Beginning the Grand Renewal of Jingū

Beginning the Grand Renewal of Jingū

Jingū, at Isë, is renewed once every twenty years. All the main jinja structures are completely rebuilt, and the sacred treasures are all duplicated, so that the new ones can be offered to the kami, primarily Amaterasu Ōmikami and Toyoukë Ōmikami. The most recent one was in 2013, so the next one is due in 2033. Formally, it is carried out on the dates set by the Tennō, and he may, in theory, choose not to have it done then,…

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“Inactive” Jinja in Saga Prefecture

“Inactive” Jinja in Saga Prefecture

Saga prefecture is a rural area on the island of Kyushu, a long way from Tokyo. As a result, it is losing population, both to natural decline (Japan’s population is falling overall), and to the cities (Tokyo’s population is rising). This, obviously, has a profound effect on society, and part of that effect touches the jinja. One manifestation of this is the problem of “inactive jinja”. This is actually a translation of a technical legal term, and means that a…

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Women and Matsuri

Women and Matsuri

Jinja Shinpō has a weekly slot called “Komorebi”, which means “dappled sunlight falling through leaves”. About half a dozen people connected to Shinto in some way take turns to write it, and the whole set of writers is changed every two years. One writer in the current set is Kumiko Hanyū, a woman and an officer of the national Ujiko youth association. (The official definition of “youth” is, I think, “under fifty”, or “under forty” if they are being strict.)…

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Rebuilding Koganëyama Jinja

Rebuilding Koganëyama Jinja

Koganëyama Jinja is on the island of Kinkasan, in Miyagi Prefecture. It is the nearest inhabited piece of land to the epicentre of the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, and the jinja was badly affected. Fortunately, the island is a mountain, and the jinja itself is located part way up the mountain, and thus out of reach of the tsunami, but the waiting room and other facilities at the piers were destroyed, many torii and stone lanterns collapsed in…

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The Tennō at Koma Jinja

The Tennō at Koma Jinja

The lead story on the front page of the October 2nd issue of Jinja Shinpō was a report of a visit by the Tennō and Kōgō to Koma Jinja, in Saitama Prefecture, on September 20th. Personal visits to a jinja by the Tennō are always front page news in Jinja Shinpō, because they are not that common. The immediate reason for this visit appears to have been the 1,300th anniversary of the jinja, but while such events are very often…

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What Is Shinto?

What Is Shinto?

OK, so this looks like a fairly fundamental question. I’m in the process of writing an essay on the history of Shinto for my Patreon, and that reminded me of just how difficult this question is. I’m not talking about the question of the “real essence” of Shinto; I’m talking about the much more basic question of whether a particular activity is part of Shinto. For example, is Shugendō Shinto? I think most people these days would say “no”, but…

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The State of Jinja in Iwatë Prefecture

The State of Jinja in Iwatë Prefecture

This week’s Jinja Shinpō has an article on the back page reporting the results of a survey carried out by the Iwatë Prefecture Jinjachō. Iwatë Prefecture is in northeast Japan, and it is one of the prefectures that were badly hit by the earthquake and tsunami in 2011. The purpose of the survey was to find out how the depopulation of rural Japan was affecting jinja in that area. The answer appears to be “badly”. In the rural areas of…

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Buddhas at a Jinja

Buddhas at a Jinja

There is an interesting article in this week’s Jinja Shinpō about the dedication of a new building at a jinja in northern Japan. This happens a lot, but the building in question is called the “Thousand Buddhas Hall”, and it has been built to house over two hundred Buddha images. The jinja in question is Dewa Sanzan Jinja, a complex of three jinja on three mountains (which is what “sanzan” means), in the western area of northern Japan (which is…

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The Shinto Art Work

The Shinto Art Work

The book collecting Rei Torii’s art has an official English title: The Shinto Art Work. I was given a copy by one of my students, so I’ve been able to look through it. I still like the art a great deal, and even the “Dances of the Land of Eternal Youth” series, which is in a very different style from the others, has grown on me. There is a significant amount of Japanese commentary, explaining the background to the pictures,…

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Kanda Myōjin

Kanda Myōjin

Kanda Myōjin is an old jinja in Tokyo. It claims to date back to the eighth century, and thus predate the city by about nine centuries. It may well be that old; it is certainly known to have existed before the Tokugawa shoguns moved their capital to Edo and turned it into a city. It claims to be the general tutelary jinja for the city of Tokyo as a whole, with a focus on the people who live there, rather…

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