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Crest of Konkokyo

Konkōkyō (金光教, Konkō-kyō) or just Konkō, is a religion and spiritual way of living of Japanese origin. Originating in Shinbutsu Shugo beliefs, it is now both an independent religion as well as Sectarian Shintō being a member of the Kyoha Shintō Rengokai (Association of Sectarian Shinto).[1] It is a syncretic, henotheistic and pantheistic religion, which worships the universe as the deity Tenchi Kane No Kami, or the Golden Kami of Heaven and Earth (or the Universe). Tenchi Kane No Kami is also referred to as "Tenchi No Kami-Sama," "Oyagami-Sama," "Kami-Sama," and "Kami." In English language, the deity can also be called, "Divine Parent of the Universe," "Principle Parent," "Parent Kami," "Kami-Sama," or "Kami.".[2] Although mentioned as 'he' for linguistic convenience, the Kami is neither male or female.


Central Worship Hall (Konkōkyō Headquarters)
Grand Service Hall (Konkōkyō Headquarters)

Bunjirō Kawate (川手文治郎, Kawate Bunjirō, 1814–1883) is recognized as the founder of Konkō-kyō way and teachings, beginning in 1859. He was born on September 29, 1814, in the village of Urami in Bitchū Province (in present-day Asakuchi, Okayama Prefecture) to a farming family. Urami was a small quiet village located about two kilometers northwest of present-day Konkokyo Headquarters. Genshichi was often carried by his father's back and visited various shrines and temples. Given the name Genshichi, he was the second son of Kandori Juhei (Father) and Kandori Shimo (Mother). When Bunji was 13, he received education from Ono Mitsuemon, the village headman for two years.[3]

As Genshichi was the second son and thus not expected to take over the family lineage or farm, he was arranged to be adopted in the fall of 1825. At age twelve, Genshichi was adopted into the Kawate household by Kawate Kumejiro (Father) and Kawate Iwa (Mother), and he was renamed Kawate Bunjiro, or Bunji. He worked assiduously for the prosperity and welfare of his family, and he gained the respect of those around him.

In 1855, at the age of forty-two, Bunjirō went to the local shrine Kibitsu Jinja to do a divination and prayer ceremony as it was his yakudoshi (unlucky age year). He believed he had received a good omen, yet that year suffered from a serious throat ailment, rendering him in a chronic condition and unable to speak or move. He could not receive help from doctors, so he turned to ancient Shinto ritual with the help of his brother in law, Furukawa Jiro, to find the reason of his illness. The deity of Ishizuchi revealed through an oracle that Bunjirō was supposed to die from his illness for offending the deity Konjin. Realizing his mistakes, Bunjirō wanted to apologize to the deity. By this sincere desire to do so, he was able to gain his voice back, to which he was able to apologize to the deity with his own voice. From that time, he then gradually recovered from his illness completely, the experience impacting his faith and beliefs.[4]

As he continued his faith practice from that day, more spiritual experiences occurred, and his faith grew in the Kami and Bodhisattvas. In particular, he prayed most often to Konjin due to the spiritual experience during his yakudoshi year and apologizing for his irreverence to this deity. Over time, his faith led him to pray to multiple kami at once as a composite deity. He understood this composite deity as Nittenshi (The Buddhist understanding of the Sun) Gattenshi (The Buddhist understanding of the Moon), and Kane no Kami (Nigimitama of Ushitora no Konjin). Ultimately however, this deity revealed themselves through an oracle that they were not a composite deity, but the deity that was the spirit/soul that was the Universal workings and energy, to which Bunjirō understood the name to be Tenchi Kane no Kami.

Thus, Bunjirō practiced his faith in this deity, Tenchi Kane no Kami, who revealed to him many teachings through spiritual experiences. On November 15, 1859 (The date understood as the founding date of the Konkokyo way) Tenchi Kane no Kami asked Bunjirō to give up his farming career, and help people by listening to them and praying for their troubles or requests, and become a priest. In a response, Bunjirō gave up farming and devoted himself to helping others.

He taught others who came to his worship space that Tenchi Kane no Kami "Wishes to help and save people. But can do so only through other people. By helping people, one performs the work of this deity. This deity depends on people, and at the same time, people depend on this deity, in mutual fulfillment."

