People Mentioned on this Site

People Closely Related to Shintō



Hirata Atsutane    平田篤胤

Hirata Atsutane is ranked as one of the four great scholars of Kokugaku, along with Motoori Norinaga, the founder of the school, Kada no Azumamaro, and Kamo no Mabuchi. Hirata was born in 1776 in what is now Akita-ken. His father was a low-ranking samurai but in 1795 he moved to Edo and five years later was adopted into the family of a Matsuyama-han retainer, Hirata Tōbei, by whose family name he became known. After another five years had passed he entered the academy of Motoori Haruniwa, the eldest son of Norinaga. The passage of time has shown us that Haruniwa was not the scholar his father was and Hirata always considered himself to be a disciple of Norinaga. Later he claimed to have had a dream in which Norinaga appeared to him and bestowed on him the title of Teacher of Kokugaku. As Norinaga had died in 1801 this was an appearance from beyond the grave, Hirata had a keen interest in the supernatural, but he had a wide range of interests, writing not only on Japanese classics, but Chinese and Indian subjects, military matters, and even showed some interest in Christianity. Although he was something of a populist, wanting to address the common man as well as the elite, he was a passionate advocate of the imperial system and in 1841 was forced to return to Akita and confined there by the Tokugawa administration, which took serious exception to a work he wrote, Tenchō Mukyūreki (Chronicle of the Perpetual Rule of the Emperor). He never returned to Edo and died in Akita in 1843. Like Motoori he had a wide posthumous following, and is now enshrined in the Hirata Jinja in Tōkyō's Shibuya-ku.

Motoori Norinaga      本居宣長

Motoori Norinaga was born in Matsusaka, Ise in 1730.His father was one of the burgeoning Tokugawa merchant class but he died when Norinaga was eleven, leaving him the senior of fo ur children to be raised by a single parent. His mother was able to give him a solid classical education and she was keen that he become a merchant like his father before him and rebuild the family business. He was duly apprenticed to a merchant but it quickly became clear that he had neither the desire nor aptitude to succeed in business and his mother suggested he study medicine. He agreed, mainly because being a physician would afford him ample time to study and achieve his real ambition of becoming a scholar.

In 1752, when he was 22, Norinaga moved to Kyōto to take up his medical studies. He spent five years there, and as well as learning enough medicine to be able to return to Matsusaka in 1758 as a pediatric physician, devoted himself to the study of literature, his true passion. In time he began to give lectures on Japanese classics such as the Tale of Genji and came to have a great regard for probably the foremost authority in the field, Kamo no Mabuchi (1697-1679). In 1763 Norinaga moved a giant step forward in his true avocation when he was able to meet Kamo no Mabuchi and spend a night in conversation with him.

Mabuchi was apparently greatly impressed with Norinaga and advised him that if he wanted to properly understand the culture of the ancient Japanese he would have to somehow strip away all the foreign excrescencies that over the centuries had attached themselves to the Japanese body politic and study the ancient unsullied language and culture. Mabuchi himself had tried to do this through painstaking study of the eighth century poetry collection, the Man'yōshū, but had still, he was 66 at this time, not achieved his goal. He gave Norinaga one of his own annotated copies of the poetry collection along with the advice that would be a solid base from which Norinaga could make a deep study of the Kojiki. Norinaga accepted the advice, officially became Mabuchi’s disciple, and spent the next thirty or so years immersed in Japan’s oldest book. By 1798 he had essentially completed his magnum opus, the Kojiki-den (Commentaries on the Kojiki), but it was not until 21 years after his death at the age of 77 in 1801 that the 44th and final volume was published. Reading the Kojiki and somehow managing to strip out all the Chinese influence seems to me to be a mind-boggling achievement.



Irie Chōhachi  入江 長八 (1815-1899)

Popularly known as Izu Chōhachi (伊豆長八). The eldest son of a poor farming family in Izu Province. He was enrolled in a local temple school at the age of six and such was the manual dexterity he displayed that he was apprenticed to a master plasterer at the age of twelve. When he turned 20 he moved to Edo to further develop his skills and studied painting with a master of the Kanō school of painting, one of Japan's most famous. During this time he developed the kote-e technique: kote means trowel and the technique involves using trowels to create reliefs of pictures or words on plaster walls.​


Tatekawa Washirō-tomimune (立川和四郎富棟 (1744-1807)

Founder of the Tatekawa school of shrine carpenters  諏訪立川流 (SuwaTatekawa-ryū): Founded by . Born in what is now Suwa-shi.  He first started working on shrines and temples in Edo but really made his reputation with the construction of the prayer hall at the Suwa Taisha Shimosha AkiMiya. His two immediate successors-his son and grandson- both went by the name of Washirō-tomi  with the addition of one kanji to each name to distinguish them (in the interest of brevity I have shown only the final kanji of their names):

      Father:       Tatekawa Washirō-tomi-mune (1744-1807)

      Son:            Tatekawa Washirō-tomi-masa (1782-1856)

      Grandson: Tatekawa Washirō-tomi-shige (1815-1873)


Buddhist Monks

Banri Shūku 万里集九(1428-1507?)

