Jisha (Buddhist Temples and Shinto Shrines) (寺社)

Jisha is a generic term for Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. The term Jinja Bukkaku is also used. These terms arose from the belief that existed until the Edo period when Buddhist deities were considered to be the original form of Shinto Kami. There is evidence that the term jisha was in use since the Heian period, but became widely used since the Meiji era based on a preference for shrines.

The syncretism of Shinto and Buddhism

Until the Meiji edict ordering the separation of Buddhism and Shinto, Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines (Buddhist deities and Shinto Kami) were worshipped as single entities and treated in the same manner unless there was a need to make a distinction.

This occurred as a result of the syncretism of Shinto and Buddhism in which the Japanese indigenous Shinto beliefs became mixed with the imported Buddhism (particularly Esoteric Buddhism) to create various religious belief such as Shugendo (Japanese mountain asceticism incorporating Shinto and Buddhist concepts). There are also circumstances for when the distinction between Buddhism and Shinto is unclear such as the name 'Gongen' (avatar), which arose from the manifestation theory (holding that Shinto Kami are manifestations of Buddhist deities) that attempted to consolidate the coexistence of the two beliefs. Buildings such as jinguji (Buddhist temples that were established on the grounds of Shinto shrines) also resulted from this trend.

State Shinto which was based on Meiji era nationalism forced combined shrines and temples to become separated, sometimes resulting in one of the other becoming closed.

However, except for the war years, there was not a major change in the attitude of the populace who continued to practice local traditions such as folk religions and festivals outside the scope of State Shinto.

It is now said that Japanese have little religious belief and, with the exception of special occasions such as funerals, have little concept of the difference between Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, of which many are considered places of business or tourist attractions.