Before long, the number of visitors seeking advice and spiritual guidance grew, and as well a group of disciples called the deyashiro was formed to help Bunjirō spread the teachings of this deity.[5]

After the Meiji Restoration of 1868, religious policies of the new government temporarily placed limits on Konkokyo teachings, due to Tenchi Kane no Kami not being a formal deity of the Kojiki (the only deities allowed worship and shrines in the Meiji era), however, this provided an opportunity to develop important aspects that ended up preserving Konkōkyo's history and teachings, such as the memoir Konkō Daijin Oboegaki, written by Bunjirō documenting his spiritual experiences and daily living with his faith in Tenchi Kane no Kami. In his later years, he compiled the Oshirase-goto oboechō (Record of Revelations) which documented the spiritual experiences clearly. On October 10, 1883, Bunjirō passed away at the age of seventy.

He was succeeded by his son, Konko Ieyoshi, who became regarded as the successor and spiritual leader to pass on the Konkokyo way of helping others, who was supported by the desciples of Bunjirō.

Subsequently, the Konko family line has been succeeded since then, to which those successors are responsible to be spiritual leaders and guide the proper way of Konkokyo - the teachings of Tenchi Kane no Kami - since Bunjirō's passing.

The present successor and spiritual leader of Konkokyo is the 5th generation son, Heiki Konko.[6]


In Konkokyo, everything is seen as being in profound interrelation with each other. Kami is not seen as distant or residing in heaven, but present within this world. The universe is perceived to be the body of Tenchi Kane no Kami. Suffering is seen as being caused by the individual's disregard between the relationship between all things. Konkokyo's beliefs center around the betterment of human life in this world by showing appreciation for all things, apologizing, and providing mutual help and prayer for others. By embodying these virtues, it is taught anyone can become an ikigami, or living kami - one whom helps others unconditionally and has inner peace. An ikigami is not an exalted being or someone with mysterious, spiritual powers. It is the ideal human being who strives to save people from suffering and problems and to make the world a happier place to live in.[7] It is believed that after death, the spirits of those who have passed on remain of the universe, as mitama-no-kami (divine ancestral spirits) in connection with Tenchi Kane No Kami.

Bunjirō taught that one could receive the help of Tenchi Kane no Kami by "having faith in the Kami out of a sincere mind" (known in Japanese as the phrase Jitsui Teinei Shinjin).

Konkokyo believes there is a mutually dependent relationship between Tenchi Kane No Kami and people. People cannot exist without Tenchi Kane No Kami, and Tenchi Kane No Kami cannot exist without people. With air, water, food, and other blessings of the Universe in Tenchi Kane No Kami's body, people can live and work. In return, Tenchi Kane No Kami asks that people help and save others, live according to the ways of the Universe, and make the world a peaceful place to live for everyone. By fulfilling Tenchi Kane No Kami's wishes to help others, people bring Tenchi Kane No Kami's virtue to life. Through this mutually reliant and interdependent relationship, both Tenchi Kane No Kami and people can continue to exist and work together to make the world a more peaceful place.[8]

An aspect that separates Konkokyo as a unique way is "Toritsugi" which means mediation. In Konkokyo, Toritsugi (Mediation) is a spiritual practice for people to establish a communication link between themselves and Tenchi Kane no Kami. One can receive Toritsugi by a Konkokyo minister, generally at a Konkokyo church. A visitor enters the church, sits in front of the minister, and says whatever is on their mind. It can be a request to resolve a problem, or a word of thanks.

In Toritsugi, after the visitor says everything they have wanted to say, the minister relays the visitor's words to the spirit of Ikigami Konko Daijin (the spiritual formal name of Bunjirō, who was first taught Toritsugi by Tenchi Kane no Kami.) in prayer. Ikigami Konko Daijin then helps the minister to further relay the words to Tenchi Kane No Kami.

Tenchi Kane no Kami then replies their message to the minister, who will then relay it back to the person.

By understanding the message of Tenchi Kane No Kami's teachings and advice, the visitor can receive guidance to their issues, or feel relieved from anxieties knowing the deity has heard their words. Toritsugi can help the person put a problem into perspective and find solutions from within their own hearts.

Tenchi Kane No Kami asks people to understand their teachings, thus to make people become aware of their relationship with the Universe and the ways of the Universe. By working within the framework of the laws of the Universe instead of going against it, people can avoid troubles which lead to suffering. While Toritsugi at churches is typically performed by ministers, lay members are also encouraged to perform Toritsugi in their daily lives to help others. When they meet people who are suffering, the Konkokyo way is to listen to their problems, support them, and pray for their wellbeing and happiness. Tenchi Kane no Kami wishes for all people to become a mediator and help others.

