shinto and Buddhism, Shintoists and Buddhists basically dislike and avoid each other in fact.