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David Chart

Calendrical Issues

I imagine that many readers of this blog are familiar with Chinese New Year, which typically happens in February, and marks the start of the year on the Chinese lunar calendar. Until the late nineteenth century, Japan also used a lunar (strictly, a lunisolar) calendar, and originally it used the Chinese one. However, because those calendars were calculated for Chinese longitudes, they were not quite right for Japan, and they were replaced in the Edo period by specifically Japanese ones. The current Japanese lunisolar calendar is known as the Tenpō… Read More »Calendrical Issues


“Kamikazë” is one of the Japanese words that most English speakers know, and they use it to refer to a suicidally dangerous attack. This is taken, of course, from the name given to the missions in which young Japanese pilots flew planes loaded with explosives into American warships at the end of WWII. The Japanese word, however, means “kami wind”, and has a much longer history. An important event in this history occurred in the late thirteenth century, when the Mongol Horde attempted to invade and colonise Japan. They sent… Read More »Kamikazë

New Priests 2022

On April 25th, Jinja Shinpō published its standard annual review of newly qualified priests and their employment. (The Japanese academic year ends at the end of March, so that is when they graduate.) This year, 72 new priests graduated from Kōgakkan University (in Isë), ten fewer than last year, and 149 graduated from Kokugakuin University (in Tokyo), nine fewer than last year. At Kōgakkan, 58 graduates (80.5%) got jobs at jinja, over 90% of them as priests. This was also largely true of the female graduates: there were 22 graduating… Read More »New Priests 2022

Supreme Court Decision

On April 21st, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Jinja Honchō’s appeal. The court refused to hear the appeal, saying that there were no grounds for it. Thus, the decision of the Tokyo High Court is now final. To quickly recap (Jinja Shinpō gave a whole page of the May 2nd issue over to a recap), Mr Inë, a department head at Jinja Honchō, accused the President and some directors of corruption over a real estate deal. He was fired for disrupting the good order of Jinja Honchō and… Read More »Supreme Court Decision


“Shikinaisha” is the standard term used to refer to jinja that are listed in the “List of Kami” in the early tenth-century Engishiki. These jinja are important because the text records 2861 jinja across the whole of Japan at that time (so not including Okinawa or Hokkaido). There is, in general, a higher density of jinja nearer the old capitals in Nara and Kyoto, but there are remoter areas with surprisingly high numbers. Thus, these are demonstrably ancient jinja that, as a whole, are probably somewhat representative of Shinto practice… Read More »Shikinaisha

Moidan, Kamiyama, Utaki

The article about sacred forests in the April 4th issue of Jinja Shinpō was about sacred sites in the southern parts of Japan. They are not all sacred forests, but many of them are, and they are all connected to the natural landscape. One interesting feature of this article is that it starts in Kagoshima, in southern Kyushu, and then moves through the Amami islands to Okinawa. It is not clear whether the native religious traditions of Okinawa are best described as a variety of Shinto, while those of Kagoshima… Read More »Moidan, Kamiyama, Utaki

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