Konkokyo has churches where people can go to worship and pray. Though Konkokyo believes that Tenchi Kane No Kami is everywhere, and followers of the way can talk to the deity anytime and anywhere, the church is a place to receive assistance and guidance through Toritsugi, and for people to focus their prayers, to appreciate blessings, apologize for any irreverences they may feel they have made, as well as be a safe and calming center for people to visit.

The faith believes that all people came from and are connected by the universe. This means that all people are connected by Tenchi Kane no Kami and there is no one that does not belong. Konkokyo desires to have all people, regardless of race, creed, gender, and occupation, work together to resolve the problems of the world. The faith also respects and accepts all ethnic groups and religions.

Konkokyo does not force or require people to quit another religion before following Konkokyo ways; believers are free to belong to another religion concurrently.

All people are regarded as equal regardless of race, religion, gender, occupation, social status, and wealth. Women in Konkokyo are also held in high esteem with many women serving as head ministers at its churches.

The faith differs in Jinja Shinto in that it does not believe in taboos including beliefs related to unlucky days, unlucky years (age), and ominous directions. There are no distinctions between pure and impure things or sacred and non-sacred places.

Konkokyo also does not impose any restrictions on food and drink. Konkokyo believers are permitted to consume alcohol, caffeine, meat, etc.

Celibacy is also not a requirement for the clergy or anyone. There are no restrictions for Konkokyo believers. As well believers are not obligated or required to pay any dues or make any donations.[9]


The following information is current as of December 1, 2012 (Kondō, 2013, p. 39)

  • Churches (教会) 1,550
  • Missions (布教所) 10
  • Ministers (教師) 3,909
  • Ministerʻs assistants/Deacons (補教) 1,855

There are about 450,000 adherents.

Konkōkyō churches and missions are found in the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Germany, Paraguay, and South Korea, and majorly Japan. Due to the Japanese cultural nature of Konkokyo, it has limited churches overseas.

Through its various churches and missions, Konkōkyō has a number of activities and organizations that help fulfill the necessities of modern-day society: Konkōkyō Peach Activity Centery, Konkō Library, Konkō Church of Izuo Miyake Homes (India, Bangladesh, and Nepal), Yatsunami Foundation, Shinkō-kai Medical Foundation, Konkō Academy, Wakaba Orphanage, and Katsuragi Memorial Park (cemetery) (Takahashi, 1994).

Relationship to Shintō[edit]

Because of Japanese society being deeply intertwined with Shinbutsu Shugo at the time of Bunjirō, the founder, Konkokyo began deeply rooted in Shinto ways, traditions, and rituals - many of which still are present of the ceremonies in present-day.

Due to the Meiji Restoration's strict laws on Shinto, any spiritual practices that was not in line with their rules could not be called State Shinto.

Thus, Konkōkyō was classified as Sectarian Shintō. This allowed Konkōkyō to continue its propagation without persecution from the government.

Konkokyo has never renounced this classification even after it was free to do so at the end of World War II, alongside the abolition of State Shinto into Jinja Shinto.

As of January 2014, Konkokyo maintains membership in the Kyoha Shintō Rengokai (Association of Sectarian Shinto).

However, Konkōkyō followers rarely give much thought (if any) to Konkōkyō's technical status as a Sectarian Shinto sect— some regard it more as an independent religion than a type of Shintō, or some regard it as a type of Shinto.

The philosophy, practices, and beliefs of Konkōkyō are noticeably similar to modern Shrine Shinto; therefore, there are many Konko followers who consider themselves Shinto.

The most notable difference is, due to the nature of Tenchi Kane no Kami, this deity is not enshrined like in Jinja Shinto, nor do Konkokyo churches offer items commonly seen in Shinto shrines, such as ofuda or omamori. Konkōkyō has centralized the Tenchi Kakitsuke [Universal Reminder] as its main focus on the altar and in prayers. Some churches only have a Tenchi Kakitsuke, while others have additional traditional items seen in Shinto shrines, such as sacred mirrors, or gohei, to indicate the presence of the deity.

