One of the associations that is very closely linked to Jinja Honchō is the Shinto Seiji Renmei. Its Japanese name means “Shinto Politics Association”, but the official English name is the “Shinto Association for Spiritual Leadership”. The Shinto Seiji Renmei’s political position could be described as the conservative edge of the mainstream; it is a mainstream political group, but any group that is significantly more conservative or right-wing is on the fringes. Politically, I disagree fundamentally with a lot of their positions, and disagree about the importance they attach to most of the others.
The Shinto Seiji Renmei has affiliated associations for elected representatives at all levels, from local councils to the national Diet. The Diet Members’ association has 305 members, which is about 40% of the Diet. Most of its members come from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, but not all (although I suspect that it has no Communist members).
One of the more important jinja in Tokyo is Hië Jinja, a branch jinja of Hiyoshi Taisha in Shiga Prefecture. (The kanji read as “yoshi” in “Hiyoshi Taisha” was, historically, also read “e”, although Hië Jinja now uses a different kanji.) Thanks to its location, it was the tutelary jinja for Edo Castle, the seat of the Tokugawa Shogunate, and its Grand Festival was one of the largest matsuri in Edo. When the Tennō moved to Edo, renaming it Tokyo, he moved into Edo Castle, and so Hië Jinja became the tutelary jinja for the Imperial Palace, thus ensuring its continued importance. The National Diet Building and Diet Members’ Offices were built within its “ujikokuiki”, the area that it is responsible for, and thus it is also the tutelary jinja for the National Diet.
Among its other regular matsuri, Hië Jinja holds matsuri on the 1st and 15th of each month. These include sacred dance (kagura), and the food offerings are formally placed before the kami by a number of priests working together. The chief priest of the jinja reads the norito, and everyone in attendance offers a tamagushi at the end. Anyone may attend, and there is no need to book in advance. If you turn up by about 8:45am on the appropriate day, dressed smartly and with at least ¥1,000 for an offering, you may participate. (Speaking Japanese would be a big help, but I suspect that it is not strictly necessary.)
I discovered these matsuri a few years ago, when I was working within Hië Jinja’s area, and thus it was, in a sense, one of my tutelary jinja. I attended them fairly often then, but now that I am not working there I can only go when I have time to get over to Nagatachō in the morning. My schedule meant that I was able to go today.
The Shinto Seiji Renmei Diet Members’ Association also attends those matsuri twice a year; a group of them (I think it depends on who has time) attend one of the matsuri soon after a session of the Diet begins. (This is usually reported in Jinja Shinpō.) The current Diet session began on January 20th, and the Diet Members’ Association attended today’s matsuri.
This is, in my opinion, an extremely appropriate thing for them to do. Hië Jinja is, after all, the tutelary jinja of the Diet, so attending matsuri there is something that Diet Members who officially affiliate themselves with Shinto almost should do. It is the sort of tradition that one might think dates back to the creation of the Diet in the Meiji Period, or at least to the foundation of the Shinto Seiji Renmei in 1969. However, it only goes back a couple of years.
One of my English students is a member of the Diet, and an officer of the Shinto Seiji Renmei Diet Members’ Association (I think he is currently the secretary, but I am not absolutely sure). After I had attended a few of the matsuri, I mentioned them to him, and asked whether he would be interested in attending. It took a while for him to find a day that was possible, but eventually he was able to attend one of them with me. According to him, he thought that it was a very good matsuri, and very appropriate for members of the association, so he suggested, to the association, that they formally attend. They also, it seems, thought that it was a good idea, and so they have now been doing it for a couple of years.
Thus, when I attended this morning, my student introduced me to all the other Diet Members present as a Japanese follower of Shinto, and the original stimulus for the Diet Members’ visits.
Matsuri are one of the topics I have already covered in my Patreon essays about Shinto, and tutelary jinja, and the Shinto Seiji Renmei, are likely to be covered in the future. If you are interested in reading more about Shinto, please take a look.