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Jinja Notices

The 31st July issue of Jinja Shinpō is the special summer issue. This is a large issue, double the normal size, most of which (literally: five whole pages, and about 40% of each of the other seven) is taken up with simple paid notices including the name of a jinja or other Shinto-associated group, almost always the name of the chief priest or head, and sometimes contact information. These notices come in a range of sizes, depending on how much you want to pay, and are arranged, broadly speaking, in geographical order. Jinja Honchō comes first, followed by Jingū, and then various other national organisations. Next are the prefectural organisations, led by the prefectural Jinjachō, and then the jinja start.

Jinja in Tokyo come first (and Meiji Jingū has an enormous notice), and then, I think, the other prefectures in the Kantō bloc. The prefectures meet in certain defined groups, and it looks as though the jinja are organised by bloc, and then by prefecture within the bloc. As mentioned, the Kantō bloc is first, and then the blocs are organised roughly north to south, with Hokkaidō first and Okinawa last.

Finally, there are notices from some commercial organisations with very close links to the Shinto community: companies that build jinja, make omamori, or print omikuji.

The issue is twelve pages long, and none of the notices are microscopic, so you can probably work out that not all of the 80,000 jinja under Jinja Honchō publish a notice.

Very similar notices are also published in the new year issue, but I have no idea what they are for.

Obviously, one purpose is to raise money for Jinja Shinpō. I am sure that this is part of the reason why jinja place notices — they recognise the importance of the existence of the newspaper, and so contribute to help keep it financially viable.

It might be thought that another purpose is to publicise the jinja or organisation, but I don’t think that can be right. First, Jinja Honchō and Jingū do not need to publicise themselves. Anyone reading Jinja Shinpō knows those two organisations — and if someone were to just pick up this issue, the notices wouldn’t tell them anything. The same is true of many of the jinja that do place notices — everyone knows Meiji Jingū, and everyone knows it has lots of money, so the large notice is not conveying information. You might think that this could be useful for lesser-known jinja, but one jinja (on page 7) is simply listed as “Inari Jinja”. There isn’t even a name for the chief priest. Given the location of the notice, it is in Tōhoku, but the last address before it is in Fukushima Prefecture and the first one after is in Iwatë Prefecture, so it could be in either of those. I imagine that there are a number of “Inari Jinja” in those two prefectures that could be this one.

In any case, I really doubt that anyone reads through all of these notices.

So, is it a social thing? Is it a way of asserting the significance of your jinja or organisation? Or a way of showing that you are committed to the Shinto community? Or do certain jinja just get into the habit of doing it? Would it look bad for jinja of a certain status to not do it?

Maybe I should ask about it next time I go into the office…

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