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Ukrainian-Born Priestess

The 3rd July issue of Jinja Shinpō includes a short article about a meeting of ujiko and sōdai in a region of Saitama Prefecture (just to the north of Tokyo). Such reports are a standard feature of Jinja Shinpō, and they are not normally of any interest to the readers of this blog.

This one is, because the meeting was addressed by a woman born in Ukraine, on the subject of the Russian invasion. It was sensible to invite her because she is a priest at one of the jinja in the area.

I have written about her before, but this article indirectly illustrates a couple of important points.

First, no-one thinks, or at least is willing to say publicly, that there is any problem with her being a priest because she was born outside Japan, or because she is white. (Or, indeed, because she is a woman, but there are lots of female Japanese priests.)

Second, the article scrupulously refers to her as “Ukrainian-born”, not “Ukrainian”. This expression, in Japanese, is neutral on someone’s current nationality, so it leaves open the possibility that she has naturalised, without committing itself. It also carries the implication that she might have been born in Ukraine, but she is part of the community in Japan now. (There is a different expression used for people born and raised in an area — this one tends to mean someone who has moved.)

In principle, mainstream Jinja Shinto has no objection to foreign-born, ethnically-distinct people becoming Shinto priests. As she is married to one of the other priests of her jinja, she probably didn’t face very many practical obstacles, either.

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