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A Foreign Shinto Priest

A commenter on my Japanese blog sent me a link to an interview with Florian Wiltschko, an Austrian-born Shinto priest (link is to the English translation). I’ve actually been mistaken for Revd Wiltschko, despite being a lot older, not blond, and not a Shinto priest. I agree with a lot of what he says in the interview, although in the end I come down on the side of thinking that it is more helpful to describe Shinto as a religion.

Revd Wiltschko is (to the best of my knowledge) unique in being a foreign Shinto priest who has been trained and authorised by The Association of Shinto Shrines (Jinja Honchō). There are a number of others, but they were all trained and licensed by different Shinto groups. Strictly speaking, there are other foreigners who have been licensed, but they are all of Japanese descent and running jinja in Hawai’i, and I think they were born Japanese, in Japan. (The specific examples I know of were, but I haven’t done a systematic survey.)

One interesting comment in the interview is the revelation that more senior priests said that it would be “very un-Japanese” to not allow foreigners to become priests. That fits with the attitudes that I’ve encountered, although I’ve never heard it expressed in so many words.

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