At the beginning of every year Jinja Shinpō runs a series of short articles from a wide range of people, mostly priests, who were born in an earlier year with the same zodiacal animal. This year, it’s people born in the year of the rabbit. As usual, I want to write about a few on the blog.
The first one is from the January 16th issue, and by a priest at a jinja in Iwatë Prefecture, in northeast Japan. His jinja has acquired a robot rabbit, a “rabbot”, which is kept in the waiting room so that children who are there for shichigosan do not get bored while they are waiting for their turn. Most people think it is cute, and it does relax the children, some of whom also get a bit embarrassed or nervous. They are, after all, very young, dressed up in unfamiliar clothes (it’s often the first time they have worn a kimono), and in a new place.
The author comments that you might think there is no connection between jinja and robots, but, he says, they can both soothe the heart. Maybe, he thinks, AI can be used to help preserve jinja, as it is being used in so many other parts of life.
I think this article is incredibly Japanese in its attitude to robots and AI, and very much in the mainstream of Shinto in its willingness to use very new things to support tradition.