Shinto Concerns

Shinto Concerns

Development of Kannagara is on hiatus at the moment, while I try to clear up some projects with deadlines (or, in one case, finish a project that has been underway for more than seven years). To fill in the space, I want to introduce some of the topics that Shinto priests and practitioners are actively concerned with.

To do that, I’m going to provide extremely short summaries of all the articles in one issue of Jinja Shinpo. Jinja Shinpo is a weekly newspaper, published by a company that is effectively controlled by the Association of Shinto Shrines. It is not exactly the house journal, but it is close. This is not the only approach to Shinto found in Japan, but it is arguably the most important.

The issue I’m going to summarise is the one for March 17th, because that’s the most recent one that I have finished reading. I’m a bit behind. It has six pages, which is the normal length. While all issues are different, as would be expected in a newspaper, this one is fairly typical. I’m not going to comment on the contents in this article; I may respond in the comments.

Front Page

  • The ceremony marking the end of the distribution of shrine plaques from the inner shrine of the Grand Shrines of Ise (Jingu).
  • A meeting discussing new strategies to increase the number of Jingu shrine plaques distributed, from the current level of about 8,750,000.
  • The importance of Shinto involvement in defending Japan’s rights to all disputed territories, and overcoming negative depictions of Japan’s war record.
  • A meeting for talks on the importance of maintaining Japan’s rights to all disputed territories, having pride in the beautiful Japanese spirit, and taking action again anti-Japanese propaganda in global media.

Page 2

  • The importance of the Japanese Emperor in Shinto.
  • Revising the festival to mark the start of distribution of Jingu shrine plaques.
  • Thefts of Komainu in Kyushu.
  • Preparations for major matsuri at Yasukuni Jinja and the local jinja to war dead to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the war.
  • Discussion of how to deal with people who fall ill or become infectious during training sessions. (Perfect attendance is normally required to pass, which encourages people who are ill to turn up anyway, and give flu to everyone else.)
  • A training session for Jichinsai, the matsuri performed before work begins on a new building.
  • Appointments and Obituaries of Shinto priests.

Page 3

  • The transfer of the kami to a temporary building in preparation for major repairs on the honden of Ohkunitama Jinja in Aichi Prefecture.
  • A matsuri to mark a sumo tournament at Sumiyoshi Taisha in Osaka, a jinja with a long association with sumo, attended by both the then-current Yokozuna.
  • A fortune-telling ceremony to predict the price of somen noodles, at Ohmiwa Jinja.
  • A ceremony to honour old and broken sewing needles, at Osaka Tenmangu.
  • The importance of a grateful heart.

Page 4

  • Four articles describing local activities to mark the accession of Jinmu Tenno (in 660BC), in Hokkaido, Nagasaki, Hiroshima, and Iwate.
  • Two articles describing the dissolution of prefectural associations to support the Shikinen Sengu at Jingu, in Yamagata and Yamaguchi.
  • A meeting to discuss ways to preserve kagura (sacred dance) in Miyazaki Prefecture, in particular getting people to form the next generation of dancers.
  • The current special exhibition at the Jingu Art Gallery.

Page 5

  • Unveiling an engraved stone expressing thanks for the activities of the Japan Self Defence Forces, the police, the fire service, and the coast guard, at the Nagasaki shrine to the war dead.
  • Performing a matsuri in memory of kamikaze pilots at one of their former bases.
  • A training session at Yasukuni Jinja on the importance of honouring the war dead.
  • The long connection between a jinja and the local elementary school, which was originally built on the jinja grounds, and where the priests taught.
  • A description of Watatsumi Jinja on Tsushima island.
  • It is good that traditional Japanese dress is still something people wear as clothes, not just as a costume.

Page 6

  • Book Review: A book about the White Stone Ceremony at Jingu in Ise.
  • Book Review: A book about Ikuta Jinja and Kobe
  • The importance of Shinto priests taking a stand in favour of whaling and against animal rights.

3 thoughts on “Shinto Concerns

  1. Very interesting. Reminds me a little bit of the monthly Catholic church leaflets that show up in my post box, apart from the nationalist topics. Shinto might not be a hard-core religion, as you already pointed out, but there’s also no clear separation of church and state either, which makes it susceptible to nationalist thoughts and ideas. The kami a residing in Japan after all, not anywhere else in the world

  2. The “disputed territories” thing is a non-political political position and I’ve seen jinja put up banners outside the honden advertising that issue. Yasukuni is of course an internal topic to Jinja Honcho. But “overcoming negative depictions of Japan’s war record” and “taking action again anti-Japanese propaganda in global media” are surprises — these topics are more closely associated with net uyoku than with any political party. I have a net uyoku friend who went to a training seminar at a jinja but I thought it was simply a paid venue; now I see there are deeper connections.

    I just checked out the Jinja Shinpo website and it honestly looks fascinating. When I go back to Japan I will have to get a subscription myself. I have to say, of all these articles I like the one on traditional Japanese clothes the best.

  3. I’m glad to see Avery recognising the connections of the far right and Shinto orthodoxy. The final piece on Page 6 about the need for Shinto priests to support whaling and oppose animal rights is also an eye-opener for those who like to think of Shinto as an animist religion with green credentials.

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