David Chart

Tanabata

Tanabata, also known as the Star Festival, is a traditional summer celebration in Japan. It originates in China, in a legend of a celestial weaver and cowherd, who fell in love and spent so much time in each other’s company that they neglected their work. The other gods separated them by placing one each side of the Milky Way, and they can only meet once per year, on the seventh day of the seventh month, if the weather is clear. The weaver is said to be the star Vega, and… Read More »Tanabata

The Gyokuden

A couple of months ago I wrote an essay for my Patreon about the things found in a jinja, in which I talked about the contents of the main sanctuary, which is normally closed to everyone, including the priests. That description was of the “standard”, and so, as Shinto is characterised by different practices at different jinja, not every jinja is like that. In this week’s Jinja Shinpō, there was an article about “gyokuden”, which are found in the main sanctuaries of some jinja. A gyokuden (the characters used mean… Read More »The Gyokuden

Temporary Sanctuaries

Jinja buildings, like any other, sometimes need to be repaired or rebuilt. For most of the structures, this is no more, and no less, complex than for any other building. The main sanctuary, however, has a different problem. The main sanctuary normally houses the goshintai, the object inhabited by the kami. It would be very disrepectful to do the repairs around the goshintai, so the kami has to be moved somewhere else, to a temporary sanctuary, while the work is done. Moving the kami is itself a ceremony, called a… Read More »Temporary Sanctuaries

Goshuin: Vermilion Seals

Japan has a very long tradition of stamping seals in vermilion ink on important documents. I believe it was originally imported from China, as with so much else of Japanese culture, but it has taken on a life of its own here. Almost all adults have a personal seal, often more than one, which is stamped, in vermilion, on such documents as marriage papers, or contracts to buy a house. A “goshuin”, however, is more significant than that. These days, it refers to a large one received at a Buddhist… Read More »Goshuin: Vermilion Seals

Jinja Honchō Supporters’ Matsuri

Jinja Honchō has a formal system for people who support it financially. If you give a certain amount of money or more, you get a number of benefits in return. One is that you are sent Jinja Shinpō free of charge (the minimum donation amount is much higher than the subscription rate), another is that you get a little card that is supposed to entitle you to special sanpai at the “beppyō jinja” (although my experience suggests that at least some of the staff and priests at such jinja have… Read More »Jinja Honchō Supporters’ Matsuri

A History of “Inactive” Jinja

I have previously written on this blog about the problem of “inactive” jinja; that is, jinja that have the legal status of a religious corporation, but do not meet all the legal requirements to maintain that status. These can range from jinja that are so genuinely inactive that priests from the area cannot physically find them, to jinja where the matsuri are all performed, on schedule, by the ujiko and people visit to pay their respects, but there is no legally designated head of the religious corporation. The most recent… Read More »A History of “Inactive” Jinja