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Passing on Tradition

Every year, Jinja Shinpō runs a series of short articles from people connected with the Shinto world who were born in the same zodiacal year as the current one — this year, that means the year of the dragon. The first article this year, in the January 1st issue, was from a chief priest born in 1928.

The fact that he is still the chief priest of his jinja, rather than emeritus, makes him a bit remarkable, as does the fact that the jinja actually has a full-time working priest (his son). He reports that people ask the secret of his good health, but that he doesn’t pay any particular attention to it, so he can only thank the kami and his ancestors. That is conventional, and if we take ancestors to stand for genetics, and kami for the environment, it is probably also accurate.

The part of his report that caught my interest was that he was never a full-time priest, and that he attributed his success as a priest to that fact. This is a bit unusual — the ideal for a Shinto priest is quite definitely a full-time priest, no matter how rare that might be, so seeing someone say that he could only succeed because he wasn’t one is interesting.

Further, he was not saying simply that he needed the money. Rather, it seems to be that, through working at a company, he was able to build up contacts that enabled him to rebuild the sanctuaries, restore the precincts, and extend the Shinto cemetery at his jinja. Further, his son was able to inherit those connections, and is now, apparently, working to preserve and develop them.

It does sound, from the article, as though he was the son of a priestly family, and that he inherited the jinja when it was at a low ebb. Now, he has effectively passed it on to his son in a much more flourishing state, and two of his grandsons are also priests.

It is nice to read about someone who clearly succeeded at making sure that the tradition did not end with him, and lived long enough to see that.

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