Shin shūkyō (‘new religions’) is a term applied to a number of independent religions founded in Japan from the early 19th century, with sources in such traditions as mountain cults, popular moral cultivation movements and the activities of lay believers of Nichiren Buddhism. Several of these religions maintain their own distinctive musical traditions.
Kurozumikyō (founded 1814) has from 1879 used kibigaku, a new music created by gagaku musician Kishimoto Yoshihide (1821–90). Kibigaku features the instruments of the tōgakugenre of gagaku but without the four-string lute biwa. In kibigaku (unlike gagaku) the most important part is given to the thirteen-string koto.
In 1888 kibigaku was introduced into the religion Konkōkyō (founded 1859) by Kishimoto's pupil Obara Otondo (1873–1941). In 1914 Obara, who was also a student of gagaku, created a unique ritual music for Konkōkyō, to which he gave the name chūseigaku. Like kibigaku, chūseigaku gives the koto a more prominent part than does gagaku. Unlike kibigaku, however, chūseigaku uses the biwa in its instrumental pieces, while in the vocal compositions the instruments of court kagura are used.
Tenrikyō (founded 1838) features a cycle of songs, called the mikagur-auta, said to have been revealed to the female founder Nakayama Miki (1798–1887) beginning in 1867. The combination of instruments used in accompanying the songs is unique: thirteen-string koto, three-string shamisen lute, bowed kokyū lute (these three played by women), bamboo fue flute, hourglass-shaped kotsuzumihand drum, surigane gong, chanpon cymbals, hyōshigi wooden clappers and large taiko drum (these played by men).
Ōmoto (founded 1892) has from 1909 used the two-string yakumo-goto zither to accompany its liturgies. This instrument, which enjoyed some popularity in western Japan in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, is now rare outside Ōmoto.