Kindai shakaku seido (modern shrine ranking system) (近代社格制度)

Kindai shakaku seido is a shrine ranking system that was newly established after the Meiji Restoration, being modeled after the system stipulated in the Engishiki (an ancient book for codes and procedures on national rites and prayers) under the ritsuryo system (a system of centralized government based on the ritsuryo code). Although Kindai shakaku seido was abolished after the World War II due to the principle of separation of government and religion, it is still used today under the name of 'Kyu shakaku' (old classification of shrines) to represent the ranking of shrines.

In 1871, it was established by an edict of Daijokan (The Grand Council of State), 'Kansha ika teikaku, Shinkan shokusei to kisoku' (literally, regulations for official shrines and others in number of priests allocated to a shrine, office organization of Shinto priest, and so on). As the preceding early-stage shrine rankings, there were Jingikan choku shihai-sha (shrines under direct control of Jingikan [Department of Divinities]) (神祇官直支配社) Taihoheisha [great-scale shrines dedicated heihaku, paper or silk cuttings or red and white cloth are presented to the gods), Chuhoheisha [medium-scale shrines dedicated heihaku] and Shohoheisha [small-scale shrines dedicated heihaku]), and Chokusai-sha (shrines whose rituals are attended by an imperial envoy) (Taisaisha [great-scale chokusai-sha shrines], Chusaisha [medium-scale chokusai-sha shrines] and Shosaisha [small-scale chokusai-sha shrines]).

On February 2, 1946, at the same time that government control of shrines was abolished by the Shinto Directive, the shrine ranking was also abolished. As an alternative to this system, Jinja-Honcho (The Association of Shinto Shrines) established a system of Beppyo jinja (shrines on the special list) in 1948, and listed all the old Kankoku heisha (general term for Kanpeisha [shrines designated as official by Jingikan, the Department of Religious affairs] and Kokuheisha [shrines under the control of provincial governors] that were high rank shrines) controlled by Jinja-Honcho as Beppyo jinja, giving them special treatments in personnel affairs.

In Kindai shakaku seido, the ranking of shrines is largely classified into Kansha (official shrines receiving offerings from the country) and Shosha (local shrines receiving offerings from local governments). Since Ise Jingu Shrine is considered special, it does not have a shrine ranking but is considered to be on the top of all shrines.

Kansha is shrines that receive hohei (offering a wand with hemp and paper streamers to a Shinto god) from the country at Kinen-sai Festival (prayer service for a good crop) and Niiname-sai Festival (ceremonial offering by the Emperor of newly-harvested rice to the gods). Kansha is further classified as Kanpeisha and Kokuheiha, both of which are further divided into the rankings of tai (great), chu (medium) and sho (small), respectively. Kanpeisha and Kokuheisha are collectively called Kankoku heisha.

Kanpeisha was intended to be shrines designated by Jingikan, and Kokuheisha to be shrines designated by local officials. The name of Kanpeisha and Kokuheisha, as well as the previous classification, were modeled after the shrine ranking system under the ritsuryo system. Kanpeisha mainly included shrines associated with imperial court, such as Nijuni-sha Shrines (the 22 most important Shinto shrines, as designated during the Heian period) and shrines dedicated to emperor or the imperial family, while Kokuheisha mainly included Ichinomiya (shrine with the highest ranking in the area) of the each region. There is no actual differences between Kanpeisha and Kokuheisha. However, at the time of Reisai Festival (regular festival), there is a difference that Kanpeisha received heihaku from the imperial family (the Imperial Household Ministry), while Kokuheisha received it from the national treasury (both received hohei from the imperial family at Kinen-sai Festival and Niiname-sai Festival). Also, initially Kanpeisha was only permitted to use the (Imperial) crest of the chrysannthemum for decoration of the main building of shrine, but Kokuheisha was also permitted to use it in 1874.

Subsequently, a system of Bekkaku Kanpeisha was introduced for Kansha which could not be classified as either Kanpeisha or Kokuheisha (e.g. shrines dedicated to people who rendered distinguished services to the state of the time), and Minatogawa-jinja Shrine was classified as the first Bekkaku Kanpeisha in 1872. Bekkaku Kanpeisha received the same treatments as Kanpei shosha (small-scale Kanpeisha).

