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David Chart

Hot Button Issues

A week ago, Jinja Shinpō carried two opinion pieces that discussed gay marriage. One was part of a regular spot where the journalists on the paper write about their own thoughts. The author mentioned that they were watching a drama in which gay men were the main theme, which provoked them to investigate, and discover that there were three dramas about gay men in the spring season. “It seems to be a bit of a boom at the moment.” They went on to mention a number of prefectures (two this… Read More »Hot Button Issues

Shinto in English

At the moment, I am working on an “Introduction to Shinto” project. It is a fix-up of most of my Patreon essays into a book. That’s over 130,000 words, so it would be about 450 pages as a paperback book. I think it does a pretty good job of introducing Shinto as it is practised today and its place in Japanese society. It is less good at explaining Shinto “beliefs”, but I think it does make it clear that this is not my fault, and shows how contemporary Shinto is… Read More »Shinto in English

Fear and Trembling

Shinto priests are generally very reticent on the question of the appropriate attitude towards the kami. This is even true of the Shinto establishment, which has a very clear position on the appropriate attitude to the Tennō, but, as far as I can tell, no official position on the appropriate attitude to (other) kami. They do make it clear that you should respect the kami, but that is extremely vague — and I suspect that the vagueness is deliberate. The Shinto establishment does make clear statements about how priests and… Read More »Fear and Trembling

Very Local Matsuri

One of the regular columnists in Jinja Shinpō is a Shinto priest and folklorist based in both Okayama Prefecture in western Japan, where he is the hereditary priest of a jinja, and in Tokyo. He apparently uses the Shinkansen a lot. In his most recent column, he talked about some traditional rituals that are performed in the area around his jinja. There are, apparently, three levels of kami. The Ujigami covered a fairly large area (several villages), and people participated in the matsuri based on social ties. The Ubusunagami covered… Read More »Very Local Matsuri

How Many Jewels?

When English texts talk about the Three Sacred Treasures, they always talk about the Mirror, the Sword, and the Jewel. That is what I have always written. It seems that this is wrong. There was an article in Jinja Shinpō the other week about the accession ceremonies for a new Tennō, which referred to some ancient documents about the the jewel, in which there is a clear statement that there are eight jewels. The box containing the jewels has two boxes inside, one over the other, and each of the… Read More »How Many Jewels?

Why No Kimono?

One of my patrons, after watching the videos of the abdication and accession ceremonies, commented that everyone was wearing Western clothes, and asked why. Actually, this wasn’t quite true; the female Cabinet member at the accession ceremony was wearing a kimono. It was, however, overwhelmingly the case — no men, and no members of the Imperial family, were wearing kimono. Given that these were traditional Japanese ceremonies, one might well wonder why. This is something that we see a lot in Shinto. While the formal vestments for priests are closely… Read More »Why No Kimono?

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