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Author: David Chart

Goshuin: Vermilion Seals

Goshuin: Vermilion Seals

Japan has a very long tradition of stamping seals in vermilion ink on important documents. I believe it was originally imported from China, as with so much else of Japanese culture, but it has taken on a life of its own here. Almost all adults have a personal seal, often more than one, which is stamped, in vermilion, on such documents as marriage papers, or contracts to buy a house. A “goshuin”, however, is more significant than that. These days,…

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Jinja Honchō Supporters’ Matsuri

Jinja Honchō Supporters’ Matsuri

Jinja Honchō has a formal system for people who support it financially. If you give a certain amount of money or more, you get a number of benefits in return. One is that you are sent Jinja Shinpō free of charge (the minimum donation amount is much higher than the subscription rate), another is that you get a little card that is supposed to entitle you to special sanpai at the “beppyō jinja” (although my experience suggests that at least…

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A History of “Inactive” Jinja

A History of “Inactive” Jinja

I have previously written on this blog about the problem of “inactive” jinja; that is, jinja that have the legal status of a religious corporation, but do not meet all the legal requirements to maintain that status. These can range from jinja that are so genuinely inactive that priests from the area cannot physically find them, to jinja where the matsuri are all performed, on schedule, by the ujiko and people visit to pay their respects, but there is no…

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Rice and Rites

Rice and Rites

The season of taue matsuri has begun. These are festivals marking the beginning of planting rice plants out in the paddy fields, and are an important part of many jinjas’ ritual years. Indeed, the cycle of rice agriculture shapes the annual matsuri of most jinja, with the kinensai asking for a good harvest in February, and the niinamësai giving thanks for it in November, with matsuri asking that the weather not damage the crops in between. Indeed, at most jinja…

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New Priests

New Priests

Jinja Shinpō has just published the statistics for new graduates of the training courses for priests, as they do every year. I wrote about these last year as well, and similar trends are continuing. This year, 74 students graduated from Kōgakkan University in Isë with a priest’s licence, of whom 46 went to work at jinja. On the other hand, 169 students were licensed by Kokugakuin University in Tokyo, of whom 120 went to work at a jinja. As always,…

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Invisible Jinja

Invisible Jinja

A couple of weeks ago, Jinja Shinpō ran an editorial about “invisible jinja”. This was not about literally invisible jinja, but rather about the ones that do not show up in any statistics, so most people are not aware of them. There are about 80,000 jinja in Japan that have legal status as religious corporations. There is a great range of sizes and prosperity here, from single jinja that employ dozens of priests to single priests who look after dozens…

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The Power of Words

The Power of Words

I have had a very short piece published in this week’s Jinja Shinpō. On February 11th, which is National Foundation Day, Shinto-related organisations hold events around the country to celebrate it. This national holiday was invented by the Meiji government, and these events are fairly representative of the right-wing and nationalist activities to which jinja are connected. Many of these events are reported, in some detail, in Jinja Shinpō. At one of the meetings, they made a formal declaration, including…

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The Problem of Death

The Problem of Death

A few weeks ago in Jinja Shinpō there was an article written by a priest raising the issue of how to respond to the death of someone closely involved in the activities of a jinja, specifically the question of the period of impurity. As I have mentioned elsewhere, death is a major source of kegarë, impurity, in Shinto. Shinto funerals are never held at jinja, and if there is a death in your immediate family, you are supposed to cover…

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This Year’s Snake

This Year’s Snake

My local jinja, Shirahata Hachiman Daijin, has a matsuri called the “First Rabbit Festival”, because it is held on the first day of the rabbit in March. That is today. (This is as late as it can be, because the days cycle through the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac; this year, the last day of February was a day of the rabbit.) This festival has a number of features, but one that is very visible is the large snake…

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Yaegaki Jinja

Yaegaki Jinja

Yaegaki Jinja is a local jinja in Miyagi Prefecture. I would most likely never have heard of it, except that it is located near the coast, and it was completely destroyed by the tsunami in 2011. Not only were all the jinja buildings swept away and almost all of its sacred forest killed, but after the tsunami the surrounding area was declared at-risk from future tsunami, and people were forbidden to live there. Thus, in one day the jinja lost…

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