[December 14, 2019] The Japanese surrendered unconditionally on September 2, 1945, onboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Part of the plan for Japan after World War II was to end its military adventurism. To do so would not be an easy task. U.S. Army General Douglas MacArthur, as the Supreme Commander of Allied Powers in the Pacific, believed one of the solutions would be to end state-sponsorship of Shintoism in Japan.
MacArthur proposed a two-part plan. First, Japan was required to demobilize all of its armed forces and return all troops from aboard. Japan, as a developing nation since the early 20th century, had a history of foreign intervention, and a military-dominated political structure. This had to end.
Second, Shintoism was seen by the Allies as an impediment to the economic and political reforms the Allies had devised for Japan’s future. Ending Shintoism as Japan’s nationally-supported religion was an early step. Allied leadership believed that democratic reforms and a constitutional government could not be implemented as long as the people of Japan looked upon their emperor as their ultimate authority.
Emperor Hirohito was required to renounce his divine status. His powers were radically reduced and eventually served mostly as a figurehead. Compulsory courses on Shinto ethics, mandated by the government up to this point, were eliminated as part of a more extensive decentralization of all power. The Shinto Directive was issued on this date, December 14, 1945, to abolish state support for the Shinto religion.1 The directive encompasses the ideas of freedom of religion and separation of church and state.
There is little doubt that these two proposals, eventually implemented vigorously, had a positive impact on the country of Japan and its social and economic recovery. Many today question whether the ban on state support of Shintoism is necessary. Unsurprisingly, Shinto remains one of the most popular religions in Japan. And, some want to restore Shinto as a state religion.2
The two-part solution devised by General MacArthur and his staff was what was needed at the time. Planning, implementation, and execution of the Shinto Directive were stressful and met with many complaints. This is where dedicated and experienced staffing, along with strong leadership, comes in handy. Ending Shinto’s state support within the context of post-WWII Japan is a valuable lesson for any leader.
- December 15, 1945, in Japan.
- Shintoism was seen as social propaganda and was used as a tool of ultra-nationalism and a disguise for militarism. Three specific Shinto doctrines were banned. The Emperor is superior to other rulers. 2. The Japanese people are inherently superior to other peoples. 3. That Japanese islands are spiritually superior to other lands. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shinto_Directive