Fear and Trembling

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…

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Very Local Matsuri

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…

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How Many Jewels?

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…

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Why No Kimono?

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…

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Yuki Region and Suki Region

Yuki Region and Suki Region

Yesterday, one of the first rituals of the Daijōsai, the most important Shinto ceremony in the accession of a new Tennō, was performed in the Imperial Palace. This ritual is the choice, by divination, of the two regions that will supply the rice and millet that are offered at the Daijōsai. The Yuki region is to the east of the location where the Daijōsai is held, and the Suki region to the west. Today, that means Tokyo, but for over…

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New Priests 2019

New Priests 2019

With the end of the Japanese academic year in March, Jinja Shinpō has published its normal analysis of newly graduated priests. This year, there were 256 altogether, of whom 61 were women. That is a slightly lower proportion than previous years, if I recall correctly. Of these, 65, including 20 women, found jobs outside Shinto. This is a serious problem for Shinto. Only the two universities give numbers for how many vacancies were reported to them, but there were 290…

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Rites of Abdication and Accession

Rites of Abdication and Accession

Two days ago, the Jōkō abdicated (sorry, “was deposed”), and yesterday the Tennō ascended to the Imperial dignity. There were, as you might expect, ceremonies involved. (“Jōkō” is the current title for the person who was Tennō until the end of April. It is a very traditional title for such people, and I think it was a good choice. The official English translation, on the other hand, is “Emperor Emeritus”, which I do not think was a good choice, so…

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Deposing the Tennō

Deposing the Tennō

At midnight tonight, the Tennō will be deposed. Most western reports talk about his “abdication”, but legally, that is not what is happening. Legally, the Diet passed a law to depose the Tennō, and the Tennō signed it (not that he had any choice). It is happening this way because, under the Constitution, the Tennō has no legal power at all, and may not influence any political or legislative events. The status of the Tennō is defined in the Constitution,…

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The Tennō at Jingū

The Tennō at Jingū

On the 18th of this month, the Tennō and Kōgō (the Emperor and Empress) visited Jingū at Isë, and paid their respects at the Gekū and Naikū. The purpose of the visit was to inform the kami of the Tennō’s upcoming abdication, on the 30th of this month. As the main kami of the Naikū, Amaterasu Ōmikami, is, according to myth, the ancestor of the Tennō, important events in the Imperial family are always formally announced to the kami. This…

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The Sword and the Jewel

The Sword and the Jewel

The accession of the next Tennō is getting very close; it will happen at the end of this month and the beginning of next. Given the importance of the Tennō to the Shinto establishment, at least, it should come as no surprise that they are putting a lot of effort into preparing for the event, and ensuring, as far as they can, that it is celebrated appropriately. There are a lot of ceremonies associated with the succession, and while they…

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