The August 15th issue of Jinja Shinpō contained two things connected to the current controversy over the president of Jinja Honchō, but only one of them was technically an article.
That article was on the front page, and reported on a meeting of the Board of Directors held on August 5th, which was attended by the chairman and both claimants to the presidency. This meeting appears to have been open to the press, or at least Jinja Shinpō, and nothing in the article can be interpreted as meaning “and then they started throwing things at each other”, so the whole proceeding appears to have been civilised. I am sure there was a lot of icy politeness — Japanese is almost as good as British English at that. The chairman even asked Revd Tanaka, the claimant he did not appoint, to chair the meeting, as he is still acting as president until the new one takes office.
The first notable thing about this meeting is that it was public — a lot of recent meetings have been closed. The second point, which is very important, is that it also dealt with a lot of ordinary business for running Jinja Honchō, such as agreeing on responses to the motions submitted to the board by the Oversight Council in May. These motions are typically uncontroversial, and that was, for the most part, true this time. One of the motions tangentially gestured at the problems that there have been, but the formal response to that dodges the issue.
The meeting did address the elephant in the room, reporting on the fact that the secretariat had sued one of the directors (Revd Ashihara) for trying to register himself as president. He had appealed, and the appeal was to be heard on August 8th. (I wrote about this in my last post on this topic.)
A number of comments were made on this point. Someone asked why the secretariat had not taken the necessary steps to register the person appointed by the chairman (who had been elected unanimously). There is no record of their answer; I guess that they dodged the question. Someone else said that the fact Revd Ashihara had made a new seal for Jinja Honchō was a serious problem.
Revd Ashihara responded by saying that the chairman had the authority to appoint the president, and that no-one else had the right to interfere beyond participating in the discussion. He concluded by saying that he had completed his preparations, and that he had lodged a case with the Tokyo District Court that very day, asking the court to confirm that he was the president. Revd Tanaka followed up by saying that this topic was still being litigated, and that a new case had been started, so he would like to bring the discussion to a close. At least some of the attendees agreed with him. (Japanese is not clear on how many.)
In closing, the chairman said that the struggle over the presidency was currently being litigated, and was at a different scale, and that, for the time being, it was probably best to avoid discussing it at the board meetings, or within Jinja Honchō. They should just watch the court cases.
So, the dispute has gone to court, but all the principals seem to have agreed on the need to keep Jinja Honchō running in the meantime. This is not, I think, a great situation, but it could certainly be a lot worse.
The second thing is a half-page “Opinion Advert” on page five. This takes the form of a resolution passed by Kanagawa Jinjachō, and addressed to the chairman. The signatures and seals of the president, vice-presidents, and directors of the Jinjachō are all reproduced in the advert.
The resolution says that they are very grateful that the chairman, Revd Takatsukasa, was elected unanimously, and that they think that his guidance is necessary for the functioning of Jinja Honchō in the large sense. It goes on to say that the chairman judged that the chain of events surrounding the court case had shaken public faith in Jinja Honchō, and that he wanted to appoint someone who would restore legal compliance, transparency, and fairness to the management of Jinja Honchō. It then expresses approval of his appointment of Revd Ashihara.
It then goes on to say that they are lost for words when they see that some of the directors of Jinja Honchō seem to be clinging to power as leaders of the religious corporation and ignoring the chairman’s direction.
An appended note calls on other Jinjachō to support them.
Obviously, this formal declaration by one of the prefectural Jinjachō is extremely significant. If enough others follow suit, Revd Tanaka’s position will become untenable. (He is the president of Kyoto Jinjachō, so it will not be unanimous.) Jinja Shinpō’s decision to publish the advert is also significant. It is an advert, so Jinja Shinpō itself is not formally taking sides, but the new board has clearly decided that they are happy for the discussion to happen on the pages of the newspaper. It may also be significant that the previous president of the company took the same side in his resignation letter.
Given printing deadlines, I do not expect to see any response to the advert in the August 22nd issue of Jinja Shinpō, but the August 29th issue might be very interesting.