David Chart

Yaegaki Jinja

Yaegaki Jinja is a local jinja in Miyagi Prefecture. I would most likely never have heard of it, except that it is located near the coast, and it was completely destroyed by the tsunami in 2011. Not only were all the jinja buildings swept away and almost all of its sacred forest killed, but after the tsunami the surrounding area was declared at-risk from future tsunami, and people were forbidden to live there. Thus, in one day the jinja lost all of its structures and all of its ujiko. The… Read More »Yaegaki Jinja

Length of Service

There is no standard retirement age for Shinto priests. It is also quite possible to be a priest at a jinja without actually performing many ceremonies there, so it is uncommon for priests to formally retire as priests. The comment I’ve heard a few times is that you can be an active priest as long as you can kneel formally (and get up again), but some priests remain formally in office after that, and may even lead the matsuri. There is a title of “Emeritus Chief Priest”, which is given… Read More »Length of Service

The Grand Renewal of Kasuga Taisha

The Grand Renewal of Jingū at Isë, where the jinja buildings are completely reconstructed and the treasures replaced every twenty years, is famous, and a major focus of the activities of the Shinto world. It started in 690, and has only been interrupted for a century or so, during a period of civil war; there have been 62 in total. It is not the only Grand Renewal, however. The latest textbook for the Jinja Kentei, the Shinto examination for lay people backed by Jinja Honchō, talks about Grand Renewals at… Read More »The Grand Renewal of Kasuga Taisha

Shinto Beliefs

At the beginning of every year, Jinja Shinpō publishes a number of short articles by people in the Shinto world who share that year’s Chinese zodiac animal. As there are twelve animals in the cycle, that means that the articles are written by people who will turn 24, 36, 48, 60, 72, or 84 in the coming year. (I have not yet noticed one by someone heading for 96 or 108, nor by someone about to reach 12.) A lot of them are the chief priests of jinja, but others… Read More »Shinto Beliefs

Aso Jinja and “Migawari”

Aso Jinja is a large and old jinja in Kumamoto Prefecture, in central Kyushu. It is the Ichi-no-Miya of Higo, one of the old provinces of Japan, and its chief priesthood is hereditary in the Aso family, who used to rule the area as well as lead the religious rituals. It is located in the caldera of an active volcano, which is less exciting than it sounds, as the caldera is enormous, and the volcano is much less active now than it was when the caldera formed. In April 2016,… Read More »Aso Jinja and “Migawari”

Shimëkazari: New Year Decorations

New year is a very important period for jinja, and in Japanese culture more broadly. It is the only time of the year that almost everyone takes off, and a shop claiming to be “Open all year, no holidays” means that they are open over the new year period; the sign may even include a note saying that they are closed in August. Most people spend the time with family, particularly with family they do not normally see. It is very common to return to the town in which one… Read More »Shimëkazari: New Year Decorations