The project with Himeji Jinja is continuing. I still can’t link to their web page, but we are moving forward on creating it, and the hope is that the Japanese version, at least, will go live before the end of this year. We are planning to have the English material ready for March, so that it will be available when the tourist season starts.
As part of this, the jinja wants to offer “tokubetsu sanpai”, which I am currently translating as “special reverence”. This is, basically, a kigansai, where the priest recites a norito for the people attending, but the intent is to make it more accessible, both for foreign tourists and the Japanese. One advantage that Himeji Jinja has in this respect is that, apparently, you do not need to take your shoes off to enter the prayer hall, because of the way it is constructed. (Hië Jinja in Akasaka, Tokyo is another example of a jinja like this.)
We have started discussing the details, and there are a lot of practical issues. How many people can do it at once? What is an appropriate offering? What should the jinja offer as the o-sagari, the gifts from the things offered to the kami? What should the prayer be? Should everyone offer a tamagushi? How should we present all of this to people who know nothing about Shinto to make it as easy as possible?
I am inclining towards making a tamagushi offering optional, because the etiquette for that is a bit complex (you have to hold the tamagushi at chest height, then rotate it in the right direction and place it on the an pointing in the correct direction). The chief priest says that she normally has everyone offer tamagushi, so it should certainly be an option, but I think some people might be put off by the complexity. (I suspect that readers of this blog would definitely want to do it.)
The topic of the prayer is also important. The chief priest says that she likes writing norito, which is great, because it means we are not restricted to the standard options. Still, a prayer for a safe trip seems like the best default option for tourists — they are on a trip, after all. However, it might be a good idea to offer other choices.
The problem is that if you offer too many choices, people get confused, and in this case the choices will have to be offered on a written form, which will look intimidating if there are too many decisions to make.
The special reverence itself will be a standard Shinto kigansai, and thus a good opportunity for people to experience Shinto practice. The presentation of the possibility to foreign tourists is not at all standard, yet, and will, I think, be harder work than preparing the rest of the English website. In any case, we are having good discussions about how to do this, and I hope to be able to say something specific about what is available at Himeji Jinja in the next few months.
I have offered a couple of tamagushi at our local shrine when I was chonaikai-cho a few years back. All I was told about the correct way to offer one was to receive one from the priest, then bow, then turn the tamagushi so that the cut-off part faces the kami, and place it on a table. Nobody mentioned anything about how to rotate it.
Maybe they don’t see it so strict at our jinja? It does not have a full-time priest, instead one of the members of the chonaikai supervises everything for one year (a rotating position). Four times a year we have a festival when we need a priest, and then we hire one from a larger nearby shrine (this is actually the main Tsushima Shrine in Tsushima) who comes for a few hours.
It could well be that no-one working at your jinja knows all the official rules. (This is a standard concern about jinja with the structure you describe — are things actually being done “properly”. That concern itself raises a lot of interesting questions about the locus of authority in Shinto, of course.) One possibility for Himeji Jinja would be to have the priests be less concerned about exactly how the tamagushi was offered, but they do know how it is supposed to be done. I imagine we will discuss this topic further.
This is a really fascinating project. Looking forward to more updates!