Unsurprisingly, the pandemic is still affecting the Shinto world, just like everywhere else, and several articles in Jinja Shinpō are still referring to it. For example, an important annual meeting (of the national association of sōdai) was carried out by sending documents to everyone and having them mail their votes back, and Jinja Honchō is in the process of setting up standards and practices for web meetings, so that they can be incorporated into the organisation’s rules.
However, Japan has been moving towards lifting most of the restrictions. At the end of last week, for example, the government stopped calling on people to avoid travelling between Greater Tokyo and the rest of the country. This process may need to be scaled back if a second wave gets started (and while numbers are still low — around 50 per day for the whole country — they are not falling), but for now people are looking forward to going on holiday and out to eat again.
This was reflected in a special matsuri held at a jinja in Tochigi Prefecture, just to the north of Tokyo. This matsuri was explicitly for both the end of the pandemic, and the recovery of the local economy. The local newspaper were told about it in advance, and sent a reporter to cover the event.
The jinja in question, Kamo Wakë Ikazuchi Jinja, is in a city called Sano (and has exactly the same name as a much older, larger, and more famous jinja in Kyoto — which indicates that it was founded by bringing that jinja’s kami to a new location). Sano is famous for a particular variety of ramen, and the article says that the food offerings to the kami included this ramen. Now, ramen is not a normal offering to the kami, but in broader terms this does reflect a standard practice: that of offering local specialities to the local kami.
The priests explained their decision to give the matsuri a double focus by saying that people’s attention had started to turn to economic recovery. With the ending of the state of emergency across the whole of Japan, they said, people had stopped worrying purely about the disease, and started to look at how they could get the economy moving again. This attitude is appropriate for a jinja, as local jinja are supposed to support the local community, carrying their requests for prosperity to the kami. It is worth recalling that the standard annual ceremonies are all about praying and giving thanks for a good harvest, which was the foundation of economic prosperity for almost all communities until very recently.
Jinja are continuing to respond to the pandemic in the ways suggested by their traditions.