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The Oversight Council

The Oversight Council met from May 26th to May 28th, and the June 6th issue of Jinja Shinpō carried a fairly detailed account of the deliberations, over the first two pages.

As I predicted, there were “lively discussions” and a “full and frank exchange of views”.

Before I move on to those, however, there are a couple of points I want to make first. The Chairman was re-elected unanimously, and the budgets were passed. The Chairman (a largely, but not entirely, ceremonial position) still appears to have everyone’s confidence, and there does not appear to have been a significant effort to block the budgets and thus hold Jinja Honchō to ransom over other issues. In other words, the substantial dissatisfaction that does exist seems to be with the President and Directors, not with the idea and activities of Jinja Honchō as such.

The dissatisfaction is over the court case, the discussion of which occupied the whole of the second day. Jinja Honchō wanted to have their lawyer attend the meeting, to explain exactly what had happened, but several members of the Council objected, saying that they knew what had happened, and that if Jinja Honchō’s lawyer was going to be there, they really ought to have the lawyers for the claimants speak as well. This was put to a vote — and the leadership lost, so the lawyer was not able to attend the meeting. (I’m afraid I do not know whether the leadership has ever previously lost a vote in the Oversight Council. It is certainly not at all common.)

Following this, the employees of Jinja Honchō explained the current situation. The claimants have been restored to their previous jobs and positions, but as there are other people doing those jobs at present, they have been told to not do them for now. (The one who was fired has been told to stay home, while the one who was demoted is still doing the job he was demoted to.) This is actually fair enough, in my opinion. It is not obvious how best to deal with this problem, and the entire Board of Directors was up for election at this meeting of the Oversight Council, and so I think it was reasonable to put it on hold and leave the new Board to decide exactly what to do. There does not seem to have been much opposition to this point, so it seems that the Oversight Council agreed.

It was also reported that a member of the Board of Directors had asked whether it would be possible to apply milder disciplinary action to the two claimants; Jinja Honchō’s lawyer told them, quite tactfully it would seem, that this was probably not a good idea.

There were a number of interesting points made about the status of religious workers, but I will save those for another post. Some people spoke in support of the leadership, but more people spoke against. One person, Revd Hashimoto, formally called for the President and the Directors who voted to appeal to resign, and to pay Jinja Honchō the costs of the court case, and the extra salary that had to be paid to the successful claimants. (That would have come to tens of millions of yen — a few hundred thousand dollars.)

This didn’t happen.

One interesting point is that none of the opponents of the current Board raised the fact that the Supreme Court has confirmed that they illegally fired one of their employees. Personally, I think that is a serious problem, and so it is intriguing that nobody brought it up.

The following day, an election committee was chosen to select the new Board of Directors, and went off to do it. They came back with a list that has substantial overlap with the previous board, including the President, the Vice President, and the Executive Directors. Some opposition was voiced to this, but the motion was passed. The article does not say whether there was a vote, or, if so, what the result was.

The meeting closed with the (former) President, Revd Tanaka, giving his opinions on what had happened and people’s opinions, in which he emphasised that the court had found that he did not betray the trust of Jinja Honchō. He also responded to individual comments. Finally, the Chairman spoke, expressing gratitude for everyone’s contribution, reaffirming the importance of following the law, and stating his concern that opinions had split into two camps that might be difficult to reconcile.

Immediately after the end of the Oversight Council, the new Board of Directors met, to elect a new President, Vice President, and Executive Directors. Normally, the results are immediately announced to the Prefectural Jinjachō, but the meeting was held in private, and no results had been announced by the time Jinja Shinpō went to press.

That presumably means that they have not decided yet. There are two obvious possibilities. One is that the Directors themselves are deadlocked. The other is that the Chairman refused to endorse their choice for President. (His position is not entirely ceremonial.) There may be other possible reasons, but this does not bode well.

The problems are not solved.

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5 thoughts on “The Oversight Council”

  1. “Jinja Honchō’s lawyer told them, quite tactfully it would seem, that this was probably not a good idea”

    To put it mildly…

    Seems at least on member of the Board *still* hasn’t got the memo.

  2. Aloha David! Fascinating. Thank you for covering these management leadership organizational issues which are so crucial to the future of Shinto. Any organization needs continuous change to prosper, especially in a rapidly changing consumer environment. In my experience, major long term organizational changes often happen when a policy decision, such as the whistleblower’s case is successfully confirmed by an outside agency such as the court or a government agency. This sets off policy discussions which can lead to leadership changes. All of this “public” controversy is, in my opinion, signs that positive changes are likely to happen. Unfortunate that it has to be “public” and confirmed by “outsiders” to the organization but absolutely essential to create an environment conducive to change in a very traditional organization which is likely to have been resistant to major changes in the past. Curious if you can share the profiles of any of the major figures involved in the organizational clashes? Are there some common denominators like age, background or geography which seem to be more common with one side or the other? Are there just two factions or are there multiple factions involved?

    1. I’m afraid I don’t know whether there are systematic differences between the two sides, or to what extent there are actual factions, as opposed to conflict over this particular issue. The unanimous re-election of the Chairman rather suggests that there cannot be strong factions. I’m sure that there is a lot of internal politics that does not make it into the newspapers, but I do not know the details.

  3. Pingback: Priests and Workers – Mimusubi

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