Born in Ōmi Province. He is thought to have gone to Kyōto in 1442 and entered the Rinzai Zen temple, Tōfuku-ji. He later became something  of an itinerant and is also known as a poet. Among his works is the Baikamujinzō (梅花無尽蔵)

Ennin 円仁 (794-864)

Posthumous name, Jikaku Daishi, 慈覚大師. A monk of the Tendai sect. When he was 14 he entered the Tendai monastery of Enryaku-ji on Mt. Hiei. He spent the years 838-847  in T'ang China studying the doctrines of esoteric Buddhism under three different masters. During his stay in China he kept an intensive diary and on his return to Japan it was published in four volumes under the title "Record of a Pilgrimage to China in Search of the Laws." In 854 he became the third abbot of Enryaku-ji and hence of the Tendai sect.   ​

Gyōki 行基: (668-749)

Born into a wealthy family in Nara and became a monk at the age of 15. In 1704 he quit the monastic life and on going to Kyōto dedicated his life to serving the people rather than the state and the people. He quickly won the public trust and his activities


Kūkai 空港   (774-835) Posthumous name Kōbō Daishi 弘法大師

Myōe 明恵(1173-1232)

A monk of the Kegon Sect. Posthumous name Kōben (高弁

Nichiren 日蓮 (1222-1282): Founder of the Mahayana school of Buddhism which bears his name. The focus of the school is the Lotus Sutra, particularly its teaching that as the Buddha nature is inherent in all people everyone can attain enlightenment in this life. 

Shōgoin-nomiya-dōkōhō-shinō 聖護院宮道晃法親王 (1612-1679)

Tenkai 天海 (1536 – 1643)

A monk of the Tendai sect. Rose to the rank of Daisōjō, the highest rank of the priesthood.  Became a consultant to Tokugawa Ieyasu, and continued in that function for the next two shoguns.  Served as liaison between the Shogunate and the Imperial Court


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Abe Tadaaki 阿部 忠秋 (1602 – 1671)

Lord of the Oshi Domain Castle in what is now Gyōda-shi in Saitama-ken. He was a high ranking government official who served under the third and fourth Tokugawa Shōguns, Iemitsu and Ietsuna. In 1633 he was appointed as a wakadoshiyori (Jumiour Councillor) in 1633 and became a rōjū (Elder Councillor) soon afterwards. He built the main hall of the Hikawa-Nyotai Jinja on the instructions of Ietsuna in 1667.

Ban Naoyuki 塙 直之 (1567 – 1615)

Also known as Ban Dan'emon (塙 団右衛門). Took part in the invasion of Korea in the 1590s, Fought on the side of Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the Ōsaka Winter Campaign of 1614. Was killed in the following year's Summer Campaign.

Edo Shigenaga  江戸 重長

En no Gyōja 役行者 (643-706)

Lit. "En the Ascetic," also known as En no Ozuno (役小角). Usually considered  to be the founder of Shugendō, a Buddhist tradition of mountain asceticism incorporating much native Japanese mountain lore and elements of Taoism.

Hatakeyama Shigetada  畠山重忠 (1164-1205)

Hayashi Razan 林 羅山 (1583–1657)

A neo-Confucian scholar who provided much of the intellectual underpinning of the Tokugawa Shōgunate

Itō Hirobumi 伊藤 博文 (1841-1909)

One of the most important politicians of the Meiji Era. Was born into a farming family in the Chōshū han, essentially the current Yamaguchi-ken,  and was adopted into the Itō samurai clan.

Jippensha Ikku 十返舎 一九 (1765-1831)

Pen name of Shigeta Sadakazu (重田 貞一). One of the most prolific writers of his time, publishing on average 20 novels per year.  His most famous book, Tōkaidōchū Hizakurige (東海道中膝栗毛), Shank's Mare, was published in twelve parts between 1802 and 1822. Aston described it thus: "It occupies a somewhat similar position in Japan to that of the Pickwick Papers in this country, and is beyond question the most humourous and entertaining book in the Japanese language." (Don'f forget that Aston was writing in 1899).

