David Chart

The Sacredness of Forests

In the November 22nd issue, Jinja Shinpō began an occasional series of articles on the sacred forests (鎮守の森, chinju no mori) of jinja. I have mentioned before that all jinja aspire to have a sacred forest, even if practicalities sometimes restrict it to a single tree, and the first article in the series, by Revd Sonoda Minoru, tackles the history of that reality. Revd Sonoda is a very important figure in this area of Shinto. He is the chief priest of Chichibu Jinja in Saitama Prefecture, and has written extensively… Read More »The Sacredness of Forests

Ofuda Advertising

Students at Kōgakkan University in Mië Prefecture were asked by the prefectural Jinjachō to make some videos to advertise ofuda, the sacred plaques that are venerated in household shrines. They produced three, all using glove puppets. Bunny Rabbits (30 seconds) Bunny Rabbits (90 seconds) Grandmother & Granddaughter (90 seconds) These are, apparently, targeted at women in their 20s and 30s, who are the group least likely to know about Jingū Taima and other ofuda, and were conceived and directed by, I think, a member of the target demographic. (I am… Read More »Ofuda Advertising

Dubious Symbolism

There are some famous jinja ceremonies that involve tall poles. The most famous is Suwa Taisha, in Nagano Prefecture, where four tree trunks are set up at the sanctuaries in a matsuri held once every six years. Naturally, some people have suggested that this is phallic symbolism. I was reading a book on a different topic the other day, and it suggested that jinja as a whole were symbolic of the female reproductive organs. The torii is the vulva, the sacred path is the vagina (both are called “sandō” in… Read More »Dubious Symbolism

Jinja Architecture

The Tōshōgū (a jinja enshrining Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate that ruled Japan from 1600 to 1867) in Maebashi, Gunma Prefecture, has just completed a major rebuilding, and celebrated with a full-page article on the back of the November 1st Jinja Shinpō. So far, so standard. The style of the rebuilding is not at all standard. The original honden has been kept, and enclosed in a glass-and-marble structure that looks like a high-class hotel or shopping mall. The jinja’s website does not have any photographs up yet,… Read More »Jinja Architecture

Oversight Council Meeting

The autumn meeting of the Jinja Honchō Oversight Council happened on October 20th, and was reported in the November 1st issue of Jinja Shinpō. It was not quite as dramatic as I had feared it could be: no-one resigned, no-one was fired, and there were no actual fistfights (at least according to the published report). However, it was quite dramatic enough. All the ordinary business was conducted, and all of that seems to have been passed without any trouble. The controversial issue was the ongoing court case, and so that… Read More »Oversight Council Meeting

Reconstruction Practicalities

The 1st November issue of Jinja Shinpō included an article about the completion of repairs on a jinja that was damaged in an earthquake. This in itself is not unusual, and the jinja is in Fukushima Prefecture, which had a lot of jinja damaged in the Great East Japan Earthquake. This particular jinja, however, was damaged in an earthquake that happened in February this year, and the repairs were completed in time for the Autumn Grand Festival in mid-September. The article starts off in the same way as most such… Read More »Reconstruction Practicalities