Jinja Honchō has just put two new English videos on its official YouTube channel, about participating in a formal prayer at a jinja.
The first is about how to offer a tamagushi. This is a standard part of almost any formal prayer, but it is something that most Japanese people have no idea how to do. Hence the need for the instructional video in Japanese, which created the opportunity to prepare one in English as well.
The second is a bit of a novel departure for Jinja Honchō. It’s a very short (five minute) drama about a young Japanese woman attending her first formal prayer. The English version for this has English subtitles and an English voiceover.
I did the English translations for both videos, and was there for the recording of the English voiceovers, just in case there were any problems. We hired the same voice actor as last time, because she did a good job then, and she did a good job again. The actress playing Sakura was also present, I think to do the Japanese voiceover for the drama (it sounds like her on the Japanese version), and when I commented to her that the voice in her head was speaking English now, she said that it felt a bit strange.
I think both the main actresses in the drama did a really good job: it is obvious which one is supposed to be comfortable with the proceedings, and which one is nervous.
We are interested to see how this works. It is rather different from the videos that Jinja Honchō has produced in the past — it’s fictional, apart from anything else. However, it is aimed at the group that are most likely to pick up the idea of having a formal prayer, and most likely to not already know about it — young women — and it is showing that it doesn’t have to be a big deal, and that you can go quite casually.
Actually, you can’t do it quite that casually at a lot of jinja, because they don’t have priests on site all the time. I don’t think you could do it that quickly at my local jinja, even though there are priests there nearly all time, because they would need to prepare. You can just turn up for Shichigosan on weekends and public holidays in November, because there is a lot of demand for that so they prepare, but it is not generally possible. This may cause problems with priests worrying that they will be expected to be ready, but we will have to see.
I think the basic message of the video is good, and I hope it works. I also hope that the English version encourages more visitors to Japan to try it. After all, my main project at Jinja Honchō at the moment is getting jinja ready to meet such requests. It will seem more useful if those requests actually happen.