The Shinto Directive was an order issued to the Japanese government by Occupation authorities to abolish state support for the Shinto religion. This unofficial "State Shinto" was thought by Allies to have been a major contributor to Japan's nationalistic and militant culture that led to World War II. The directive was based on the ideas of freedom of religion and separation of church and state found in the United States Constitution.
After the Second World War during the Occupation of Japan by the United States Military it was generally understood by allied students of Japanese culture and religion that Shinto in the form it took leading up to and during the war was social propaganda and was used as a tool of ultra-nationalism and a disguise for militarism. However, even though this was defined as non-religious propaganda, in the Allied schools it was being taught as religion. Thus, it was US policy regarding post-surrender Japan to abolish something called "State Shinto" which had not actually legally existed in Japan. The directive, SCAPIN 448, was drafted by the US Military’s expert on Japanese culture and religion, Lieut. William K. Bunce, U.S.N.R. and was issued on December 15, 1945 with the full title of "ABOLITION OF GOVERNMENTAL SPONSORSHIP, SUPPORT, PERPETUATION, CONTROL AND DISSEMINATION OF STATE SHINTO (KOKKA SHINTO, JINJA SHINTO)". There were two translations given for the term State Shinto; the first ("Kokka Shinto") was a neologism, and the second ("Jinja Shinto") referred to Shinto shrines, which up until 1945 had been secular wards of the state.
The directive was based in part on the United States Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of religion. According to the directive, State Shinto was to be stripped of public support and of its "ultra-nationalistic and militaristic" trappings. The remnants were to be permitted to exist as part of sectarian Shinto, an unprivileged equal among other faiths, supported only by voluntary offerings.
No public funds could be used to support Shinto shrines or priests. The Emperor could no longer report on public matters to his ancestors in official visits to the shrines. But he and other officials could worship as private individuals. Shinto doctrine would be deleted from text books. "Militaristic and ultranationalistic ideology" could not be promoted or encouraged in connection with Shinto or any other creed. These doctrines were specifically banned: that the Emperor is superior to other rulers because he descends from the sun; that the Japanese people are superior to other peoples, or the Japanese islands superior to other lands, because Amaterasu so willed.
As a result of the directive, a stream of instructions from the government were issued covering a wide range of prohibitions concerning Japanese culture and rites. Pupils at state schools and children of pre-school age were prohibited from being taken on field trips to religious institutions; Local town committees were prohibited from fundraising for shrines; Groundbreaking (jichinsai) and roof-raising rites (jōtōsai) were not to be performed for public buildings; State and public bodies were prohibited from conducting funerals and rites of propitiation for the war dead; and the removal and/or erection of commemorative sites to the war dead were regulated by the directive. However, the directive was lenient towards imperial court rites.
Initially, the directive was rigidly applied. This led to numerous complaints and grievances from local people. In 1949, halfway through the occupation, the directive came to be applied with greater discretion. Typical of this leniency was the approval granted to state funerals which entailed religious rites. The funerals of Matsudaira Tsuneo of the Upper House (Shintō-style) and of Shidehara Kijūrō of the Lower House (Buddhist) were typical examples.
The Directive had a dramatic impact on postwar Japanese policy. Although it was only enforced by the Americans, many of the changes it made became a part of a revised postwar legal interpretation of "separation of church and state". The only notable reversion, besides the Occupation-era approval of state funerals, was a 1965 Supreme Court decision approving of jichinsai and jōtōsai for public buildings.
- Carl F. Goodman, The Rule of Law in Japan (Fredrick, MD: Kluwer Law International, 2008), 76-78