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Author: David Chart

Out to Sea

Out to Sea

The Ieshima islands are a group of islands in the Seto Inland Sea, southwest of Himeji. The main island, also called Ieshima, has a jinja, called Ieshima Jinja, and towards the end of last month, the jinja held its main annual matsuri. Most years, this involves decorated boats, and appears to be something of a tourist attraction, but this year, of course, things had to be toned down and reduced in scale. The decorated boats were cancelled, as were other…

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Samurai Show

Samurai Show

While I was researching another piece, I came across the following group: https://theshow.jp The website is all in Japanese at the moment, but you can see the pictures. They offer a Japanese-style dinner show, with Japanese food, and a Japanese story to the play. The play starts with Taira no Masakado, a hero from around Tokyo in the tenth century who defended local people, but was declared an enemy of the Tennō and killed by an army sent from Kyoto….

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Taking the Kami to the People

Taking the Kami to the People

Jinja Shinpō continues to carry interesting articles about the ways in which different jinja across Japan have responded to the constraints imposed by COVID-19. Last week, there was an article about a Yasaka Jinja in Hakui City in Ishikawa Prefecture, on the Japan Sea coast. The jinja was founded in the late fifteenth century, with the sharing of the kami from Yasaka Jinja in Kyoto. Thus, it is closely connected to prayers for the end of epidemics, and has an…

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Yorishiro

Yorishiro

A “yorishiro” is a temporary vessel for kami. They are used when a matsuri is being conducted away from a jinja, where the goshintai (“honourable kami body”) is a permanent vessel for the kami. The scholarly consensus is that in the earliest days of Shinto there were only yorishiro, and that permanent goshintai became part of normal practice around the time Buddhism started to spread in Japan, probably as a result of the influence of Buddhist temples and images. Historically,…

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Assessing Online Matsuri

Assessing Online Matsuri

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a set of links to online videos of matsuri. In the August 3rd issue of Jinja Shinpō there was a report of an extensive, and interesting, discussion of a range of issues concerning the pandemic, including considerable discussion of this point. I’d like to pick that up here. Although the discussion took place online, all three people were from the area around Tokyo. Imai Itaru is a director of Tokyo Jinjachō, and chief…

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Non-Hereditary Priestess

Non-Hereditary Priestess

Every issue of Jinja Shinpō includes a column in a series called “Komorëbi”, which means “Sunlight through Leaves”. Around a dozen people are asked to write these for two years, taking turns so that each individual writes about eight columns. They normally try to recruit a range of people with Shinto connections, and priests are normally a minority of the authors. A new cycle is just starting, and a couple of weeks ago one of the authors published her first…

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The Gion Procession

The Gion Procession

As I have mentioned before, the Gion Matsuri in Kyoto is normally one of the biggest matsuri in Japan. It runs for the whole of July, and includes several large processions, including mikoshi and large decorated floats. This year, due to COVID-19, things have had to be done a bit differently. The matsuri traces its origins back to 863, when a matsuri, called a “goryōë”, was held in the Shinsen’en (“Gardens of the Spring of the Kami”) in Kyoto to…

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Izumo Jinja Essays Now Available

Izumo Jinja Essays Now Available

The two essays I wrote about important jinja in Izumo (modern Shimanë Prefecture) for my Patreon are now available on Amazon. These two jinja, Izumo Ōyashiro and Miho Jinja, are both ancient, with roots in the myths recorded in the eighth century. Izumo Ōyashiro is one of the most significant jinja in Japan, and has a line of chief priests that claims unbroken descent from Amaterasu Ōmikami, although the jinja enshrines Ōkuninushi no Ōkami. Miho Jinja has a number of…

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The Meiji Persecution of Shinto

The Meiji Persecution of Shinto

Conventional historiography of Shinto in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries says that Shinto was backed by the State, and used to place pressure on other religions. Even people within Shinto tend to agree with the first part of that, even if they are reluctant to agree that Shinto was involved in the persecution of other religions. However, my reading about the period has led me to think that this is a bad way of looking at the issue….

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Online Matsuri

Online Matsuri

As I have mentioned in the past, Jinja Honchō is generally extremely cautious about having any sort of online matsuri. However, the fact that COVID-19 has made it extremely unwise to hold many important matsuri in their normal forms, with large crowds of people, has led a number of important jinja to stream matsuri and other events online, so that people can maintain their connection to the jinja. In some cases, the priests introducing the live streams even ask people…

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