The June 7th issue of Jinja Shinpō included a front-page article about the meeting of the Standing Committee of Jinja Honchō’s Oversight Council. I mentioned that it might be a bit livelier than normal. Was it?
It began with a call to debate a motion of no confidence in the President.
Yes, it was a bit livelier than normal.
The article only gets around to that opening gambit at the end, because apparently that member of the committee was told that he had to wait until later in the process to raise that kind of issue. Important motions, such as approving the budget for the fiscal year that starts on July 1st, were raised, and discussed.
The discussion of the budget focused on the line item for legal affairs, with one member asking how much had been spent on fighting the court case against the whistleblowers. He got an answer (which was referred to, but not given, in the article), and went on to say that he wanted Jinja Honchō to abandon the appeal, because the kami are watching. Another member followed up by saying that he was also opposed to the appeal, and asking the Chairman (who is formally superior to the President, and not entirely ceremonial) what he thought. The Chairman replied that, if he was not objecting to the precise sum of money, but rather thought that no more money should be spent on the case, then he (the Chairman) had to take that opinion on board.
One member pointed out that the budget item was not just for that court case, but for other legal issues as well, and thus needed to be in the overall budget. Two other members then stated their opposition to the court case, leading the Chairman to ask how the budget was calculated. The answer was “the same way we always do it, by looking at the past budget and asking the department what they need”. One of the opponents said he would like there to be an opportunity for the full Oversight Council to discuss the court case, and then the budget itself was passed without changes.
A few more important but boring administrative issues were handled next. (I mentioned Kotohiragū leaving Jinja Honchō a few months ago. Because it was an important jinja, it was mentioned by name in one of Jinja Honchō’s regulations, so that regulation needed to be changed.)
The committee then approved the decision to deal with motions submitted by members of the Oversight Council at the next meeting in October. At this point, one of the opponents raised one of these motions. Apparently, this motion was signed by 56 members of the Oversight Council, and called on Jinja Honchō to withdraw the appeal and cut all links to “anti-social forces”, which is a technical legal term and normally code for the yakuza. According to him, the judgement acknowledged that there were links to anti-social forces, and he said that the President had arbitrarily chosen the company that bought the real estate (the issue at the heart of the whistleblowing, if you recall). Therefore, he wanted the Standing Committee to discuss a motion of no confidence in the President, and submit it to the October meeting of the Oversight Council.
The head of the secretariat responded that this was outside the Standing Committee’s responsibilities, so that didn’t happen, and in his closing remarks the President said that the remarks were slanderous, that the judgement had cleared Jinja Honchō’s officers of wrongdoing over the real estate deal (true, as far as I know), and that the judgement did not say that the company had any links to “anti-social forces” (I haven’t read the whole judgement, so I can’t comment). He said that he wanted to avoid any further disruption of Jinja Honchō’s activities, and asked for everyone’s cooperation in putting the issue behind them.
Finally, the Chairman commented that there were still issues with online meetings, but said that it was good that a range of opinions had been expressed, and that he hoped that people would continue to state their opinions without worrying about what effects that might have, because the best way to resolve the issues was to discuss them face to face.
Fifty six people is more than a third of the Oversight Council, so there is a substantial body of opposition to the continuation of the court case. They might even have a majority if the full Council were convened. Even if they don’t, that is too many to ignore — if even half of them left Jinja Honchō over it, that would be a serious blow to the organisation. It is interesting that the Chairman seems to have disagreed with the President on whether this topic should continue to be discussed, and I suspect that the meeting was rather more heated than the write-up in Jinja Shinpō suggests.
The editorial in the same issue mentions that the other submitted motions included questions about the theological response to COVID-19 (I strongly suspect that means things like the official policy on livestreaming matsuri), and the response to the government committee that is currently discussing whether to have female-line Tennō. These are issues that it would be best not to leave until October, so the writer (editorials are unsigned — actually, most articles in Jinja Shinpō are unsigned) wondered whether there could be some sort of earlier response to them.
I have no idea how this is going to play out. Despite working with Jinja Honchō on some things, I am largely insulated from this issue (fortunately!), so I only know what has been published in Jinja Shinpō. Inevitably, that is incomplete. (I mean, I assume that the yakuza thing did not actually come out of nowhere, but this was the first I had heard of it.) So, when I say I have no idea, I really mean it.