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Presidential Address

Twice a year, the highest body of Jinja Honchō, the Hyōgi’inkai, meets to approve the budget and rule changes that have been prepared by the directors. Normally, they also make a few proposals of their own. As the Hyōgi’inkai is over a hundred people, it normally functions as a rubber stamp, and that is even more true this year, when the meeting was held remotely and most of the members were not even consulted.

One feature that was preserved was the presidential address. Tanaka Tsunëkiyo, the president of Jinja Honchō, set out the things that Jinja Honchō had done over the last six months, and its plans for the next. These speeches have a fixed format, and they are only interesting if you are interested in the admin of Jinja Honchō. I am going to assume that readers of this blog are interested in that topic, and write about the speech.

After initial greetings, he talks about good things that have happened to the Tennō or his family, and then about Jingū, at Isë. This time, he reported that 2019 saw over 9.7 million visitors to Jingū, the third-highest number recorded. Even so, the number of Jingū Taima (the ofuda from Jingū that are venerated on household kamidana) distributed is falling, and all priests need to work hard to reverse this. (This point has been made every time for as long as I have been reading these speeches.)

He then runs through the administrative things that Jinja Honchō does, such as making sure that all jinja have correctly filed the necessary paperwork with the local authorities. Apparently, this is not always done, and this speech again included a bit urging priests to make sure they had done it. Another ongoing problem is the number of legally inactive jinja, a problem that is slowly being chipped away at. This time, he also spent some time talking about the introduction of online meetings and telework, and referred to their importance for dealing with future disasters, as well as the current one.

The next section is about “popular movements”. This includes the push for constitutional revision, a major concern of Jinja Honchō despite its tenuous connections to Shinto, and the problem of the Imperial succession. There are only two male members of the Imperial family younger than the current Tennō, and one of them is his younger brother: there is only one in the next generation. The Shinto establishment generally pushes to restrict inheritance to men in the male line (because “tradition”), but one interesting feature of this talk was that while Revd Tanaka did stress the importance of the male line, he did not mention the need for a male Tennō. That could just be for reasons of space, but it could also be a sign of a shift. Historically, there have been several female Tennō, which makes an insistence on men rhetorically weak, but the male line does seem to have been preserved without exception.

The sections on religious teaching and publicity covered standard problems: the lack of successor priests at many jinja, rural depopulation, and the particular things that have been done as part of normal activities. My work with them gets mentioned here, although obviously not by name — he just talks about preparing material in foreign languages for foreign visitors to jinja.

The section on matsuri is short, mentioning the training they provide, the surveys they are doing on matsuri across the country, and the need to treat omamori and ofuda appropriately. There is a short section on Shinto theology, which basically says they are going to try to do more work on coming up with something here, because the problems have become more diverse. Finally, he talks briefly about the ongoing training of priests.

The conclusion is, unsurprisingly, about the impact of COVID-19, and includes the statement that, basically, the budgets that the meeting is approving are not going to be properly applied; new budgets will be issued in October, and the amount of money that jinja have to pay will be fixed then. This would normally be a red flag, but right now it just looks like a sensible response to the crisis.

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2 thoughts on “Presidential Address”

  1. So, what paperwork are jinja required to file with the local authorities, and what happens to them if they don’t do it?

    1. It’s some time since I read the relevant laws, but as I recall the big one is the annual accounts, and in the worst case the religious corporation can be dissolved if the paperwork isn’t kept up to date. (I think the chief priest can also be fined, although IIRC this is legally an “administrative penalty” rather than a fine.)

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