As normal, Jinja Shinpō is writing about hatsumōdë, an event that is central to the viability of many jinja. There was a front page article in the January 23rd issue, which I will write about here, and they are planning another article soon, when they have collected information from their reporters across Japan.
This article primarily relied on contacting a number of prominent jinja, in different areas: Jingū, in Isë, Meiji Jingū in Tokyo, Takëkoma Jinja in Miyagi Prefecture, Sumiyoshi Taisha in Osaka, Hōfu Tenmangū in Yamaguchi Prefecture, and Munakata Taisha in Fukuoka Prefecture. The weather on the Pacific coast of Japan was good this year, and the government was not urging any restrictions on travel, and so all the jinja saw increased numbers over the first three days of the year.
Jingū recorded a roughly 10% increase, to 375,000, while Meiji Jingū said that they were back to about 70% of pre-pandemic numbers (which means about 2.1 million). Takëkoma Jinja reported an increase, but no specific numbers, while Sumiyoshi Taisha saw a 40% increase over the previous year, to 1.2 million. Before the pandemic, Hōfu Tenmangū normally had around 420,000 visitors, but last year that was down to about 190,000. This year it was back up to 320,000. Munakata Taisha reported about 80,000, which brought them back to where they used to be. (The number of visitors is strongly influenced by the size of the nearest city, as well as by the prominence of the jinja.)
This year, many jinja also mentioned that they had taken extra measures to avoid overcrowding, after the tragedy in Seoul last Halloween.
The article also covers a few jinja that have associations with rabbits, the zodiacal animal for this year. Jinja associated with the year’s animal are often picked up in the media, and get a higher number of visitors than normal. Tamatsushima Jinja in Wakayama reported that, although they normally see fewer people on the second and third, this year the numbers did not drop off at all, and they were only just able to handle everyone. Hakuto (“White Rabbit”) Jinja in Tottori Prefecture, which enshrines a white rabbit from a myth in the Kojiki, had 30,000 visitors, about triple the normal number.
An analysis of opt-in anonymised mobile phone location data tells a similar story. The analysis looked at Meiji Jingū in Tokyo, Narita-san temple in Chiba, Kawasaki Taishi temple in Kawasaki, Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto, and Sumiyoshi Taisha in Osaka, and in all cases the numbers were around 80% of the pre-pandemic figures. They also showed increases of 80 to 100% over the previous year.
These numbers are good news for jinja, for several reasons, and it will be interesting to see what numbers were like at less prominent, local jinja.