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Visiting a Shinto Jinja: Attitude and Etiquette

Jinja Honchō has recently published three new videos on the etiquette for visiting a jinja. They aren’t really three videos, though, because the two short ones are just extracts from the full-length one. I will link to the full one first; it’s about four minutes long.

As you can see, it not only has English on-screen captions, but it has an English narration. I did the English adaptation, but Jinja Honchō hired a professional to do the voice-over. She was really good; we had to do one retake because she stumbled, and one because the director failed to give a cue, but we got most of the narration in single takes. (Obviously, we didn’t try to record the whole video in one take.) Despite starting recording about 25 minutes behind schedule, we finished on time.

The video is mainly designed for a Japanese audience, because a lot of Japanese people these days do not know the proper etiquette for a jinja visit. Thus, there is a Japanese version (also on Jinja Honchō’s YouTube channel), and that is the original. One way that you can tell that this is a translation is the opening section, which makes a lot more sense for a Japanese audience. After all, how many English speakers pay their respects at a jinja as a matter of form? The only substantial difference is that the Japanese version does not explicitly mention that the bow should be to 90º. It did, originally, but when they recorded the Japanese version it turned out that there wasn’t enough time to say the whole line in Japanese, so the angle was cut. It still fit in English, so the English version has it. Thus, the English version is actually more complete than the Japanese one.

For the next video, which is planned for later this year, I think I will ask whether I can rewrite bits. The English video would have been better with an opening along the lines of “The Japanese have reverently maintained jinja for generations, but anyone is welcome to visit them and pay their respects. This video will tell you how to do that”. However, initially I thought I was preparing English subtitles to go with a Japanese commentary, as for the videos about individual jinja. (Actually, that may have been the original plan, although the decision to make a fully English version was a good one.) In addition, the content of anything published by Jinja Honchō needs to be carefully vetted, so it might not be possible to edit rather than translate. Still, given the form the video actually takes, it would be better if I were able to completely rewrite the introduction to speak to a non-Japanese audience.

The short ones are less than a minute long each. The first is about purifying yourself.

And the second is about paying your respects.

We got the narrator to read the titles of the videos, but the rest is copy and pasted from the long version.

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5 thoughts on “Visiting a Shinto Jinja: Attitude and Etiquette”

  1. I hadn’t heard the details about off-setting your hands while clapping before, do you know what the significance of that is?

    1. I think it’s simply to make the clap sound better. I have never seen anything written down about it, and no-one has ever mentioned a deeper meaning. I will try to remember to ask next time I am in Jinja Honchō.

  2. Hey wait, she turned her back to the kami! lol I thought you should walk away at a angle or back up a few steps facing the kami.

    1. That is required of priests, and I do it because I like excessive Shinto geekery, but it is not something that ordinary people are asked to do. Also, at busy jinja, you can’t do it, because you would bump into the people behind you…

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