Another difference is, while some Konkokyo followers are able to and may revere other Kami, such as Amaterasu Omikami, who is the required most revered deity in Jinja Shinto teachings, Konkokyo places a focus on Tenchi Kane no Kami, and to have an equal respect for all deities, not placing particular importance on one kami or the other; since they are all part of the universe.

It should also be noted that some churches, especially overseas, have been making modern changes to worship style that are different than traditional Shintō style to be more welcoming to those unfamiliar with Japanese culture. Prayers were changed in 1980 from typical Shintō prayers—Amatsu Norito and Ōharai Kotoba—to Shinzen Haishi [Prayer to God], Reizen Haishi [Prayer to the Deceased]. Some churches overseas and in Japan however, keep traditional Shinto ritual, worship, and prayers. It varies greatly from church to church, and a minister by minister basis.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ "Religious Beliefs | KONKOKYO". www.konkokyo.or.jp. Retrieved 2017-02-03. 
  3. ^ "The Life of The Founder | KONKOKYO". www.konkokyo.or.jp. Retrieved 2017-02-03. 
  4. ^ Konko Daijin: A Biography. United States of America: Konko Churches of North America, USA. 1981. pp. 15, 16, 17, 18, 19. 
  5. ^ "Religious Beliefs | KONKOKYO". www.konkokyo.or.jp. Retrieved 2017-02-03. 
  6. ^ "Fifth and Current Konko-Sama | KONKOKYO". www.konkokyo.or.jp. Retrieved 2017-02-03. 
  7. ^ "Religious Beliefs | KONKOKYO". www.konkokyo.or.jp. Retrieved 2017-02-03. 
  8. ^ "Religious Beliefs | KONKOKYO". www.konkokyo.or.jp. Retrieved 2017-02-03. 
  9. ^ "Basic Precepts | KONKOKYO". www.konkokyo.or.jp. Retrieved 2017-02-03. 
  • Arai, K., Kawabata, Y., Matsumoto, S., Matsuno, J., Miyake, H., Suzuki, H., Tamaru, N., Tomikura, M., & Ueda, K. (1972). In I. Hori, F. Ikado, T. Wakimoto, & K. Yanagawa (Eds.), Japanese religion: A survey by the agency for cultural affairs. Tōkyō, Japan: Kodansha International.
  • D. C. Holtom, Konko Kyo: A Modern Japanese Monotheism, The Journal of Religion, Vol. 13, No. 3 (Jul., 1933), pp. 279–300
  • Fukushima, Shinkichi. (2006, Dec 16). Encyclopedia of Shintō-home: Modern sectarian groups: Konkōkyo. Kokugakuin University. Retrieved from http://eos.kokugakuin.ac.jp/modules/xwords/entry.pho?entryID=612
  • Inoue, Nobutaka. (2006). Shūkyō. [Religion] (19th ed.). Tōkyō, Japan: Natsume-sha.
  • Inoue, Nobutaka. (2006, Dec. 16). Encyclopedia of Shintō-home: Modern sectarian groups: §Shintō-derived religions. Kokugakuin University. Retrieved from https://eos.kokugakuin.ac.jp/modules/xwords/entry.phoID=354
  • J.M. Kitagawa, On Understanding Japanese Religion, Princeton University Press, 1992, ISBN 978-0-691-10229-0
  • McFarland, H. N. (1967). The rush hour of the gods: A study of new religious movements in Japan. New York: The Macmillan Company.
  • Kondō, Kaneo. (2013, January). Konkōkyō no genjo [Present situation of Konkōkyō]. Konkōkyōhō Ametsuchi, 2170, 39.
  • Satō, Norio. (1983). Naiden. In Konkōkyō Honbu Kyōcho. Konkōkyō Kyōten [Teachings of Konkōkyō]. (pp. 890–917). Konkō-cho, Japan: Konkōkyō Honbu Kyōcho.
  • Satō, Norio. (1993). Special stories: Naiden. Kyōten: Gorikai III [Teachings of Konkō Daijin Volume III]. Konkō-cho, Japan: Konkōkyō Headquarters.
  • Takahashi, T. (1994, July 1). Konkōkyō facts. Handout of facts on Konkōkyō as of June, 1994, given to American exchange students from Kwansei University taking a course on Japanese religions, Ōsaka, Japan.
  • Takahashi, T. (2011). Lessons learned after parting the Pacific: A phenomenological study on the experiences of American-born ministers in preparation for real-world ministry at the Konkōkyō Gakuin. Argosy University, Hawaiʻi.

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