A couple of weeks ago, Jinja Shinpō carried an article by the deputy chief priest at Hikawa Jinja, in Saitama City, north of Tokyo. This is a large jinja, with extensive precincts, and the story was about their attempts to get genji fireflies breeding in the pond there again.
Apparently, in the past, the area was one of the top two areas in Japan for fireflies, but then a city got built on top of the wetlands, and suddenly it wasn’t anymore. He wanted to bring the fireflies back, and mentioned it to some of the ujiko. They were enthusiastic, and over the last few years they have been working on it. The priest was particularly pleased that all of the activities are led by the ujiko, rather than by the jinja.
Part of what they do is have an annual ceremony at which they release genji fireflies at the pond. However, what they really want is a stable breeding colony, and that still hasn’t happened. They have consulted with experts, removed invasive species, replanted appropriate vegetation around the water, and worked to improve the water quality. He says that heikë fireflies, which are more tolerant of pollution, have started breeding there, but that it will still be some time before the genji fireflies are back.
This is a good example of something I think should be a much more prominent Shinto activity. With its reverence for nature and the importance of the “chinju no mori”, or sacred forest, at every jinja, Shinto should be working to create islands of biodiversity across Japan, thus tackling one of the major crises that the world faces at the moment. However, this is the only concrete example that I know of, so it is certainly not as common as it should be, given the scope of the crisis and its relevance to Shinto.
I want to see whether I can encourage more action along these lines, and citing this article as a precedent may well be helpful. In any case, bringing fireflies back to the jinja would be an important achievement by itself.
I love this so much! Yes, let’s hope this becomes a more regular activity at Shrines.
Shinto has deep roots in nature, so I think it appropriate for those involved in the community to embark on paths that would lead them to advocate for and aid in action related to nature and natural diversity and cleanliness. Biodiversity is key, and keeping the ecosystem stable and free of excessive pollutants (as in today’s modern world it would be nearly impossible to keep it free of pollutants) should be one of the issues that the Shinto community takes up. Of course this is simply my own opinion: the opinion of an outsider.