Uniformity of Matsuri

Uniformity of Matsuri

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about a booklet of instructions for matsuri that Jinja Honchō had prepared for sōdai across the country. One of my readers asked a very reasonable question: given that matsuri vary a lot from place to place across Japan, is it actually possible to provide instructions that apply to everyone? The short answer to this question is “yes”, but things are a bit more complex than that suggests. While it is true…

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The Gion Goryōë

The Gion Goryōë

The Gion Matsuri is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, matsuri in contemporary Shinto. It takes place every summer in Kyoto, with massive processions of decorated floats, called Yamaboko, and also involves processions of mikoshi. The float processions are thought to symbolically purify the city before the mikoshi, carrying the kami, also process, and the procession of the kami is thought to increase their power before the final ritual that closes the week of ceremonies. It is one…

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Daijōsai Essays Available

Daijōsai Essays Available

The two essays I wrote about the Daijōsai for my Patreon are now available from Amazon. The Daijōsai is a ritual performed by a new Tennō soon after his accession, and it is performed in special halls that are built for the rite, and demolished immediately afterwards. It has traditionally been described as a secret rite, but it is not clear how much of it is actually secret now. These two essays cover what we know about how the rite…

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Principles of a Life Honouring the Kami

Principles of a Life Honouring the Kami

In 1956, to mark the tenth anniversary of the establishment of Jinja Honchō, the organisation created and adopted a text that laid out the fundamentals of Jinja Shinto as a religion. My translation is as follows. Principles of a Life Honouring the Kami The way of the kami (Shinto) is the great way of the eternal heavens and earth, cultivating a noble spirit and serving as the foundation for the creation of peace and harmony. We fulfil our duties by…

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Jinja Leaving Honchō

Jinja Leaving Honchō

In the last couple of weeks it has been reported, both in Jinja Shinpō and in the general media, that a jinja in Kagawa Prefecture, on the island of Shikoku, Kotohiragū, has started the process of leaving Jinja Honchō. This is a big story, so I will try to briefly explain its significance. First, Kotohiragū is an important jinja. It is the central jinja for the Konpira tradition, which has jinja across Japan, and is especially associated with travel. Originally,…

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Meiji Jingū Essay

Meiji Jingū Essay

I have just sent an essay about Meiji Jingū to all my patrons (from my Patreon). Meiji Jingū is the largest and (probably) richest jinja in Tokyo, but it is 100 years old this year, making it a very young jinja, as well. It is the most popular site for hatsumōdë, with around three million visitors in the first three days of the New Year, but most people could not tell you which kami is enshrined there. The essay covers…

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Summer Purification

Summer Purification

Today, June 30th, is the day of “Nagoshi no Ōharai”, a purification ceremony held all over Japan, with roots going back well over a thousand years. On Sunday, Shin’yūsha, an organisation run by Princess Akiko of Mikasa, ran an online seminar on the subject, which I attended, and that reminded me that I should probably blog about it. The origins of this ritual are not quite as clear as they might be. There were annual purifications held at the Imperial…

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Praying for the Economy

Praying for the Economy

Unsurprisingly, the pandemic is still affecting the Shinto world, just like everywhere else, and several articles in Jinja Shinpō are still referring to it. For example, an important annual meeting (of the national association of sōdai) was carried out by sending documents to everyone and having them mail their votes back, and Jinja Honchō is in the process of setting up standards and practices for web meetings, so that they can be incorporated into the organisation’s rules. However, Japan has…

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Instructions for Matsuri

Instructions for Matsuri

A few weeks ago, Jinja Honchō sent me an interesting leaflet. This leaflet is entitled “Omatsuri no Tebiki”, which means, roughly, “Instructions for Matsuri”. It is directed at sōdai. “Sōdai” means, literally, something like “general representatives”, and it refers to the people who support a jinja, in theory on behalf of all the ujiko, the people who live in the area around the jinja. They tend to be older, and that is how they are drawn in the leaflet. This…

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Porcelain Torii

Porcelain Torii

The entrance to nearly all jinja is marked by the traditional torii gate, with the distinctive double lintel. As I have mentioned before, there is no rule for what torii should be made of. Wood is the most traditional material; the most traditional of all is wood with the bark still on. However, stone is also common, as is bronze. Very large torii are often made of steel, and you can get plastic torii, which are very durable, and do…

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