Samurai Show

Samurai Show

While I was researching another piece, I came across the following group:

https://theshow.jp

The website is all in Japanese at the moment, but you can see the pictures. They offer a Japanese-style dinner show, with Japanese food, and a Japanese story to the play.

The play starts with Taira no Masakado, a hero from around Tokyo in the tenth century who defended local people, but was declared an enemy of the Tennō and killed by an army sent from Kyoto. (That much is historical.) Then his daughter, Taki-Yasha-himë, became a “mononokë” and cursed the soldiers and courtiers who were responsible for the death of her father. The court sent more warriors to defeat her, including a half-oni/half-human. He fell in love with the mononokë princess, but because they could see no way to live together, they decided to commit suicide. (This is a standard Japanese plot.) However, Taira no Masakado, who had also become a vengeful spirit, intervenes, and everything ends happily. (The online summary is, naturally, a little vague on the details of the ending.)

This sounds pretty much like the plot of an anime, and certainly has the potential to appeal to foreign tourists in Tokyo (although they need more English on their website for that to really work). But why am I writing about it here?

The show is being put on in the restaurant and events facility operated by Kanda Myōjin in the jinja precincts.

Taira no Masakado is one of the kami enshrined at Kanda Myōjin.

We can be completely confident that the jinja approves of this portrayal of (one of) their kami. They even put a promotional video made by the cast (as part of a Tokyo Prefectural project to support the arts, as far as I can see) on the jinja’s official YouTube channel.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lp9ZbcydfI

This does not mean that all priests approve of all possible uses of the kami in fiction. Obviously. However, this is not a particularly “religious” portrayal of the kami, and the priests at Kanda Jinja are clearly happy with it being offered in the jinja precincts, under the auspices of the jinja. The website even says “Kanda Myōjin” at the top.

Kanda Myōjin is certainly one of the most enthusiastic and experimental jinja when it comes to popular culture and the development and preservation of Japanese culture, partly because they claim Akihabara as part of their ujiko area. It’s also a very rich and popular jinja, which means it does not need to worry about what anyone else in the Shinto world thinks about what it does. It is, however, still part of Jinja Honchō, and I have not heard any rumours about plans to kick it out, which suggests that these activities are within the range of what Jinja Honchō thinks is acceptable for a jinja — even if they would not go so far as to promote them.

I think it is important to be aware of the wide range of approaches taken by jinja, because all of them together create Shinto. This one is a little more individual and distinctive than most.

I have a Patreon, where people subscribe to receive in-depth essays on various aspects of Shinto, about once per month. If that sounds interesting to you, please take a look.

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