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Rebuilding in Kumamoto

The Kumamoto Earthquakes were just over five years ago. About six months ago, I wrote an essay about their impact and the recovery, but the April 26th issue of Jinja Shinpō had a long article on the current situation, including a particularly interesting situation at one jinja, so I would like to bring things up to date.

The big picture is that the recovery is progressing well. A lot of rebuilding has happened, and some of the major damage to infrastructure has been repaired. For example, a major bridge that collapsed in the earthquakes has been rebuilt, and opened a few weeks ago. This is also true of jinja, on the whole, as most of the reports in the article were of jinja that had finished rebuilding, or that were well on the way to finishing. For example, at Aso Jinja most of the rebuilding is done, and the reconstruction of the tower gate is making good progress. Similarly, at Kiyama Jingū, the main sanctuary is being reconstructed. I wrote a lot more about those two jinja in the essay, so here I want to concentrate on a new place.

This is, I think, Shioi Jinja. (The article doesn’t give readings for the kanji.) This is a massha, a sub-jinja, of Tsumori Jingū, but it is on another site. This probably means that it was originally an independent jinja, and was merged in at some point in the past, but the article doesn’t talk about the history. The jinja was rebuilt just six months before the earthquakes, but was still badly damaged. One of the faults that moved in the earthquakes runs directly in front of it, and this fault has been declared a Natural Monument by the government, as it is an important sign of the earthquakes. That means that the jinja cannot be rebuilt on that site.

The local ujiko wanted to rebuild the jinja in a nearby sugi grove, but the priest was opposed. He thinks that there is too much risk of a tree falling over and damaging the new jinja (at some point, rather than immediately), and that the location will make it difficult for people to maintain the jinja. It sounds as though things have reached an impasse, and although the government caused the problem, they are no help in solving it — I imagine that they will pay for the move, but the destination has to be decided by the people involved.

The main jinja, Tsumori Jingū, was also damaged, but the tower gate has been returned to its original position, and the prayer hall is solidly propped up so that they do not need to rush to make final repairs. The priest plans to take things slowly, so that the burden on the ujiko is not too great.

The article finishes by mentioning an interesting local custom associated with Tsumori Jingū. There is a goshintai, an item that houses a kami, called “ohoshisan”, but it has no permanent sanctuary. Instead, it moves once a year, in a cycle around twelve regions. Each time it moves, a temporary sanctuary is built in the new location, and it is venerated there for a year. The photograph of the current temporary sanctuary shows a building mainly constructed of what appears to be rice straw, so it is really temporary. It sounds fascinating, but the article only has one paragraph and a photograph.

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