252 , 2017-07-24 , International Research Center for Japanese Studies
Since early January 2016 Jinja Honchō has participated in a campaign led by Nippon Kaigi to establish popular support for constitutional reform. In this essay, I seek to understand Jinja Honchō’s involvement in this campaign through a reading of the postwar Supreme Court cases related to the separation of religion from the state. I argue that amendment of Articles 20 and 89 was never considered a priority for most of this period, since the prevalent paradigm in the Supreme Court was that Shinto was something other than a religion; but following the break with this paradigm in the Ehime Tamagushiryō case in 1997, and the subsequent confirmation of the validity of this precedent through the ruling on the Sunagawa I case in 2010, those seeking a closer relationship between the Shinto establishment and the state have had to find new routes. The rise of Nippon Kaigi as one of Japan’s largest conservative lobby groups coincides with this development in the Supreme Court, and the organization’s focus on constitutional reform can therefore partly be understood in this light. Should Nippon Kaigi eventually produce a draft for their vision of a new constitution, it is likely that the idea of Shinto as something other than a religion will be reflected in this draft.