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David Chart

The Power of Words

I have had a very short piece published in this week’s Jinja Shinpō. On February 11th, which is National Foundation Day, Shinto-related organisations hold events around the country to celebrate it. This national holiday was invented by the Meiji government, and these events are fairly representative of the right-wing and nationalist activities to which jinja are connected. Many of these events are reported, in some detail, in Jinja Shinpō. At one of the meetings, they made a formal declaration, including the phrase “with profound gratitude for being born in Japan,… Read More »The Power of Words

The Problem of Death

A few weeks ago in Jinja Shinpō there was an article written by a priest raising the issue of how to respond to the death of someone closely involved in the activities of a jinja, specifically the question of the period of impurity. As I have mentioned elsewhere, death is a major source of kegarë, impurity, in Shinto. Shinto funerals are never held at jinja, and if there is a death in your immediate family, you are supposed to cover your kamidana with a white cloth and leave it alone… Read More »The Problem of Death

This Year’s Snake

My local jinja, Shirahata Hachiman Daijin, has a matsuri called the “First Rabbit Festival”, because it is held on the first day of the rabbit in March. That is today. (This is as late as it can be, because the days cycle through the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac; this year, the last day of February was a day of the rabbit.) This festival has a number of features, but one that is very visible is the large snake made of rice straw that is hung on the jinja’s… Read More »This Year’s Snake

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

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