A few days ago, I wrote a post explaining that Kanda Myōjin is a rather unconventional jinja. A couple of days after that, I found that they have done something even less conventional. They have set up a festival inside Animal Crossing.
The video is all in Japanese, but the visit to the sacred horse is cute, as is the little miko character’s attempt to pay her respects. Obviously, people will have to ask the publishers to add the proper action to the game’s options. The jinja also has a web page about the Animal Crossing matsuri, although it is all in Japanese. You may be interested to know that, within the game, you can visit it in a dream, at the code below. I do not play the game, but I am told that the code does work from North America, so I suspect that you can go from anywhere in the world.
The matsuri will only be open until September 30th 2020. It looks as though you can also pick up miko and priest costumes for your characters, as well as festival yukata. However, I have no idea how that works; you can find pictures and codes on the webpage, and if you play the game, I imagine you know what to do.
They have put this together because Kanda Myōjin normally has a summer matsuri that is more about people enjoying themselves at the jinja than it is about honouring the kami. Both functions are important, but the relative emphasis can vary depending on the event. This year, of course, lots of people gathering at the jinja is a definite no-no. They have repurposed a number of things found in the game to furnish the “jinja”, and it looks like it will be fun, even if there are limits to how much like the real thing it can look.
This is, however, well outside the Shinto mainstream. Leaving aside the fact that most priests would have no idea how to do this, there is a very strong resistance to “virtual sanpai”, or visiting a jinja through the internet, in much of the Shinto world. On the other hand, Kanda Myōjin is not a marginal jinja: it is one of the most important in Tokyo. It is the oldest jinja in Tokyo, it is responsible for probably the largest matsuri in Tokyo (the Sanja Matsuri at Asakusa may be larger), and it is a major tourist attraction. It is also wealthy, possibly due to having much of central Tokyo as its ujiko area. Thus, Kanda Myōjin can get away with things that other jinja would not dare to try. If push comes to shove, Kanda Myōjin is stronger than the Shinto establishment, and I think the Shinto establishment knows it. I also suspect that there are people within the Shinto establishment who are happy to see a jinja trying out all these new things, even if they do not agree with all of them.
Come to that, I do not agree with everything that they do. Actually, I don’t agree with trying to pay respects to the kami within Animal Crossing — although they could, in theory, have done enough preparation, including enshrinement matsuri within Animal Crossing, that I would have to concede the point. But I do think it is important, and very valuable, that such a prominent jinja is trying out so many new approaches to Shinto in a changing world. And a virtual one.