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The Tennō at Koma Jinja

The lead story on the front page of the October 2nd issue of Jinja Shinpō was a report of a visit by the Tennō and Kōgō to Koma Jinja, in Saitama Prefecture, on September 20th. Personal visits to a jinja by the Tennō are always front page news in Jinja Shinpō, because they are not that common. The immediate reason for this visit appears to have been the 1,300th anniversary of the jinja, but while such events are very often marked by an offering sent by the Tennō, it is unusual for him to also visit the jinja in person. In part, this is because several jinja have 1000-year plus anniversaries every year. Thus, it is interesting that he chose to visit this one.

It is even more interesting because the kami of this jinja is a Korean: Koma no Kokishi Jakkō. He is recorded as having come to Japan from the Korean peninsula, as part of a diplomatic delegation, in the seventh century, and as being permanently in Japan, awarded court rank and a Japanese clan name, in the early eighth. In 716, the Korean immigrants living in a variety of places in eastern Japan were gathered into one area in what is now Saitama, the area was called “Korea County” (“Koma Gun”), and Koma no Kokishi Jakkō was put in charge of it. According to the jinja’s history, he was enshrined as a kami on his death, and his descendants served as the jinja’s chief priests. The current chief priest is the 60th. (As a side note, this makes the jinja an extremely early example of enshrining a real person who was not an enemy of the people doing the enshrining; it is the earliest I know of off hand, and I think it predates all the enshrined Tennō by centuries.)

As a result, this jinja has a long association with immigrants to Japan, particularly Korean ones or naturalised ones. It is a jinja I have been meaning to visit for quite a while, but it’s far enough away that it would be a full day trip, so it hasn’t happened yet. Before his visit, the Tennō requested and received a lesson on the history of immigrants to Japan and their culture, particularly the immigrants in the distant past, and representatives of the Korean community in Japan were present at the jinja to celebrate his visit.

Obviously, it is impossible to know exactly what the Tennō is thinking, but it is hard to avoid concluding that, by choosing to visit this jinja in person, he wanted to send a positive message about immigration to Japan. It is, at least, hard for this immigrant to Japan to avoid concluding that.

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