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Some-Kami-Or-Other Jinja

Recently, I’ve been reading a book about Yahiko Jinja, a very important jinja in Niigata Prefecture. (彌彦神社、学生者、2003) I may well write an essay about the jinja for my Patreon, in part because I have already visited it, but in this blog post I just want to talk about one of the massha — subsidiary jinja for kami that do not have a close association with the main kami.

This jinja is called “Bō Jinja (某神社)”. “Bō” means “some-or-other”, and is used to refer indefinitely to someone or something. (Strictly speaking, then, the name is “Some Jinja Or Other”.) The description of the jinja in the book makes it clear that no-one knows who the kami is. However, there is an ancient burial mound, and there are persistent stories of a curse on anyone who disturbs the site. During a recent archaeology boom, some religious implements were recovered near the jinja, and there were many requests to carry out a dig, but permission was refused for everything. As the priest writing the book says, nobody knows the details of the kami enshrined here, but they know it is a great and powerful kami, so they honour it.

I have written before about the fact that priests do not always know which kami is enshrined at a jinja, but this is by far the most blatant example I have come across.

An interesting tangent is that, a few years ago, I saw a photograph of an ofuda for “某神社” online, and the poster was asking which jinja it was for. I assumed that it was a generic example, because “bō” is used in example norito as a placeholder for jinja names. However, it is possible that it was actually an ofuda for this jinja.

This has the potential for really weird-sounding conversations, like something out of a fairy story.

“I prayed to some kami or other for help, and my prayers were answered. I want to visit some jinja or other to give thanks, but it’s such a long way from Kawasaki.”

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3 thoughts on “Some-Kami-Or-Other Jinja”

  1. “This has the potential for really weird-sounding conversations, like something out of a fairy story.”

    _Tamao_, round two . . . .

  2. In the linked post you mention Jinja dedicated to local or otherwise unknown Kami. Does contemporary Shinto have a procedure for enshrining new Kami? Suppose someone reports a dream or otherwise supports some sort of vision (and doesn’t go full Tenrikyo with it or something), in which a previously unknown Kami introduces themselves or requests a Jinja to be built or certain matsuri to be performed, is there a formal way of handling that?

    From your posts, I get the impression that nowadays Shinto mostly concerns itself with people communicating TO the Kami, but that it seems to lack a system for Kami to respond or take the initiative, apart from rather impersonal and ritualized divination methods. I know that in the past there were recognized mediums and so on connected with Jinja, and I suppose there must still be people around who feel Kami are occasionally talking to them.

    1. This is a question that needs more nuance than I can manage in a reply to a comment.

      The short answer is that Jinja Shinto does not have any formal systems for new anything. All the formal systems are for continuing existing traditions. Obviously, new things happen, but that is up to the initiative of individual priests, or, for things like adapting to the cashless society, ad hoc initiatives within Jinja Honchō. Because there are no systems for this, the reactions of other priests and the Shinto establishment are unpredictable. There seemed to be no pushback to the creation of a jinja enshrining a fictional character, for example, but then that was a character from the Tale of Genji.

      Similarly, your impression is correct, in that contemporary Jinja Shinto does not have established channels of communication from the kami, but there are still people who think they get messages. Jinja allow them to pay their respects, of course, but there are no standardised ways for them to have an influence.

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