Skip to content

Ujiko Booklet

Last October, Jinja Honchō published a booklet for ujiko. Unlike the booklet about kamidana, which I introduced a while ago, this one has a very simple design, and is almost entirely unillustrated. I think the target audience is people who already have a strong link to a particular jinja, but who want some more guidance on what they should be doing. That is, it is mainly for people who already think of themselves as ujiko, but who need to know more about what that involves.

Once again, the choice of what to emphasise in the introductory booklet is interesting. The overall pattern is as expected, with an explanation of the concept of an ujigami jinja, the role of the ujiko, and the ways in which ujiko normally participate in the life of the jinja. The choice of emphasis, however, shows what is thought to be important.

First, Jingū is explicitly mentioned several times, and described as the general ujigami for Japan. Even in a booklet that is explicitly about the relationship with the local jinja, Jingū and Jingū Taima have to be mentioned.

Second, the text is quite explicit about the geographical requirement. It is clear that one cannot be an ujiko if one does not live in the area around the jinja — one would be a sūkeisha instead. Further, it suggests that it might only be possible for ujiko to participate in certain parts of the matsuri. On the other hand, it strongly implies that anyone can become an ujiko by moving to the area. In other words, you do not have to have been born there, or be descended from generations of ujiko, to be one. Neither of those criteria is arbitrary — as the section on the origin of the idea of ujiko explains, it is a merger of three ideas, one of which was based on descent, one on place of birth, and one on place of residence. Of course, as is also mentioned, in past centuries it was common for anyone who satisfied one of these criteria to satisfy the others, but that is no longer true. Current residence is the standard that Jinja Honchō has chosen to support.

The pages about an ujiko’s activities start by encouraging them to visit the jinja frequently, to keep it active, and say that this is more important than the state of the buildings. The same section encourages them to be thankful for the kami’s support. The next point is conducting the matsuri at the jinja. This acknowledges that priests will help, but emphasises that it is not possible without the active contribution of the ujiko. They are then encouraged to make offerings, and to venerate both a Jingū Taima and the ofuda of the ujigami jinja at home (in that order). Finally, they are once again encouraged to visit the jinja as often as possible.

The following pages cover kamidana, annual matsuri, and rites of passage. The final pages talk about the links between ujiko, and how they are important, and could help to revitalise the whole area.

The overall impression I get is that the target audience for this booklet is ujiko in areas that are suffering from depopulation. There is nothing that actively excludes ujiko in Tokyo, but the general suggestion is that the jinja needs more people visiting it, that there is no resident priest, and that the area is losing its vitality. This target audience is, of course, extremely important to Jinja Honchō and the Shinto community in general, so I cannot fault the choice. I hope that the booklet is useful.

I have a Patreon, where people join as paid members to receive an in-depth essay on some aspect of Shinto every month, or as free members to receive notifications of updates to this blog. If that sounds interesting to you, please take a look.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.