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Jinja Architecture

The Tōshōgū (a jinja enshrining Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate that ruled Japan from 1600 to 1867) in Maebashi, Gunma Prefecture, has just completed a major rebuilding, and celebrated with a full-page article on the back of the November 1st Jinja Shinpō. So far, so standard.

The style of the rebuilding is not at all standard. The original honden has been kept, and enclosed in a glass-and-marble structure that looks like a high-class hotel or shopping mall. The jinja’s website does not have any photographs up yet, but you can see concept images on the page appealing for funds, and the weddings page. The Jinja Shinpō article did have photographs, and the concept images are close enough to get the idea.

I do not think that this will catch on, partly because it looks eye-wateringly expensive, but also because I think a lot of priests would feel that this is the wrong style for a jinja. On the other hand, it is not ugly or tasteless in the slightest, and I would not be at all surprised if, in a century or so, it became an Important Cultural Property — in part because it will probably still be unusual architecture for a jinja.

While it is exceptional, it is a good reminder that there are not really any rules for jinja architecture — just some guidelines.

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