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Toyo’okoshi Jinja

An article in the January 29th issue of Jinja Shinpō described Toyo’okoshi Jinja (or possibly Hōkō Jinja, because the article does not give the reading for the jinja name). This jinja is the tutelary jinja for Toyota, the car company.

According to the article, the jinja was founded in 1939, enshrining the kami of Atsuta Jingū, in Nagoya, and Nangū Taisha, in Gifu Prefecture. These are both important jinja from areas close to the head office of Toyota, which is in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture. (The city is named after the company, not vice versa. The company was named after the founding Toyoda family, with the final syllable unvoiced. I have read that this was because the katakana version of Toyota has eight brush strokes, which is a lucky number, while Toyoda has ten.) Further, the main kami of Nangū Taisha is Kanayamahiko Ōkami, a kami associated with mining and metalwork, while the goshintai of Atsuta Jingū is the sword that Susano’o pulled out of the tail of Yamata-no-Orochi, Kusanagi. Thus, the kami of Toyo’okoshi Jinja are associated with metal and industry. The “Toyo” is written with a kanji meaning “wealthy”, which is also part of the Toyoda family name, while “Okoshi” means raising something up, or starting something. Thus, it is very appropriate to its role. A lot of companies establish an Inari Jinja, because Inari is associated with business success, but the Toyoda family have a history of a serious involvement with Shinto and Buddhism, and the founder of the jinja seems to have thought about the best choice of kami quite carefully.

The jinja is on a small hill to the north of the head office and head office factory, and so the kami watch over the company at all times. The jinja has an annual reisai, conducted by the chief priest of a local jinja. According to the article, the priest who does it now inherited the role from her father, who lived close the Toyota head office. She is the chief priest of a jinja affiliated to Jinja Honchō, but the Toyota jinja does not appear to be. The annual reisai is attended by the president of Toyota and representatives of both the upper management and the trades unions. Last year, there were apparently over thirty people in attendance.

The precincts of the jinja include another jinja that enshrines the dead. It enshrines the founders of the company, but also all dead company directors, the company’s war dead, and anyone who dies while working for Toyota. As of November 3rd last year, it enshrined 4,022 people, including 35 who were enshrined after that year’s reisai for the main jinja. The enshrinement ceremony was attended by everyone who was at the reisai, joined by another 41 people, relatives of the people being enshrined.

The article appeared because one of the people enshrined last year was Toyoda Shōichirō, the former president of Toyota, and also chairman of the Isë Jingū Worshippers’ Association for twelve years, from 2006 to 2018. Toyota’s management take their connection to the kami very seriously, even by Japanese standards, and I do not know how many Japanese companies include “eternal veneration as a kami” in their retirement benefits for their executives. However, corporate jinja are quite common, and corporations may particularly venerate one jinja even if they do not found a private one on company property. Shinto is still a central part of Japanese culture, even in the more modern areas.

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