New Priests

New Priests

The Japanese academic year ends in March, and every year, in April, Jinja Shinpō publishes an article about the new graduates from the full-time training courses for priests. There are two universities that provide this training: Kokugakuin University, in Shibuya, Tokyo, and Kōgakkan University in Ise. There are also much, much smaller training centres attached to important jinja around the country. The six smaller centres had, in total, 18 graduates this year, while Kokugakuin had 179 and Kōgakkan had 73….

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Aso Jinja

Aso Jinja

At the weekend, I went to visit Aso Jinja, in Kumamoto Prefecture, in Kyushu. Aso Jinja is the Ichinomiya for the old Higo Province, and one of the oldest jinja in Japan. The family of the chief priests goes back over a thousand years, as does the jinja itself. There are twelve main kami enshrined at the jinja, who form a family, and the family of the chief priests is said to be descended from the oldest of these kami….

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An Article in Jinja Shinpō

An Article in Jinja Shinpō

I have a short article in the latest Jinja Shinpō. (It’s on page 5 of the April 3rd issue, if you happen to have access to it.) The article is about foreign tourists at jinja, a topic that has been receiving quite a bit of discussion in the pages of the paper recently. Since I have been a foreign tourist at a jinja, I wrote a bit about it from that perspective. I think that there is a problem. I…

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“Looks Foreign”

“Looks Foreign”

Jinja Shinpō has a weekly column called “Thoughts in the Forest”, written by a small group who take turns. Last week’s was by “Sunami Tomoto” (possibly), which I believe is a pseudonym. (Some of the authors have photographs, and others don’t, and my understanding is that the ones without photographs are pseudonymous. That understanding may, however, be wrong.) The title of the piece was “Looks Foreign”. In the column, he reports that he was asked by some part of the…

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Hië Jinja and the Shinto Seiji Renmei

Hië Jinja and the Shinto Seiji Renmei

One of the associations that is very closely linked to Jinja Honchō is the Shinto Seiji Renmei. Its Japanese name means “Shinto Politics Association”, but the official English name is the “Shinto Association for Spiritual Leadership”. The Shinto Seiji Renmei’s political position could be described as the conservative edge of the mainstream; it is a mainstream political group, but any group that is significantly more conservative or right-wing is on the fringes. Politically, I disagree fundamentally with a lot of…

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Ohinasama and Oharai

Ohinasama and Oharai

Today, we put up Mayuki’s Hina Matsuri dolls. These dolls are traditionally given to Japanese girls by their maternal grandmothers, and are displayed for the Hina Matsuri every year. The matsuri itself is on March 3rd, but you are supposed to put the dolls away on or around that date, so we put them up about a month in advance. We (with the help of Mayuki’s grandmother) bought them soon after Mayuki was born, and we have put them up…

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Hatsumōdë

Hatsumōdë

Hatsumōdë is the first visit to a jinja (or Buddhist temple, but normally jinja) of the New Year. In one use, it simply refers to a person’s first visit in a year, no matter when it happens. The most common use these days, however, is to refer to the custom of visiting a jinja in the first three days of the New Year (or maybe a few days later if you are away). This is an extremely popular custom; the…

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A Foreign Shinto Priest

A Foreign Shinto Priest

A commenter on my Japanese blog sent me a link to an interview with Florian Wiltschko, an Austrian-born Shinto priest (link is to the English translation). I’ve actually been mistaken for Revd Wiltschko, despite being a lot older, not blond, and not a Shinto priest. I agree with a lot of what he says in the interview, although in the end I come down on the side of thinking that it is more helpful to describe Shinto as a religion….

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Your Name

Your Name

Your Name is a Japanese animated feature film written and directed by Makoto Shinkai that is currently doing extremely well in Japan. It was released in August, and when I went to see it with my nine-year-old daughter on Sunday, the cinema was full. It is, apparently, the second-highest-grossing Japanese animation in Japan, behind Spirited Away, and as it is still showing it is possible that it could become top. It was shown briefly in Los Angeles earlier this month,…

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