Publicising Shinto

After the Meiji Revolution, in 1868, the government shut down the priests of Jingū who had distributed ofuda and organised the veneration of Amaterasu Ōmikami at Isë by people from across Japan. Without those priests, they needed a new way to link everyone to Jingū, and so, in 1872, a governmental system was set up to distribute the ofuda to every household. This changed several times, and its links to the state were, of course, abolished after WWII. However, Jinja Honchō regards their distribution of Jingū Taima as continuing this tradition, rather than the earlier one, and so they are planning to celebrate the 150th anniversary next year.

As part of this, they want to hold a big publicity drive, to get more people to accept Jingū Taima and venerate them in their homes. The top article on the front page of the 16th August issue of Jinja Shinpō was dedicated to the meeting at which this was discussed. There were a couple of interesting points.

The first is, at least to me, rather amusing. The possibility of a television commercial was raised, but apart from the budget issue, apparently a lot of stations will not run adverts promoting a religion “so we would have to be careful about the content”. You might think that encouraging people to get a representation of a kami and venerate it in their home would obviously be religious, but not in this case.

The second is of rather deeper interest. The staff at Jinja Honchō have narrowed down the target for the campaign to three demographic groups. These are groups of people that their research suggests would be interested in Jingū Taima if they knew about them. Specifically, they are young people from their late teens to early twenties, young women from their mid-twenties to early thirties, and housewives.

For the middle group, young women from their mid-twenties to early thirties, Jinja Honchō wants to do something in collaboration with popular women’s magazines, and the article suggests that discussions with an•an, one of the biggest such magazines in Japan, have made some progress. They raised the possibility of getting a group of the magazine’s “reader-models” together to talk about jinja and Jingū Taima, and to have them visit Jingū, and then get the results published in the magazine. (The Jinja Shinpō article is not explicit about whether there have been discussions, but this proposal sounds a bit too precise for something that Jinja Honchō staff came up with by themselves — I suspect that they have spoken informally to the magazine.) One of the committee members suggested that they could get a miko or two to join the discussion, and another commented that he had heard from younger women that they would be interested in reading such an article.

I have mentioned the interest of young women before; they often collect goshuin, for example. It is entirely plausible that they might be interested in Jingū Taima if they knew that they existed. Japanese housewives have traditionally been an important target audience for any sort of cultural activity, so that also makes sense. The focus on high school and university students (which is what the first group generally means in practice) is one that I haven’t seen before. I suppose it is possible that it is based on nothing more than the observation that this age group is the most likely to have never heard of Jingū, so that there is nothing but potential for growth.

I think that Jinja Honchō is right to believe that there is a lot of latent interest in Shinto in Japan, and I look forward to seeing what happens next year.

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