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Baseball is very important in Japanese culture. It was first developed in the Kofun Period, and… No, OK, it was imported from the USA in the nineteenth century. But it’s still really important. The baseball results are the ones reported on the national news every morning, and the national high school baseball championships in spring and summer (known as Kōshien, after the stadium in which they are held) are shown live on television. (This year’s summer victors had their second victory, after a 107 year wait.)

It does not have particularly direct links to Shinto, but people in the Shinto world are just as likely to be baseball fans as anyone else. Indeed, there is a national Shinto baseball contest, and it was reported in the August 28th issue of Jinja Shinpō.

There are currently six teams involved: Tōkyō, Atsuta, Hyōgo, Dazaifu & Munakata, Izumo & Kotohira, and Isë. Tōkyō and Hyōgo draw from all the jinja in those prefectures. Atsuta and Isë draw from single jinja (Atsuta Jingū and Jingū, respectively), while Dazaifu & Munakata and Izumo & Kotohira each draw from two jinja. (At least, I think that is right — the description is not completely explicit.) This year was the 40th; the first was in 1970, but it hasn’t been held every year, most recently because of the pandemic.

This year, it was hosted by Jingū, and the first pitch was thrown by Her Imperial Highness Princess Akiko of Mikasa. (I have the impression that, as a minor royal, she has a lot of freedom in choosing her activities — she is very involved in the Shinto world.) Everyone played with great passion, “not even inferior to the high school students at Kōshien”.

One thing is not mentioned: the victors.

The purpose of the day is to build friendships between priests (and other jinja staff) from different parts of the country, and so it wouldn’t do to dwell on who won. Besides, the article was in the regular column from Jingū — and I’m guessing that maybe it wasn’t them.

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2 thoughts on “Baseball”

  1. Robert James Heaton

    This does remind me of my visit to the delightfully named Yakyuu Inari Shrine (箭弓稲荷神社) in Higashimatsuyama (Saitama). Yakyuu is, of course, the Japanese word for baseball – and the shrine office was naturally replete with various sporting charms.

    1. Wonderful! As I’m sure you know, but other people reading the comment might not, the name of the jinja means “bow and arrow Inari Jinja”, but puns have deep spiritual meaning in Shinto. Or, at least, they have a strong influence on practice.

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