Imperial Offerings

Imperial Offerings

The Tennō often visits different areas of Japan, to open major events, or see the victims of natural disasters. This is a major part of his job. When he visits a prefecture in Japan, he almost always sends offerings to certain jinja, the ones that received state offerings before the end of the war, in each prefecture. These offerings are not widely reported, but Jinja Shinpō always has a detailed account. The word used to describe them strongly suggests that…

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Meiji Jinja Policy

Meiji Jinja Policy

Jinja Shinpō is currently running a series of articles on important Shinto figures of the Meiji period. This has included people who are very famous generally, such as Meiji Tennō, and also people who are almost unknown even within Shinto circles now, but were important at the time. (They are up to eighteen without covering any women, as far as I recall, but this is no cause for surprise; the Meiji government was not keen on important women.) Last week,…

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Scandal! Scandal! Read All About It!

Scandal! Scandal! Read All About It!

In the shadows of the jinja precincts, the chief priest’s brother lies in wait, katana gripped in his hand. The rage and resentment that has festered ever since he was forced to resign almost boils over, and he glances at his wife, the woman he met in the city’s pleasure quarter. Her katana catches the light for a moment. The chief priest arrives, and the two of them leap from the shadows. In moments, the priest lies bleeding to death…

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Meiji Tennō and Jingū

Meiji Tennō and Jingū

Jingū at Isë is one of the most important jinja in Shinto, and is actually a complex of 125 jinja. Of these, two are of central importance: Kōtajingū, generally known as the Naikū, or Inner Sanctuary, which enshrines Amaterasu Ōmikami, and Toyoükë Daijingū, known as the Gekū, or outer sanctuary, which enshrines Toyoükë Ōmikami, a kami of food and daily life who serves Amaterasu Ōmikami. Most of the matsuri at Jingū are actually performed at the Gekū, and although the…

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Era Names

Era Names

Japan has a system of era names, and this system is used in parallel with the western system of dates. This year, for example, is Heisei 30. This system goes back to 701, when the Taihō era began. (There are a few possible earlier eras, but there were substantial intervals between them, and some historians suspect that they were later constructions.) Historically, a typical era was about five years long, and eras were almost never changed at the beginning of…

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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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