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State Support

The Daijōsai to be held in November as part of the accession of the new Tennō is one of the most important Shinto rituals, and thus of great interest to the Shinto world, and particularly to the Shinto establishment. I will almost certainly write an essay about it for my Patreon, but some smaller points that come up are good for blog entries.

One that has come up before is the question of state support for it. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the second in line to the throne, Prince Akishino, has expressed the opinion that the Imperial family should pay for it out of their private income. Separately, the government has been sued to stop the ceremony on the grounds that it is unconstitutional to spend tax money on it. Neither of these is at all likely to change the fact that the state is going to pay for the Daijōsai, and the Shinto establishment feels that this is the right decision.

On the other hand, the Imperial Household Agency has also announced that the Daijōkyū, the buildings in which the ceremony takes place, will be smaller, and that the main halls will be roofed with planks, rather than being thatched, to save money. This provoked a long article in Jinja Shinpō arguing that the change was a rejection of tradition, and that it should not have been taken to save money. I am not sure what the Shinto establishment as a whole thinks, but I suspect they are not happy.

If we go beyond the Daijōsai to look at the Grand Renewal of Jingū, many people in the Shinto establishment think that this should be state supported, but it is not, and all the post-war renewals (there have been four) have been entirely privately funded. Notwithstanding, at the most recent a number of traditions that had been in abeyance were restarted, such as lacquering a number of the chests holding the new sacred treasures.

This is a good illustration of why I think the Japanese state should not be paying for Shinto rituals, including the Daijōsai and the Grand Renewal.

First, I do not think that the expenditure of taxes on religious rituals can be justified under the constitution. I am perfectly happy for my money to be spent on these rituals, but there are a significant number of Japanese tax payers who are not, and I cannot see that these ceremonies justify compelling them.

On the other side, if the state is paying for the ceremonies, the state will control the ceremonies, deciding what it will pay for. We can see that in the plans for the Daijōkyū. Anyone who wants to preserve the traditions should want to keep the state out, so that the ritual is being performed by people who actually care about it, rather than by bureaucrats who were transferred from the Department of Waste Management last April. If there is not enough popular support to keep the ritual going without state support, then the state is not likely to respect the ritual.

If the rituals are supported by popular donations, then the traditions can be preserved as long as enough people care about them, and the state does not actually ban them. If the state is involved, they are hostage to small changes in political mood. I think there should, really, be agreement across the spectrum that private support is the best choice.

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