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Unproductive Oversight Council Meeting

The “tl:dr” is the title. If you want to read more about the internal dispute in Jinja Honchō over the presidency, the rest of the article is here for you. If you think it is a largely trivial distraction from more important issues facing the Shinto community, then I’m not going to tell you that you’re wrong. Still, it is a major topic within the Shinto community at the moment, so I do feel the need to cover it.

As I have mentioned before, Jinja Honchō holds a series of important meetings every year in late May, referred to as the “Aobakaigi”, or “green leaves meetings”, in reference to the new leaves of late spring and early summer. The most important of these meetings is one of the two regular annual meetings of the Oversight Council.

As reported in the June 5th issue of Jinja Shinpō, this did not go smoothly. It went so not smoothly that the meeting of the heads of the Prefectural Jinjachō (all of whom are ex officio members of the Oversight Council) had to be cancelled, because there wasn’t enough time left to hold it. Some important things did happen. The annual budget was approved, and the new Small Chief Priest at Jingū was appointed as a director to replace his predecessor. Thus, Jinja Honchō will continue to operate over the next year.

However, I get the impression that some fairly heavy-handed chairing was needed to get these motions passed before the whole thing devolved into a shouting match over the presidency. The second day does not really seem to have got anything done.

Revd Sano, whom I have mentioned before, presented an emergency motion recognising the Chairman’s nomination of Revd Ashihara as president. This was seconded by Revd Ashizu. It seems that the regulations for the Oversight Council require such a motion to be considered, but the chair and secretariat do appear, from the report, to have attempted to stall as much as possible, which was not popular with the Ashihara faction. One point raised was that the Oversight Council does not have the authority to appoint the president — its job is to set the rules, not apply them, or judge their application. This led to the motion being rephrased to call clearly on the Board of Directors to appoint Revd Ashihara.

In response to this, Revd Itō proposed an emergency motion calling on the board to recognise Revd Tanaka as the president. This was also seconded, and accepted as an emergency motion. The Ashihara faction complained that this motion was accepted a lot more quickly than theirs had been.

The debate was not very productive, and one councillor pointed that out. At one point, Revd Tanaka (the president) asked whether Revd Sano and Revd Ashizu had seen the “secret documents”, which he insisted showed that the “standard practice” invoked by the meeting was not always followed. The report in Jinja Shinpō does not make clear how they responded to this challenge, and I think the reporter had to work very hard to give some sort of coherent shape to what happened.

The arguments continued late into the night, and quite a few councillors left, probably because they had to catch trains or flights to distant parts of Japan. That meant that less than two thirds of the Council was present, and thus a majority might have indicated the support of under one third of the councillors.

In the end, neither of the emergency motions was put to a vote.

Obviously, this problem is going really badly. The legal challenge to Jinja Honchō’s failure to appoint Revd Ashihara as president is ongoing, but it is clear that the decision in that case, whichever way it goes, will not resolve the problem. Right now, I am not sure what would.

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