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The National Sōdai Council

At the end of May, the Jinja Shinto world holds a week of meetings. This includes a meeting of the Oversight Council, but also the annual meetings of a lot of associated bodies, and an awards ceremony. The whole week is called the “Green Leaves Meetings”, and it is a major event in the calendar. One of the first meetings on the schedule is the meeting of the National Sōdai Council (全国総代会) which brings together the lay elders of jinja across Japan. There are representatives from every prefecture, and they elect a board, and agree on activities for the next year.

The formal meeting for this group is normally nothing more than a formality, and this year was the same. They approve the reports on the previous year, approve the planned activities for the next year (which are always the same), and, in election years, elect all the candidates for the board who stand. This year was no different.

I should note that it would be difficult to do anything more substantial in this meeting. The sōdai are all volunteers, and primarily concerned with their own jinja. Apart from the general commitments of Jinja Honchō (honour the Tennō, distribute lots of Jingū Taima) and platitudes about regional jinja (revitalise the regions, maintain jinja), there isn’t really anything that the whole group could agree on and actually put into effect. I get the impression that its main function is social, to stop sōdai at individual jinja feeling isolated, and I strongly suspect that the prefectural organisations are more important than the national one.

However, this year the national board meeting was a bit different. It was an election year, and so the secretariat, which is made up of employees of Jinja Honchō, put forward a slate of candidates to be recommended by the board, as is traditional. This included the people who currently hold these posts, as is also traditional.

Some of the board members objected that some of these candidates were serving directors of Jinja Honchō, who had voted to appeal to the Supreme Court, and argued that it was inappropriate to elect them. (It may have been one candidate, but I can’t tell because Japanese doesn’t do singular and plural.) They argued that new candidates should be chosen. This was put to a vote, and the secretariat’s proposal was voted down. After discussion, the board decided whom to recommend, and chose their own slate, which was later approved by the full council.

Obviously, this does not bode well for the re-election of the current board of directors of Jinja Honchō, which was on the agenda for the Oversight Council. That meeting has happened, but I do not know how it turned out — yet. I expect to write about it next week.

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5 thoughts on “The National Sōdai Council”

  1. Aloha David! Thank you for writing about this important event which can decide whether or not Jinja Honcho makes a change in leadership which will address necessary changes in order to improve Jinja Honcho’s future. When I get involved with helping a well established business/organization make strategic changes, I always review the minutes of the board meetings first as they can indicate the challenges and opportunities. Not sure if you have access to the board minutes?

    1. I don’t think anyone has access to the board minutes. I know there was a bit of an issue a few months back when a former board member wanted to see them.

  2. So on a scale of 1 to, say, the French Revolution, how big of a deal was it that the National Sodai Council voted down the slate of pre-selected candidates and chose their own? Has this ever happened?

    1. I am not aware of it having happened before, but I haven’t carefully studied that aspect of the last 70 years. Certainly, nothing that I have read has mentioned anything that makes it sound likely that it has happened before.

      This, by itself, has only minor significance, because the board of the National Sōdai Council does not actually do much. The events at the Oversight Council are important, however.

  3. Pingback: The Oversight Council – Mimusubi

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