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Sect Shinto Anniversary

The October 10th issue of Jinja Shinpō contained, very unusually, an article about sect Shinto. “Sect Shinto” is the general term for groups based on Shinto that are undeniably religions, are not restricted to one area of Japan, and are legally registered as independent religious corporations. Within this, the term “Kyōha Shinto” refers to the groups that were recognised as Shinto-derived religions by the pre-war Japanese government. This is an area of Shinto I do not know much about — I don’t work in it, and I do not have much contact with people who do. What is more, it is hardly ever mentioned in Jinja Shinpō. And now it has been.

The meeting that was reported was of six groups to mark the 140th anniversary of the Meiji government recognising them as independent religions. It seems to have been the normal sort of thing for these events: lots of speeches.

A couple of features were interesting. First, the speaker on behalf of the six groups listed their goals in society, and that list was almost exactly the same as what jinja Shinto groups say, starting with reverence for the Tennō, and going on to strengthening the bonds between people and working for harmony and world peace.

Second, he referred to the groups as “shūkyō Shinto”, which means “religion Shinto”, and seems to have intended this to serve as a contrast to jinja Shinto. I wouldn’t put too much weight on it, but it is a further suggestion that not everyone sees jinja Shinto as a religion, including people who do see their version of Shinto as a religion.

The meeting was attended by the head of the Kyōha Shinto federation, naturally, but also by Revd Tanaka, the (pro tem) president of Jinja Honchō. This, as well as the report in Jinja Shinpō, suggests more recognition from jinja Shinto and the Shinto establishment than I would have expected, given how little sect Shinto is mentioned.

Another factor in that recognition may be that Princess Akiko of Mikasa attended the event, and gave a speech. She is a fairly minor member of the Imperial family (minor enough that the Japanese government didn’t think she needed a bodyguard when she went to get her PhD at Oxford), but she seems to be the member with the most active involvement in Shinto, even though one of her cousins married the future chief priest of Izumo Ōyashiro. Most of her Shinto-related activities get an article in Jinja Shinpō, so I do wonder whether the meeting merited an article because she was there, rather than because it was a major sect Shinto gathering.

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