Initially, there was no Kokuhei taisha (great-scale Kokuheisha), and in 1915, some Kokuhei chusha (medium-scale Kokuheisha) such as Kita-taisha Shrine were promoted to Kokuhei taisha for the first time.

Shosha is classified into Fukensha (prefectural shrines), Gosha (regional shrines), Sonsha (village shrines) and Mukakusha (shrines with no ranking).

Fukensha received hohei from a prefecture, and Gosha received it from either a prefecture or city. Although the shrine ranking of Hansha was established for those to receive hohei from domain, there was no shrines ranked as Hansha, since domains were abolished by Haihan-chiken (abolition of feudal domains and establishment of prefectures). Among them, Gosha was shrines which had special administrative functions, as well as being one of the shrine ranking. It was positioned as a main shrine for Ujiko shirabe (religious policy introduced by the Meiji government which obliged people to become ujiko [shrine parishioner] of their local shrines) and was established as an alternative to Danna-dera (family temple) under Shumon aratame (the inquisition for suppressing Christianity) in the Edo period. At the time of one's birth or address change, people had to receive mamorifuda (a charm) issued by those shrines. Since it was not a shrine ranking in the normal sense, there were some shrines which were Gosha as well as being Kankoku heisha or Fukensha. Under this system, Sonsha was established as shrines attached to Gosha. As Ujiko shirabe system was subsequently abolished, Gosha lost its administrative functions and purely became one of the shrine rankings. Mukakusha is shrine which is legally approved but not qualified to be Sonsha, and this term is used to distinguish them from shrines with shrine rankings, but it is also considered as a kind of the shrine rankings. Even among Mukakusha, there were many shrines which had Ujiko, and as independent shrines, they were not different from other shrines, but the only difference was whether they received heihaku or not. In the meantime, small-scale shrines were abolished as a result of shrine merger in the end of Meiji period. The survey conducted in 1938 showed that the number of Mukakusha was still 60496, which accounted for about half of the shrines.

From 1907, as well as Fukensha and Gosha, Sonsha (designated shrines only) also became able to receive shinsen heihaku-ryo Fee (fee for shinsen [food and alcohol offering to the gods] and heihaku) from local public bodies at the Reisai Festival. Furthermore, from April, 1914, they came to be able to receive shinsen heihaku-ryo Fee also at Kinen-sai Festival or Niiname-sai Festival.

Shrine ranking order
Concerning Kankoku heisha (Kansha), Kanpeisha is considered to be higher in rank than Kokuheisha, and each of them is further divided into tai (great), chu (medium) and sho (small) in order of ranking.
Although there is no clear definition on which is higher rank, Kanpei chusha or Kokuhei taisha, and so on, the materials such as Shinto jiten (dictionary of Shinto religion) explain as follows:
Also, by its nature that loyal subjects to the country or imperial family are enshrined, Bekkaku Kanpeisha was treated equally to Kanpei shosha, but it does not mean that they were in a higher rank than Kokuhei shosha.

Ordered from upper to lower: Kanpei taisha, Kokuhei taisha, Kanpei chusha, Kokuhei chusha, Kanpei shosha, Kokuhei shosha, Bekkaku Kanpeisha

The ranking of Shosha (Minsha [local shrine]) is ordered from upper to lower as follows: Fusha, Kensha, and Hansha are the same level, Gosha, Sonsha, Mukakusha

These detailed distinctions in shrine ranking did not cause much difference in actual treatment, and especially for Kankoku heisha, the significance of distinction between Kanpeisha and Kokuheisha was not clear. It was planned to establish more organized shrine ranking system to replace this system, but it was not realized. No matter how the system was like, from the point of view of the actual treatment, it can be said that shrines were eventually divided into the following three rankings: Kankoku heisha, Shinsen heihaku-ryo kyoshin shitei jinja (shrines which was able to receive Shinsen heihaku-ryo Fee from local public bodies; Fukensha and some of Gosha and Sonsha), and any other shrines.


Although it is not shrine ranking, in order to distinguish Gokoku-jinja Shrine (shrine honoring war dead) between local shrines and shrines under government protection, the latter was classified as Gokoku-jinja Shrine designated by the Minister of Home Affairs.

Tokyo Jissha (10 shrines in Tokyo)

Ise Jingu Shrine is the only shrine that has no ranking, as it is considered as the top shrine in the State Shinto.

[Original Japanese]