Enshrinement

The May 31st issue of Jinja Shinpō contained three articles, about different jinja, that cast light on different aspects of the idea of the enshrinement of a kami. There is not enough material for an essay, but it will make a substantial blog post.

The first, and simplest, was about repairs and rebuilding at a relatively small jinja in Tokyo, Eiju Inari Jinja. The main job of the chief priest of this jinja is assistant priest at Kanda Jinja, one of the most important jinja in Tokyo. As is normal, the kami was moved out of the jinja while the rebuilding was happening. Normally, the goshintai is housed in another building within the jinja precincts, but this does not seem to have been possible this time. (There is a photograph, and the precincts are small. Further, both the sanctuaries and the jinja office were being rebuilt, so there may not have been any buildings that were not under construction.) Instead, the goshintai was kept in the “gejin”, which normally indicates the outer chamber of the main sanctuary, at Kanda Jinja. I have come across cases of the kami being temporarily enshrined in another jinja within the same precincts, but this is the first case I have seen of the temporary enshrinement being at a completely different jinja.

The second case was in Kanagawa, at Nakahama Inari Jinja. In 1939, a local worthy received a “wakëmitama”, or “separated spirit”, of the kami to enshrine in a small local jinja. (As a side note, it is interesting that this happened under State Shinto. I have a suspicion that it may have, strictly, not been legal.) The jinja, called Okamura-Takigashira Inari Jinja (probably — the names are place names, and those seem to be the normal readings for the relevant places), was maintained by local people, but that had fallen off, and so the decision was taken to move the kami back to Nakahama Inari Jinja.

However, the decision was not to “reunite” the spirits. Instead, the chief priest of Nakahama Inari Jinja built a new (presumably small) sanctuary in the precincts, all by himself, and then performed a matsuri to move the kami there. (The goshintai was, at that point, lost, although it turned up later, buried in the ground, when the the old jinja buildings were being cleared away.) This is interesting because the grounds of Nakahama Inari Jinja now include a separate jinja that also enshrines the kami of Nakahama Inari Jinja. It’s not just another Inari jinja — it’s specifically a separated spirit of the Inari kami enshrined in Nakahama Inari Jinja. I suppose the idea is that they have grown apart over the last eighty years, and are now “different” kami in some sense, but this is another case in which the theology of Shinto is less clear than it could be.

The third, and final, case is in Fukushima. After the tsunami caused a meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, a substantial area was designated “Area Where Return is Difficult”. This is the area where radiation levels are too high for people to live, and where there is no prospect of them coming down that much in the near future. This area includes around forty jinja, and while my understanding is that it is now possible for the priests to visit nearly all of them with special permission — the radiation levels are not that high — it is generally not possible to hold matsuri there, particularly not with the participation of children.

The prefectural Jinjachō had thus spent years negotiating with the national and local governments to get an area set aside in the disaster memorial park for performing matsuri, complete with a jinja. The idea was that the local matsuri for the closed area would be performed there, thus preserving the traditions until the original jinja could be rebuilt and revived. A large construction company offered to pay for the physical building, and an accommodation was worked out with the government so that the jinja could be within the park without violating the constitution.

But the priests of the jinja were reluctant to agree. The head of the Jinjachō was, finally, able to find out what the problem was. They did not want the kami of their jinja to actually be enshrined at the new jinja, because then people might feel that there was no need to rebuild the original jinja. The head of the Jinjachō was the one writing about this, and he admitted to being embarrassed that he had not realised this problem. Thus, the plan was changed, and while the structure will still be a jinja, because it is also rebuilding a jinja that was swept away in the tsunami, it will only be a yōhaijo, a site of distant reverence, for the jinja within the closed area. The relevant kami will be called to the area before each matsuri, and dismissed afterwards, rather than being permanently enshrined.

With that change, the project received unanimous support from the priests, and construction is now going ahead.

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