Nigimitama and Aramitama

Nigimitama and Aramitama

Kami traditionally have two aspects, called the aramitama and the nigimitama. “Mitama” means spirit or soul, while “ara” means wild and violent, and “nigi” means calm and peaceful. “Aramitama” could be translated as “wild spirit”, and “nigimitama” as “calm spirit”. As kami are often thought of as spirits, it might look as though the aramitama and nigimitama are almost separate kami. Indeed, they are sometimes treated that way. At the Naikū of Jingū in Isë, for example, there are separate…

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What’s In A Name?

What’s In A Name?

This blog is called “Mimusubi”, which is also the name for my general project of publishing about Shinto (and my trademark for both). Why did I choose that name? “Mimusubi” is taken from the name of two of the first kami to arise in the creation myth found in the Kojiki, the oldest surviving record of Japanese legends. According to this text, the first three kami to appear were Amenominakanushi, Takamimusubi, and Kamumusubi (or Kamimusubi). Amenominakanushi promptly disappears from the…

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Pool of the Fireflies

Pool of the Fireflies

A couple of weeks ago, Jinja Shinpō carried an article by the deputy chief priest at Hikawa Jinja, in Saitama City, north of Tokyo. This is a large jinja, with extensive precincts, and the story was about their attempts to get genji fireflies breeding in the pond there again. Apparently, in the past, the area was one of the top two areas in Japan for fireflies, but then a city got built on top of the wetlands, and suddenly it…

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Hot Button Issues

Hot Button Issues

A week ago, Jinja Shinpō carried two opinion pieces that discussed gay marriage. One was part of a regular spot where the journalists on the paper write about their own thoughts. The author mentioned that they were watching a drama in which gay men were the main theme, which provoked them to investigate, and discover that there were three dramas about gay men in the spring season. “It seems to be a bit of a boom at the moment.” They…

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Shinto in English

Shinto in English

At the moment, I am working on an “Introduction to Shinto” project. It is a fix-up of most of my Patreon essays into a book. That’s over 130,000 words, so it would be about 450 pages as a paperback book. I think it does a pretty good job of introducing Shinto as it is practised today and its place in Japanese society. It is less good at explaining Shinto “beliefs”, but I think it does make it clear that this…

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Fear and Trembling

Fear and Trembling

Shinto priests are generally very reticent on the question of the appropriate attitude towards the kami. This is even true of the Shinto establishment, which has a very clear position on the appropriate attitude to the Tennō, but, as far as I can tell, no official position on the appropriate attitude to (other) kami. They do make it clear that you should respect the kami, but that is extremely vague — and I suspect that the vagueness is deliberate. The…

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Very Local Matsuri

Very Local Matsuri

One of the regular columnists in Jinja Shinpō is a Shinto priest and folklorist based in both Okayama Prefecture in western Japan, where he is the hereditary priest of a jinja, and in Tokyo. He apparently uses the Shinkansen a lot. In his most recent column, he talked about some traditional rituals that are performed in the area around his jinja. There are, apparently, three levels of kami. The Ujigami covered a fairly large area (several villages), and people participated…

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How Many Jewels?

How Many Jewels?

When English texts talk about the Three Sacred Treasures, they always talk about the Mirror, the Sword, and the Jewel. That is what I have always written. It seems that this is wrong. There was an article in Jinja Shinpō the other week about the accession ceremonies for a new Tennō, which referred to some ancient documents about the the jewel, in which there is a clear statement that there are eight jewels. The box containing the jewels has two…

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Why No Kimono?

Why No Kimono?

One of my patrons, after watching the videos of the abdication and accession ceremonies, commented that everyone was wearing Western clothes, and asked why. Actually, this wasn’t quite true; the female Cabinet member at the accession ceremony was wearing a kimono. It was, however, overwhelmingly the case — no men, and no members of the Imperial family, were wearing kimono. Given that these were traditional Japanese ceremonies, one might well wonder why. This is something that we see a lot…

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Yuki Region and Suki Region

Yuki Region and Suki Region

Yesterday, one of the first rituals of the Daijōsai, the most important Shinto ceremony in the accession of a new Tennō, was performed in the Imperial Palace. This ritual is the choice, by divination, of the two regions that will supply the rice and millet that are offered at the Daijōsai. The Yuki region is to the east of the location where the Daijōsai is held, and the Suki region to the west. Today, that means Tokyo, but for over…

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