Kasuga Tsubone 春日局 (1579-1643)

Born as Saitō Fuku (斉藤福) She is perhaps best known as being the wet nurse of the future  third Tokugawa Shōgun, Iemitsu. When she became Iemitsu’s wet nurse—a position she was appointed to for services rendered to the Tokugawas at the battle of Sekigahara—she, along with Iemitsu’s guardian, Aoyama Tadayoshi, played an important part in ensuring Iemitsu’s success in the struggle between him and his younger brother, Tadanaga, as to who would become Shōgun. Iemitsu was the son of Hidetada, the second Tokugawa Shōgun, although there is some speculation that Iemitsu was actually her son by Tokugawa Ieyasu. Along with becoming Iemitsu’s wet nurse in 1604 she had to move into the then rudimentary womens’ quarters in Edo Castle. In  1618 she was instrumental in implementing Hidetada’s directive to fully establish the Ōoku 大奥, literally “deepest interior,” the Womens’ Quarters/the Shogun’s harem, in the Castle, and she became a very adept string puller. In 1629 she travelled to Kyōto where she had an audience with the Imperial Couple and was given the, for a woman, very high court rank of second class. It was then then that she took the name, Lady  Kasuga.


Kida Teikichi 喜田貞吉 (1871-1939)

Born into a farming family in Tokushima-ken he entered the former Tokyo Imperial University at the age of 23 and graduated with a degree in Japanese history in 1896.  Was active in the fields of history,  archaeology, literature, and folklore.

Kiyohara Takehira 清原武衡


Kiyohara Iehira 家衡 

Kujō Sadako 九条節子 (1884-1951)

Fourth daughter of Duke Michitaka Kujō, head of Kujō branch of the Fujiwara clan. On May 25,1900 she married Prince Yoshihito, who became the Emperor Taisho in 1912. She had four sons, the first of whom, Prince Hirohito, was born in 1901. He succeeded his father as Emperor, becoming the Showa Emperor in 1926.


Mizuno Tadayuki 水野 忠之 (1669-1731)

The fourth head of the Okazaki Feudal Domain ("han") in Mikawa (current Aichi-ken). Rose to high eminence in the Tokugawa Bakufu, becoming a junior councillor (wakashidori) in 1711, a member of the Council of Elders (rōjū) in 1717, and "Kattegakari", top financial advisor to the Shogunate in 1722.  In the latter role he presided over some policies which led to a sharp fall in the price of rice, negatively impacting his reputation.

Ōe Hiromoto 大江 広元 (1148–1225)

A low ranking nobleman he started his career at the Kyōto court, but in 1184 he was invited to Kamakura by Minamoto Yoritomo. After the latter's death he won the confidence of the widowed Masako and played an important role if the seizure of power by the Hōjō.

Associated with this/these shrine(s): Egara Ten Jinja

Ōta Dōkan   太田 道灌 (1432-1486)

Prior to becoming a Buddhist monk in 1478 went by the name of Ōta Sukenaga (太田 資長). His main claim to fame is as the architect and builder of Edo Castle. He is also credited with having chosen the site of the Akasaka Hikawa Jinja. Dedicated a main hall at what is now Nezu Jinja between 1469 and 1486.

Associated with this/these shrine(s): Nakano Hikawa Jinja

​Saijō Sanetomi 三条 実美 (1837-1891)

One of the leading politicians of the early Meiji Period. Third son of Saijō Sanetsumu, an Imperial official responsible for communication between the shogunate and the court.  Minister of the  Interior from 1885 to 1889.

Sakanoue Tamuramaro  坂上田村麻呂 (758-811)

Japan’s second Shōgun. He was given the title by Emperor Kanmu when he was tasked with subduing the Emishi tribes then inhabiting northern Honshū. He outlived his sovereign and continued to serve the next two Emperors, Heizei and Saga.

Associated with this/these shrine(s): Arei Jinja

Sakurai Genbee 櫻井源兵衛 (1699-1773)

Fifth generation descendant of Ban Naoyuki.

Associated with this/these shrine(s): Kajiwara Inari Jinja

Satō Eisaku 佐藤 榮作 (1901-1975)

Served as Prime Minister of Japan on three separate ocassions: he was first elected to the post in 1964, again in 1967, his last term o office ran from January 1970 until July 1972. He was born into politics: he was the younger brother of Nobusuke Kishi, a two term prime minister from 1957 to 1960, and the maternal grandfather of the current (Dec. 2017) prime minister,  Shinzō Abe.  Satō was the first Japanese national to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1974. On a slightly less elevated tone, his wife accused him of being a wife beater in a 1969 interview with the novelist Endō Shūsaku.


Urabe Yoshihiro  卜部良弘  (1810-1868)

The 13th in line of succession of the Yoshida Shintō sect.


© Rod Lucas 2016-2020

All text and photos by Lucas unless otherwise stated