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Category: Shinto

The Gion Procession

The Gion Procession

As I have mentioned before, the Gion Matsuri in Kyoto is normally one of the biggest matsuri in Japan. It runs for the whole of July, and includes several large processions, including mikoshi and large decorated floats. This year, due to COVID-19, things have had to be done a bit differently. The matsuri traces its origins back to 863, when a matsuri, called a “goryōë”, was held in the Shinsen’en (“Gardens of the Spring of the Kami”) in Kyoto to…

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Izumo Jinja Essays Now Available

Izumo Jinja Essays Now Available

The two essays I wrote about important jinja in Izumo (modern Shimanë Prefecture) for my Patreon are now available on Amazon. These two jinja, Izumo Ōyashiro and Miho Jinja, are both ancient, with roots in the myths recorded in the eighth century. Izumo Ōyashiro is one of the most significant jinja in Japan, and has a line of chief priests that claims unbroken descent from Amaterasu Ōmikami, although the jinja enshrines Ōkuninushi no Ōkami. Miho Jinja has a number of…

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The Meiji Persecution of Shinto

The Meiji Persecution of Shinto

Conventional historiography of Shinto in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries says that Shinto was backed by the State, and used to place pressure on other religions. Even people within Shinto tend to agree with the first part of that, even if they are reluctant to agree that Shinto was involved in the persecution of other religions. However, my reading about the period has led me to think that this is a bad way of looking at the issue….

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Online Matsuri

Online Matsuri

As I have mentioned in the past, Jinja Honchō is generally extremely cautious about having any sort of online matsuri. However, the fact that COVID-19 has made it extremely unwise to hold many important matsuri in their normal forms, with large crowds of people, has led a number of important jinja to stream matsuri and other events online, so that people can maintain their connection to the jinja. In some cases, the priests introducing the live streams even ask people…

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Kami of Sport

Kami of Sport

A while back, I wrote about an opinion piece in Jinja Shinpō that suggested that the jinja enshrining the war dead could move their focus to sport, since many of the kami enshrined there were sportsmen while they were alive. I also said that I thought this was a very positive idea. The other day, I read this year’s issue of Mahoroba, a glossy free magazine put out once a year by Jinja Honchō to publicise Shinto and Jinja. (Jingū…

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Floods

Floods

From the beginning of this month, there has been serious flooding across a wide area in Japan. Kyushu, in the southwest, has been the hardest hit, but there has been serious flooding as far east and north as Nagano Prefecture, not too far from Tokyo. This was caused by the rainy season front, not a typhoon, and so the rain continued for about a week, from the 3rd to the 10th. Over the course of that week, some places had…

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Presidential Address

Presidential Address

Twice a year, the highest body of Jinja Honchō, the Hyōgi’inkai, meets to approve the budget and rule changes that have been prepared by the directors. Normally, they also make a few proposals of their own. As the Hyōgi’inkai is over a hundred people, it normally functions as a rubber stamp, and that is even more true this year, when the meeting was held remotely and most of the members were not even consulted. One feature that was preserved was…

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Straw Men

Straw Men

As it looks like Japan is heading into the second wave of COVID-19 infections, Jinja Shinpō is continuing to report the activities of various jinja. There were two interesting articles, with a common thread (straw men!) in the latest issue. The first was about Kashima Jingū, an important jinja in Ibaraki Prefecture, a short distance to the northeast of Tokyo. The jinja displayed ten “Ōsukë” figures in its precincts in June. These are simple human figures made of straw, with…

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Uniformity of Matsuri

Uniformity of Matsuri

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about a booklet of instructions for matsuri that Jinja Honchō had prepared for sōdai across the country. One of my readers asked a very reasonable question: given that matsuri vary a lot from place to place across Japan, is it actually possible to provide instructions that apply to everyone? The short answer to this question is “yes”, but things are a bit more complex than that suggests. While it is true…

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The Gion Goryōë

The Gion Goryōë

The Gion Matsuri is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, matsuri in contemporary Shinto. It takes place every summer in Kyoto, with massive processions of decorated floats, called Yamaboko, and also involves processions of mikoshi. The float processions are thought to symbolically purify the city before the mikoshi, carrying the kami, also process, and the procession of the kami is thought to increase their power before the final ritual that closes the week of ceremonies. It is one…

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