Cleaning the Sacred Well

Cleaning the Sacred Well

Jingū at Isë has a sacred well, from which water is drawn every morning in order to prepare the offerings for the kami. (Actually, there are three, so that there are back-up wells if anything happens to the main one.) This well is supposed to have been brought from Takamanohara, the high plain of heaven, via the Japan Sea coast of Kyoto prefecture. I have to confess that I am not entirely clear on how you are supposed to transport…

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New Contract

New Contract

I’ve just got back from Jinja Honchō, where I signed a one year consulting contract with them. I will be providing translations between English and Japanese, advising them on their English language publications, and interpreting at presentations and, possibly, on international trips. I am not an employee of Jinja Honchō; I am a freelance consultant, albeit on a one-year contract. I am certainly not a Shinto priest. When I am working on Jinja Honchō’s material, I will, of course, be…

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Collecting Goshuin

Collecting Goshuin

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my daughter has become interested in collecting goshuin, the vermilion seals that jinja offer as a record of your visit in return for a small donation. At the beginning of this week, we went on a short trip to Niigata Prefecture on the Japan Sea coast of Japan, and one of our main purposes was visiting jinja to collect the goshuin. The first jinja we visited was Yahiko Jinja. This is the Ichi-no-Miya…

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The Iwaki Thousand-Fold Ōharae

The Iwaki Thousand-Fold Ōharae

The third Monday in July is a national holiday in Japan: Umi no Hi, or Ocean Day. Seven years ago, the coastal city of Iwaki in Fukushima Prefecture was still in the early stages of recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunami, and the Shinto priests of the area were also working to rebuild. As part of this, they decided to hold a Thousand-Fold Ōharae on a small hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, on the weekend of…

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Tanabata

Tanabata

Tanabata, also known as the Star Festival, is a traditional summer celebration in Japan. It originates in China, in a legend of a celestial weaver and cowherd, who fell in love and spent so much time in each other’s company that they neglected their work. The other gods separated them by placing one each side of the Milky Way, and they can only meet once per year, on the seventh day of the seventh month, if the weather is clear….

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The Gyokuden

The Gyokuden

A couple of months ago I wrote an essay for my Patreon about the things found in a jinja, in which I talked about the contents of the main sanctuary, which is normally closed to everyone, including the priests. That description was of the “standard”, and so, as Shinto is characterised by different practices at different jinja, not every jinja is like that. In this week’s Jinja Shinpō, there was an article about “gyokuden”, which are found in the main…

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Temporary Sanctuaries

Temporary Sanctuaries

Jinja buildings, like any other, sometimes need to be repaired or rebuilt. For most of the structures, this is no more, and no less, complex than for any other building. The main sanctuary, however, has a different problem. The main sanctuary normally houses the goshintai, the object inhabited by the kami. It would be very disrepectful to do the repairs around the goshintai, so the kami has to be moved somewhere else, to a temporary sanctuary, while the work is…

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Goshuin: Vermilion Seals

Goshuin: Vermilion Seals

Japan has a very long tradition of stamping seals in vermilion ink on important documents. I believe it was originally imported from China, as with so much else of Japanese culture, but it has taken on a life of its own here. Almost all adults have a personal seal, often more than one, which is stamped, in vermilion, on such documents as marriage papers, or contracts to buy a house. A “goshuin”, however, is more significant than that. These days,…

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Jinja Honchō Supporters’ Matsuri

Jinja Honchō Supporters’ Matsuri

Jinja Honchō has a formal system for people who support it financially. If you give a certain amount of money or more, you get a number of benefits in return. One is that you are sent Jinja Shinpō free of charge (the minimum donation amount is much higher than the subscription rate), another is that you get a little card that is supposed to entitle you to special sanpai at the “beppyō jinja” (although my experience suggests that at least…

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A History of “Inactive” Jinja

A History of “Inactive” Jinja

I have previously written on this blog about the problem of “inactive” jinja; that is, jinja that have the legal status of a religious corporation, but do not meet all the legal requirements to maintain that status. These can range from jinja that are so genuinely inactive that priests from the area cannot physically find them, to jinja where the matsuri are all performed, on schedule, by the ujiko and people visit to pay their respects, but there is no…

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