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Principles of a Life Honouring the Kami

In 1956, to mark the tenth anniversary of the establishment of Jinja Honchō, the organisation created and adopted a text that laid out the fundamentals of Jinja Shinto as a religion. My translation is as follows.

Principles of a Life Honouring the Kami

The way of the kami (Shinto) is the great way of the eternal heavens and earth, cultivating a noble spirit and serving as the foundation for the creation of peace and harmony.

We fulfil our duties by revering the will of the kami and continuing the teachings of our ancestors, bringing the heart of the way ever more into practice, to increase the welfare of the human race.

Here, we state these principles to make our goals clear, and aim to promote the great way through their practical application.

  • We carry out matsuri in bright and pure sincerity, offering thanks for the blessings of the kami and the gifts of our ancestors.
  • We serve others and the world, establishing the world as the bearers of the words of the kami.
  • United in harmonious fellowship under the will of the Tennō, we pray for the prosperity of Japan and for the peaceful coexistence and flourishing of the world.

Differences between Japanese and English make this translation, as with any other, difficult, and so you should not closely analyse the nuances of the translation; they almost certainly differ, in important ways, from those of the original. For example, the original just says “Shinto” at the beginning, but the Japanese characters mean “the way of the kami”, and the text goes on to talk about the “way” so I have translated it both ways. One important ambiguity that does not translate is in the final principle. The word I have translated “the will of the Tennō” is “Ōmikokoro”, which literally means something like “Great Honourable Heart”. I have translated it this way because that is how it is normally used by the Shinto establishment, but the Japanese is ambiguous. It does not, for example, have a close association with direct orders, and it can also be used to refer to kami, not to the Tennō. Thus, it would, linguistically, be legitimate to remove all direct reference to the Tennō from the principles, although that would be misleading at present.

These principles are still important today, and Jinja Shinpō prints one sentence from them on the front page of every issue. However, they are no more specific in Japanese than they are in English, so they normally remain in the background, while more specific issues are taken up in discussion.

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