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Jingū Taima Promotion

The November 27th issue of Jinja Shinpō includes an article about an event held at a shopping mall in Saitama Prefecture to promote Jingū Taima. This was part of the prefectural Jinjachō’s general efforts to increase the uptake of Jingū Taima, and ran for six days at a mall that is popular with families with parents in their thirties and forties. On weekdays, there was a display about Jingū, Jingū Taima, and their connections to Saitama, along with an opportunity to identify your local jinja, while at the weekend they ran workshops on the printing techniques used to make ofuda, and had short lectures and performances of miko kagura.

The article is positive, and it does sound like it was a good event, and probably quite successful. The people who filled in the surveys were happy with it, and the reported comments sound as though they might get more involved with their local jinja.

This is all a good thing, and I think that events like this are a very good idea in urban areas, where new arrivals do not know where their local jinja is, much less have any connection to it.

However, these events do seem to get reported in Jinja Shinpō, and my impression is that a handful of them are held across the country every year. This is good in itself, but these are supposed to be part of efforts to reverse the decline in uptake of Jingū Taima. That decline has been of the order of tens of thousands per year — an 83,000 drop last year, compared to the year before. (The total number is still around eight million, so there is a way to go before the practice vanishes.)

Let us suppose that about a thousand families went through the event. This is just a guess, but it is the right order of magnitude — a hundred is too low, and ten thousand is too high. For a single event that is likely to appeal most to people who already have an interest in jinja, and thus a Jingū Taima, a 1% conversion rate to people newly receiving Jingū Taima is not unrealistic. (That would be far too high for most advertising, but this is much more engaging than a poster or online video.) That’s ten new acceptances.

To reverse the decline, you would need thousands of these events every year. If every prefecture held one every week, that would be about 2,500 a year, and maybe 25,000 new acceptances. That would actually make a difference, and that is the sort of scale that would be needed to make a difference.

I should note that this sounds a lot, but it is not infeasible. Obviously, you would not do one every week in every prefecture, as this is really for urban areas, but in the urbanised prefectures there are a lot of shopping centres, and you could probably hit one per week while only visiting each mall once per year. In addition, there are 20,000 priests, so there are eight priests for each event, in theory, and even if each event was a whole week, each priest would only need to do one day per year. Again, obviously, it would not work out like this, but this scale is within the range of what Jinja Shinto could conceivably manage.

I do not think that Jinja Honchō officially acknowledges the scale of the activities needed if the decline in Jingū Taima is to be significantly slowed, never mind halted or reversed. I’m not even sure that they have realised. It only came home to me when I wrote my essay on Jingū Taima and realised that they already “sell” (not “sell”, definitely not) better than any book or record in Japan. To make a difference at that level, you need saturation advertising like you see for top idol groups or anime series. The style of advertising should be very different, of course, but the intensity would still be necessary. The Shinto community and Shinto establishment may need to ask themselves whether they actually want to do that. If not, a fundamental rethink of the strategy is in order.

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2 thoughts on “Jingū Taima Promotion”

  1. I had a crazy idea. How about Jingu Taima missionaries door to door? Do you have a kamidana? If yes, here you go. If no, here’s why you should.

    1. Not crazy: standard practice in rural areas. However, that relies on people knowing each other. I think that trying it in cities would be counter-productive — it would give people a negative impression of the jinja.

      Also, Jinja Honchō would need to agree on a reason why you should have a kamidana, and that is difficult, due to the differences in opinion in the Shinto world.

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