This week’s Jinja Shinpō included a number of articles of interest, including one by me. That one will be the basis of a Patreon essay in a couple of months, so I won’t talk about it here. There was also an article about Jingū starting the distribution of omamori and ofuda again, although they are still not doing formal prayers outside the regular matsuri.
However, the articles I want to pick up are about online activities. Two short articles reported on online meetings held by administrative groups in Shizuoka Prefecture and Nagano Prefecture. In Shizuoka Prefecture, it was the prefectural Jinjachō’s “Edification Division” (this is the part of the organisation that promotes “religious” things, and it is the part of Jinja Honchō that I work for; it is not the easiest thing to translate), while in Nagano it was a regional grouping of jinja within the prefecture.
Both groups found the meetings useful, and appreciated the lack of travel and preparation. The Shizuoka group seemed enthusiastic, and want to continue in the future, but it looks as though the Nagano group had more connection problems, and doesn’t see online meetings as a substitute for decision-making meetings. Even so, they did think it would be useful for preliminary meetings and less formal discussions.
Half of the front page was about online training sessions. Jinja Honchō has never done, or authorised, these, but as it is currently impossible for priests to gather in person, they are looking into it, and some prefectural Jinjachō have been discussing it amongst themselves.
There are limits. It is simply not practical to do training in ritual movements over the internet with current technology, and this is quite an important part of continuing training for priests. However, other things, such as lectures on the Kojiki myths, could, in principle, be done online, and the issues are mainly practical.
The article reported a discussion between the person in charge of this at Jinja Honchō and people from prefectural Jinjachō, organised by Jinja Shinpō. Jinja Honchō is in favour in principle, especially at the moment, but does have a number of concerns, almost all of which are entirely practical. For example, training sessions should use two-way video so that the instructor can confirm that everyone is present and awake, and because they need to confirm that the students have grasped the content, they need to ask for a report to be submitted afterwards.
There were a lot of positive questions from the prefectures, on details such as whether Jinja Honchō would provide a list of things students must not do during the courses, or whether it was acceptable for a student to attend the course on a smartphone, or whether they had to wear suits. The answers were in favour of suits, and against smartphones, because of the risk of a phone call coming in.
Other points were more specifically Shinto. For example, the students would be expected to pay their respects at a local jinja and to Jingū before the sessions started, and would do their best to sing the national anthem and recite the “Principles of a Life Honouring the Kami” together, within the limits of a web meeting.
An interesting point was made during the meeting. One person asked whether online sessions were fairly accessible to all priests, given that not everyone has a good computer and internet set-up. The person from Jinja Honchō pointed out that the existing system wasn’t fairly accessible either, as people had to travel different distances to the sessions. That is very true, and a good reason for having multiple ways to offer the training. I strongly suspect that some of the training sessions offered for priests will become available online even after the pandemic is over.