David Chart

Attitudes to Shinto

The September 13th issue of Jinja Shinpō had an article on the front page reporting on a seminar, held online, for the national organisation of young (under 40) Shinto priests. There were three speakers, one of whom was from a temple in Tokyo and talked about giving the customers what they want and abandoning traditions if they were not popular. (That provoked one of the journalists to write in a comment piece that maybe they didn’t want to take on all the proposals wholesale.) The speaker I want to write… Read More »Attitudes to Shinto

Shinto Afterlife

I have said before that Shinto has much less to say about what happens after we die than a Westerner is likely to expect of a religion. On the other hand, Shinto is not completely silent on the subject. There is, after all, the myth of Izanaki’s descent to the underworld to retrieve his dead wife (a trip that certainly does not go according to plan — I mean, he literally goes down to hell to rescue her, and she demands a divorce?). However, that myth has very little connection… Read More »Shinto Afterlife

Shinto Funerals

Shinto has a complicated relationship with funerals. First, death is a source of kegarë, pollution, and so people purifying themselves to take part in a matsuri were supposed to avoid the dead, and even the bereaved. Obviously, this creates a conflict if the priest is asked to perform a funeral. Second, historically Buddhism appears to have taken over funerals very soon after arriving in Japan. In the Edo period (1600 to 1868, roughly), almost everyone was required to have a Buddhist funeral, provided by the particular Buddhist temple to which… Read More »Shinto Funerals

Nihon Shinto Shi

Nihon Shinto Shi (日本神道史) (affiliate link, but only to Amazon.jp) is a history of Shinto. The first edition was published in 2010, and a new, revised and expanded edition, was published earlier this year. It is, in my opinion, the best single-volume history of Shinto on the market. It is also, unfortunately, only available in Japanese, but some of the readers of this blog might have enough ability in the language to make use of it. It has multiple authors, all associated with Kokugakuin University, which gives it a unified… Read More »Nihon Shinto Shi

Paying Respects

The 30th August issue of Jinja Shinpō had an interesting article on the back page about the impact of the pandemic on people’s habits for paying their respects at jinja. In the past, even at relatively small, local jinja, people were perfectly happy to pay their respects at the same time as people they did not know, lined up across the front of the prayer hall. (We are talking about jinja in fairly urban areas, and mainly about the 1st and 15th of the month, when a number of people… Read More »Paying Respects

Shinto and the Environment

Shinto is often seen as a nature-worshipping religion, and this perception has quite a bit of truth to it. After all, jinja are all supposed to have sacred forests, and some natural features are revered as kami. However, this does not mean that Shinto has traditionally been environmentally conscious in the modern sense. Aike Rots has written a very interesting book about the growth of the idea of Shinto as an environmental religion, Shinto, Nature and Ideology in Contemporary Japan: Making Sacred Forests (affiliate link!), and it is certainly true… Read More »Shinto and the Environment