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Author: David Chart

New Year Thoughts

New Year Thoughts

In January every year, Jinja Shinpō, the newspaper of the Shinto community in Japan, publishes a number of short articles giving people’s New Year thoughts. In order to write one of these, you must be a “Toshi Otoko” or “Toshi Onna”. “Toshi” means “year”, while “Otoko” is “man” and “Onna” is “woman”. A “Man/Woman of the Year” is anyone who was born with the same Chinese zodiacal animal as the current year. The editors reach out to senior priests at…

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Descent from the Kami

Descent from the Kami

The Tennō, the Emperor of Japan, claims descent from the kami of the sun, Amaterasu Ōmikami. The current Tennō does not put any emphasis on that claim, but the Shinto establishment does regard it as important. This is also fairly well known outside Japan. What is less well known is that this is not at all uncommon. The Sengë, the hereditary priests of Izumo Ōyashiro (also known as Izumo Taisha, in a different reading of the same characters), also claim…

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The “Shinto Establishment”

The “Shinto Establishment”

In these blog posts I sometimes refer to the “Shinto establishment”. In this post, I hope to explain why I do that, and what I mean by the phrase. Shinto has no prophets, no holy scriptures, and no creed. There are rough equivalents to these things, but they are only rough, and do not play the roles that these things play in Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). One effect of this is that Shinto, as a whole, does not…

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Shinto and the Constitution

Shinto and the Constitution

One of the issues that the Shinto establishment has a strong opinion on is the revision of the Japanese constitution. They believe that it should be revised, as soon as possible, and are very actively engaged in campaigns to bring about that change. To understand their position, a bit of background on the current Japanese constitution is important. It was written, in English, by a handful of Americans over the course of a few days, translated into Japanese, and then…

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New Year Activities

New Year Activities

As I have mentioned before, Hatsumōdë is one of the most important times of year for most jinja, when many people visit and make offerings that are essential to their financial viability for the next year. It is natural, therefore, that many jinja try to think up ways to get more people to visit, and make more offerings. This can be as simple as advertising; large jinja near Tokyo take out advertisements on the underground trains, and smaller ones may…

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Cashless Offerings

Cashless Offerings

The advance of the cashless society, which is slower in Japan than many places but finally happening, poses a particular practical problem for jinja. When one visits a jinja to pay one’s respects to the kami, one is supposed to make an offering. On an ordinary visit, it would just be a few yen (a few cents), often five yen, throwing some small change into the offertory box. For a formal prayer, the offering must normally be at least ¥5,000,…

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Paying for the Daijōsai

Paying for the Daijōsai

The Daijōsai is a large-scale Shinto ceremony held to mark the accession of a new Tennō. It has over 1300 years of (interrupted) history, and, for the Shinto establishment, it is one of the most important of all Shinto ceremonies. Indeed, were you to ask a member of that establishment which ceremony was more important, the Daijōsai or the Grand Renewal of Jingū, I suspect they would find it difficult to answer. That’s not a political matter; the two ceremonies…

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Jinja Shinpō and Shinto Scandals

Jinja Shinpō and Shinto Scandals

In the 12th November issue, Jinja Shinpō ran an editorial about the trouble at Yasukuni, in which they explained their policy on such issues, and said something about their view of the Yasukuni problem. Both parts were very interesting. First, they said that, as a matter of policy, they avoid reporting the details of “dark and dirty events”. This was referred back to an event in the 1950s. While the editorial, naturally, avoided reporting the details, it did mention that…

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Preparing for the Daijōsai

Preparing for the Daijōsai

Japan will be getting a new Tennō at the beginning of May next year. There are, as might be expected, many ceremonies associated with this, but from the Shinto perspective the most important is the Daijōsai. This will be held next November, and I will almost certainly write an essay about it for my Patreon when it gets a bit closer. There are, however, many preparations needed for the ceremony, and Jinja Shinpō published an article about the first last…

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Trouble at Yasukuni

Trouble at Yasukuni

Recently, there has been trouble at Yasukuni Jinja, and the chief priest has had to resign. Jinja Shinpō reported it, but they were very coy, and only said that he had made “improper remarks” in an internal meeting at the jinja. So, obviously, I had to Google it to find out what he had said. It appears that he said that when the Tennō travels to distant places to honour the war dead, it pushes Yasukuni Jinja further out of…

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