BY THE REV. YUKITAKA YAMAMOTO
My family name is Yamamoto and my given name is Yukitaka. I am the 96th generation of the Yamamoto family to serve as High Priest (Guji) of the Tsubaki Grand Shrine in Mie Prefecture in Japan. In Tsubaki's long history, these ninety-six generations have performed the rituals of Shinto and strived to live in accordance with the way of the divine as it has been handed down to us for over two millennia.
Shinto is as old as the mountains of Japan. It is the way in which the natural spirituality of the Japanese people finds its expression. It is as close to the Japanese people as life itself. Indeed, it is a way of expressing the flow of life as you will see.
This book is about Shinto. It is also about people. Shinto is not easy to understand, even in the case of Japanese for whom it is the basis of life. I would like you to try to understand what Shinto is, a little of how it developed (and our shrine with it) and where it is today.
I hope to explain also why Shinto, once branded as a doctrine of nationalistic fanatics can see itself sufficiently international to take part in a
movement such as the International Association for Religious Freedom (I.A.R.F.).
I have three other reasons for writing this book:
•I have long wished to express all my ideas to the members of the I.A.R.F. with which I have been associated for 18 years and which I have also served as treasurer. The 1987 Congress in California seemed an appropriate occasion on which to present my views.
•I have long nurtured the dream of establishing a Shinto presence in the United States to serve as a bridgehead for intercultural communication and mutual understanding between East and West. We have set up the Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America incorporated according to the laws of the State of California. We need to explain therefore not only what Shinto is, but how we expect people to understand Shinto who have no background in Japanese culture. I would not like the people of the U.S.A. to misunderstand the Shrine's objectives. We are not concerned with proselytizing. To make this point clear as well as other aspects of our philosophy, I agreed with those who felt it was necessary for me to set down my basic ideas.
•My most personal goal in writing this book is to stimulate a human renaissance. War and conflict is against the will of the divine, of the Kami as we in Japan describe it. History is a mass of struggles, political, economic, philosophical and religious. One third of today's world shows no respect for God or gods, and lack of belief and seriousness has become an all too widespread characteristic of many young people from whom more idealism and optimism might be expected. Confusion and uncertainty reign and mankind's future looks at risk.
At such a time it is a matter of urgent necessity that East meets West and in particular that Japanese and Americans become truly close. Only in this way can be begin to realize the greater vision of the brotherhood of humankind in which we are all involved.
I believe each tradition can make its contribution to the coming world order, and that Shinto is among these. I would like to think that this book helps to bring these dreams one step closer to reality.
You, the reader, can help by doing no more than reading these words and trying to understand them. I am not seeking to convert you or anyone else to Shinto. I simply seek your understanding with all my heart. If you feel you can shake hands with us or hold hands in a circle of friendship that can span the globe, so much the better. Our hopes are high and we pray for your goodwill.
If you ever visit Japan, we will make you very welcome at the Tsubaki Grand Shrine. There you can see for yourself and experience directly the roots of the Japanese spirit, the source of our inspiration and belief.
Whether in Japan or in the United States, or wherever, let us join in praying for the peace of the world and the true well-being of mankind in it.
This book is dedicated in friendship to all members of the International Association for Religious Freedom and to the seekers of world peace and human brotherhood everywhere.
96th High Priest
Tsubaki Grand Shrine
Mie Prefecture, Japan