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.”