The legacy of Meiji Restoration on Buddhism

Meiji Restoration refers to a political event that restored imperial rule in Japan under the Emperor Meiji as well as a period of rapid industrialization and adoption of Western ideas. However, it was also a period of destruction to Buddhism known as “Haibutsu kishaku” (literally means abolishing Buddhism and destroying Shākyamuni) whereby temples were ransacked and destroyed; Buddhist monks were forced to become Shinto monks or disrobe. In 1872, the Meiji Government further decreed that Buddhist monks should be free to eat meat, married and have children by issuing the Nikujiku Saitai Law (肉食带妻). This law is aimed at further weakening the position of Buddhism in Japan and resulted in the practice of ‘temple wife and family’ and that the administration of the temple is handed down from fathers to sons. This practice continued till today, hence we see monks operating bars and cafés that serve liquor etc.