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Jingū Taima

Jingū Taima (the ofuda from Jingū at Isë) are largely distributed around New Year, and so this was another topic that came up in the survey. Coincidentally, the matsuri at Jingū to mark the end of this year’s distribution was held on March 5th, and was also reported in the March 18th issue of Jinja Shinpō. This article also includes the reports on numbers distributed.

This year, 8,038,452 Jingū Taima were distributed, a fall of 43,714 compared to last year. Although the numbers have fallen for fourteen consecutive years, since 2010, there have been local increases. For example, last year Tokyo Prefecture had an increase of 15,157 Jingū Taima, while Kanagawa Prefecture (west of Tokyo, where I live) had an increase of 5,864, and Saitama Prefecture (north of Tokyo) one of 4,025. The fourth rank went to Hyōgo Prefecture (western Japan, around Kōbë), with an increase of 624, which strongly suggests that the Greater Tokyo area made particular efforts, and that those efforts made a real difference.

That was picked up in the editorial, which suggested that people should be making a determined effort to build on local successes. There is a lot of difference between Kanagawa and Kagawa (a prefecture on Shikoku island), but it does seem likely that there are lessons to be learned.

The comments in the survey also referred to changing patterns and the need to adapt. Traditionally, in rural areas at least, priests and sōdai have gone from door to door handing over the Jingū Taima and receiving the offerings. One priest commented that although the number distributed in their local branch of the Jinjachō was declining, the number that they were distributing at their jinja was going up. Their jinja is a large one, with priests present at all times, and they think that people find it easier to receive Jingū Taima at such places. Another priest commented that more people were getting their Jingū Taima at jinja, and that jinja needed to adapt to that to make it easy for people to do so.

One priest commented that the number of Jingū Taima that came back with the commemorative bags for the 150th anniversary of the current system brought home just how many people get their Jingū Taima around the end of the year. Another priest commented that young people generally think that you should get your new Jingū Taima at hatsumōdë, while the “correct” way to do it is to get it before the new year, so that you can change it on your kamidana. They wanted Jinja Honchō to educate people.

To be honest, this is something that I think is less important than Jinja Honchō does, but it is genuinely important to many (although not all) priests. The changes in practice and social structure around Jingū Taima do need to be taken into account, and the distribution methods need to be adjusted to contemporary society, but the numbers from Greater Tokyo suggest that it may indeed be possible to halt the decline, and recover some of the losses.

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6 thoughts on “Jingū Taima”

  1. “This year, 8,038,452 Jingū Taima were distributed, a fall of 43,714 compared to last year.”

    A fall of just over one half of one percent… Hard to tell if changes that small are significant or just noise in the signal.

    1. Not when they have been consistent for fifteen years it’s not. The difference from last year’s fall may not be significant, and the Shinto community should not be getting excited about a lower fall one year than the last, but the downward trend is long and monotonic.

  2. Hi!
    My name is Luke and I have Asperger’s and I have a question. I’m an objectum romantic and I have a rare action figure/doll from Japan and I’m wondering a few questions:
    1. Does it have a soul?
    2. Can I own it forever in the afterlife?

    1. Those are not really questions that Shinto has clear answers to.

      It is very common to attribute a soul, spirit, or something similar to objects, and particularly to objects that look like people or living things. People often have dolls purified at jinja before disposing of them, to ensure that the spirit is sent on peacefully — or something. Reasons are often not clear.

      The afterlife is something that Shinto it very unclear about, including whether it goes on forever. So I’m afraid I have no idea what the standard Shinto answer would be to the second question.

  3. I got my Jingu Taima during Hatsumōdë this year along with my other Ofuda from other shrines. I didn’t mean to do it on Hatsumōdë but it just so happened when I was preparing my Kamidana (self-made). However, I had just bought a proper Kamidana for my apartment at Ise Jingu (Naiku) on the weekend.

    Some comments about visiting Ise Jingu:
    -I noticed there were not many foreign tourists, mostly Japanese tourists. My one friend thinks it’s because there is no shinkansen stop at Ise city, and lots of foreign tourists often use the JR pass while they are visiting
    -It was really beautiful and I can see why it’s so important. I even received a “Soul of Japan, Introduction to Shinto and Ise Jingu” booklet from the staff when I visited the Sengu museum, he said it was a gift. Was I just lucky or is this a new type of policy?
    -And when giving offerings to my Kamidana, do the Kami enjoy chocolate?

    1. Thanks for the comment.

      Jingū is, indeed, a bit tricky to get to. You can do it by JR (change at Nagoya), but it is off the standard foreign tourist track. (On the other hand, there are a lot of east Asian tourists in Japan, and they are not always obviously non-Japanese. When I visit Meiji Jingū I often feel like the only Japanese person who isn’t on the staff, but there are lots of Asians.)

      The Soul of Japan booklet was created for free distribution, but I think you may have been a bit lucky with timing. I didn’t get one when I visited the Sengū museum. It might be part of the build-up to the next Shikinen Sengū.

      Finally, I have never had any complaints when offering chocolate, even through my local jinja. I think it’s entirely appropriate as a supplementary offering, along with the rice, salt, and water.

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