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Kamidana Norito

I recently finished reading an interesting book: 自宅であげる神棚祝詞 (Kamidana Norito to Recite at Home), by 中澤伸弘 (Nakazawa Nobuhiro). The title is descriptive: the bulk of the book consists of 101 norito for use at your kamidana, with brief commentaries and modern Japanese translations. I think it is a very good book, and I would recommend it (affiliate link), except that it is all in Japanese. It is therefore probably not of much practical use to readers of this blog. I discovered it because it was reviewed, positively, in Jinja Shinpō, and I think the content sheds interesting light on contemporary Shinto practice.

We might as well start with the most interesting norito. There is a norito to pray for the success of your “oshi aidoru”. An “aidoru” is (normally) a singer/performer who is also young and good-looking, and often part of a manufactured pop group. Your “oshi” is the one that you are a passionate fan of. The term has been around for years, but it has become more popular recently, partly because it was in the title of the novel that won Japan’s top literary prize a couple of years ago. So, this is a prayer for your favourite pop star to do well.

Praying to find a marriage partner has a long tradition in Shinto, and is popular today (particularly with young women). There are three norito for this general area of things. One is for finding a boy/girlfriend, and is clearly written with teenagers in mind, because there is a bit that goes “some people are so popular, so why can’t I get a boy/girlfriend?”. Another is for finding someone to marry, in a fairly conventional style. And the third is for finding someone on Tinder (although it is written for dating apps in general). That norito involves putting your smartphone on the kamidana, to offer it to the kami. In fact, there is also a norito for purifying a smartphone when you buy it, and praying that it will not get you into trouble.

The norito are grouped by themes, which leads to a few interesting juxtapositions — the norito for ending a relationship you think is going nowhere is close to the new relationship ones, for instance, and the norito praying for help overcoming a gambling addiction is immediately followed by one praying that (at least one of) the tickets you have put on the kamidana will win the lottery. The norito for relief from illness include insomnia, depression, and hay fever. They also include failure to attend school — the author was a high school teacher, and this one seems to be driven by personal experience. (He says in the afterword that he doesn’t own a smartphone, so not all of the norito are autobiographical.)

All the norito are written in classical Japanese as far as possible — “smartphone” and “dating app” go beyond the possible in this sense. This is standard for norito, and the reason why every norito in the book comes with a modern Japanese translation. This is the strongest argument for people practising Shinto outside Japan to pray in classical Japanese despite not understanding it — that is what the Japanese do.

Thus, these norito are adapted to contemporary Japanese society, but written in classical Japanese. This is how norito are supposed to be used, even in jinja, and this book gives a good idea of how the author, at least, thinks that a household kamidana should be incorporated into daily life. If you followed his advice, the kamidana would be a fairly central part of your daily life, and I think a lot of priests would approve.

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2 thoughts on “Kamidana Norito”

  1. Very cool! And since it has modern Japanese translations, I’m sure even practitioners who don’t read Japanese could benefit from it through the use of smartphone translation apps. I’m for sure gonna check it out! Thank you very much for sharing.

    1. I should note that none of the norito are weirdly incoherent, so if the translation is, the problem is with the software… But yes, if you can read hiragana and have electronic aides, you probably could piece things together. There might be subtle but important misunderstandings, even so. (As a reader suggested to me, maybe we need a norito to pray for good AI translations of the norito.)

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