A number of jinja in Ibaraki Prefecture, just to the northeast of Tokyo, have got together to offer “kami tama”, or “kami beads”, to people who visit the jinja, and the June 21st issue of Jinja Shinpō had a short article about them. These kami tama are wooden beads about 1.5 cm in diameter, with a hole through them for threading onto a string, and an image on the side that is related to their jinja. They can be obtained at each jinja, presumably in exchange for a small offering, and serve as a memento of the jinja visit. The jinja also offer a “kami himo”, or “kami thread”, to put the beads on, and when you get your first one, you also get a map of all the participating jinja.
I have seen this sort of project in other rural areas of Japan as well. The aim is clearly to get people who do not live in a jinja’s immediate area to visit, and it seems to work. In this case, the target area seems to be quite small, and it may not go much beyond encouraging people who have visited one of the jinja to visit the others. At the moment, there are ten participating jinja, but it has been increasing, and so the group may get a bit larger. Obviously, it cannot get too much larger, because all the jinja need to be fairly close together, to make collecting the set a practical proposition.
One of the things that I think about, and propose to Jinja Honchō, is ways to create ideas along these lines that might appeal to foreign tourists. Obviously, there aren’t any such tourists right now, but that just gives us thinking and preparation time.