ONMYODO - TAOISM IN JAPAN
Taoism first came to Japan during the sixth century A.D. though,
while elements of both 'Religious Taoism' and at a later date,
'Philosophical Taoism' have had an unmistakable influence on Japanese
religion, Taoism as a distinct, institutional tradition, never
really gained a following amongst the Japanese people.
However, beliefs concerning the 'Taoist Immortals' and Taoist
Paradises were 'adopted-in' to various streams of Japanese folk
belief and mythology, along with Taoist mystical and medicinal
example, the koshin-machi, a popular Japanese all-night
vigil undertaken as part of a longevity disciplines, is based
on Taoist belief.
Also, elements of Taoist magic exist in Shinto practice, and more
noticeably in the mountain-centred ascetic disciplines of Shugendo.
But probably the most important expression of Taoism in Japan
was the ritualistic tradition known as onmyodo.
to onmyodo were the disciplines of astrology and Taoist
onmyodo philosophy there was no particular concern with
(or belief in) life after death. It's primary focus was on the
identification and avoidance of troubles and disharmonies in the
here-and-now. Through an understanding of the natural laws of
the universe, and through the application of ritualistic practice
based on yin-yang/five-element theory, onmyodo sought to
bring order to a world perceived as being, in the main, completely
onmyodo was closely aligned with the Imperial Household, and
matters of state.
The onmyodo practitioners were consulted on everything,
from the siting of the imperial capital, to the performance of
state ritual, the interpretation of supernatural signs, and, most
importantly, divining the fate of Emperors, Courtiers, and the
the earliest of the onmyodo disciplines to reach Japan
in the sixth century A.D was that of jugondo.
was concerned with issues such as the vanquishing of monsters;
curing of disease; freeing people, places and objects from possession
by spirits (evil or otherwise); dispersing of apparitions, etc.
highly ritualistic discipline, it incorporated Chinese medical
practices, Taoist spells and charms, magic invocations, and forms
of hypnosis to induce mystical states in the practitioner. In
these altered states, jugondo practitioners would undertake
feats such as fire-walking and pouring boiling water in their
bare skin without harm...
Over the centuries, however, the various arts and practices of
onmyodo gradually became absorbed into Shinto and Buddhist
tradition, and also into the disciplines of the shugenja,
and other ascetic groups, to the point where onmyodo -
as a distinct tradition in it's own right - to all intents and
purposes ceased to exist.
Today, the term onmyodo is unknown even amongst many of
those people who, under a different name, practice the various
surviving elements of this ancient mystical, curative, and magically