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A Miscellany

Normally, I find a single topic for these blog posts, but the July 17th issue of Jinja Shinpō had a number of small points that I want to mention, and they have no connection to each other.

The first is the editorial, which was inspired by the Marine Day national holiday (July 17th), and talked about how the sacred forests at jinja should be preserved to help preserve the oceans, and about the need to reduce plastic waste. The short piece by a journalist on the front page was about increasing biodiversity at jinja, as well. This class of issues does seem to be becoming more important within Shinto.

The second was from a report of a meeting of the Tōhoku prefectural Jinjachō. One of the speakers said that the pandemic had led to further problems with training successors for existing priests (fair enough), and that seeking a balance with social differences between the sexes had caused problems to arise concerning vestments. I have absolutely no idea what he was talking about in the second part. Male and female priests do have different vestments, but is that itself the problem? Or do the jinja not have enough female vestments for an increasing number of female priests? Or are there complaints about the form of one set or other of the vestments? I do wonder whether this point was too central to his presentation to ignore, but too involved to explain in the space available.

A jinja in Tochigi Prefecture is putting up a new torii, and there was an article reporting the “pillar raising ceremony”. For a sanctuary, this means raising the pillars that support the roof, and there is a lot of work to do after it. For a torii, the whole thing looks fairly complete once the pillars are up, especially as the lintels were placed while it was lying on the ground. Apparently further work is needed on the foundations.

Finally, there was a report of a meeting in Niigata Prefecture, where the merger of several local groupings was discussed. The report notes that the formal discussions went so smoothly that they got through the agenda in an hour. I can’t help feeling that some shade is being thrown…

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7 thoughts on “A Miscellany”

  1. I know the answer to part the second one. Female vestments are far more expensive than male vestments. The female priest at Shusse Inari Jinja complains about this. So it’s way more expensive to be a female priest than it is to be a male priest.

    1. Thanks! I wrote about that difference a few years ago. It could well be that, but in that case the report is rather more indirect than I would expect. I don’t know whether the difference in cost is due to the regulations, or simply to the fact that there is eight times the demand for male vestments — although I guess either possibility could lead to caution in how a criticism is phrased.

  2. Stephen Escobedo

    Planning biodiversity at the jinja could be a very interesting tale. I could imagine hearing a TED Talk on that topic someday. Hooking Paul Stammets up with that would be something!

    1. I would really like to see more of this happening. There was an article a couple of weeks ago about a jinja where the ujiko have removed invasive species from a pond, and the biodiversity there has apparently climbed over the last twenty years. I hope there is a trend getting started.

  3. I just had this thought: is there some historical connection between Torii gates and the presence of sacred forests at many jinja? If you squint, Torii look an awful lot like two trees, with a crossbeam. Maybe this hints at the forest origins of Shinto? If you have any information (or speculation) about the deep historical origin of Torii, that would make a fascinating blog post! 🙂

    1. I have seen a shimenawa strung between two trees substituting for torii (at Meiji Jingū, no less), so this is a possibility. However, the origin of torii is totally obscure, and there is lots of speculation. I suppose I could write a blog post about all the unsupported ideas people have!

  4. It’s weird how things get stuck in your mind. I can’t hear Niigata without thinking about koshihikari.

    As for Torii previously being trees, that makes sense. First the holy forests are roped off, then once honden are developed, you just need a single rope to mark the entrance on the path to the honden, then once shrines are being build outside of forests, you have pillars to replace the trees.

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