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Author: David Chart

Female Priestly Vestments

Female Priestly Vestments

As I mentioned in my post about male priestly vestments, the vestments for female priests are different. When female priests were officially permitted after the war, the vestments were initially based on the formal clothes for female Heian aristocrats, just as those for men were based on those for male aristocrats. However, the robes of female courtiers, the “jūnihitoë”, or “twelve robes”, have multiple layers, are very heavy, and are difficult to move in. As a result, it was not…

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Patreon Special Offer

Patreon Special Offer

To celebrate the release of the video about Shinto that I helped Greg Lam of Life Where I’m From to make, I am running a special offer on my Patreon. Anyone who signs up before this month’s paid post (which will go up at 11:55pm Japan time on the 31st), and whose payment clears, will get one or more bonus essays. What you get depends on the level you sign up to. $1 • Matsuri. The heart of Shinto practice….

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Male Priestly Vestments

Male Priestly Vestments

Shinto priests wear distinctive vestments when performing ceremonies, based on the clothes worn by the nobility of the Heian period (ca 800 – 1200 CE). The vestments are different for male and female priests, and for priests of different ranks, and for matsuri of different levels of importance. This post just gives a couple of representative examples for male priests, as most Shinto priests are still male. (I plan another post on female priests in the near future.) The base…

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To The Next Generation

To The Next Generation

A couple of weeks ago (in the September 9th issue) I had another article published in Jinja Shinpō. This article was mainly about Shin’yūsha, an organisation that was set up primarily to run workshops for children at which they could encounter Japan’s traditional culture. It is fairly new — less than ten years old — but it has already developed to offer some events aimed at adults. I have attended quite a few of the events, often with my daughter,…

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Rebuilding in Fukushima

Rebuilding in Fukushima

It is now over eight and a half years since the Great East Japan Earthquake, and rebuilding is still in progress across the affected region of Japan. The longest delay has been in Fukushima Prefecture, where the accident at the nuclear reactor meant that work on rebuilding could not even start for years in some areas, and there are still areas close to the reactor that are closed due to radioactive contamination, and likely to remain so for many years…

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The Traditional Religion of Japan

The Traditional Religion of Japan

Shinto is the traditional religion of Japan. As is normal with real-world situations, every single word (even “is”, “the”, and “of”) in that sentence is controversial, and potentially misleading, but it is still the best place to start. I believe that Shinto is best thought of as a religion, but that word tends to create an inaccurate image. Shinto does not have a founder. It also does not really have sacred texts; the oldest collections of Shinto legends are eighth…

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Kami of Sport?

Kami of Sport?

A couple of weeks ago, one of the regular opinion columns in Jinja Shinpō was extremely thought-provoking. Japan has fifty or so jinja enshrining soldiers and other people associated with the military who have died on active service since the mid-nineteenth century. Yasukuni Jinja in Tokyo is by far the most famous (and controversial), and I wrote a whole essay about it for my Patreon. However, almost every prefecture has its own jinja, called a Gokoku Jinja, “Country-Protecting Jinja”, enshrining…

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Signs of Environmental Awareness

Signs of Environmental Awareness

The editorial in the August 12th issue of Jinja Shinpō (I’m catching up, slowly) was about “Oceanic Pollution and the Role of Jinja People”. That’s a direct translation of the title. The content started from the G20 Osaka Summit, at which one of the main topics was plastic pollution in the ocean, and how it should be reduced. The editorial outlined the problem, accurately, and the necessary actions, while also noting why plastics were so widely used. It wrapped this…

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Female Trainee Priests

Female Trainee Priests

A few weeks ago (July 22nd — I am a bit behind at the moment), Jinja Shinpō devoted its entire back page to female priests. The main article was a round-table discussion between five young women training at Kokugakuin University to be priests, with another article interviewing a fairly recent graduate (seven years ago) who is now the chief priest of a jinja in Saga Prefecture. (Saga Prefecture and other parts of northern Kyushu suffered from record-breaking rain as I…

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The Nature of Kegarë

The Nature of Kegarë

Kegarë is a central concept in Shinto, and is normally translated as “impurity”. This is not a bad translation, but it is also not quite right. Sometimes, kegarë is referred to as “tsumikegarë”, which is translated as “sin and impurity”. This is also not quite right. The first point to make is that “impurity” is a better translation than “sin”. Traditionally, for example, childbirth attached a great deal of kegarë to the mother, but childbirth was certainly not regarded as…

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