Keta Taisha

Keta Taisha

Earlier this week, I went with my daughter to visit Keta Taisha, in Ishikawa Prefecture on the west coast of Japan. That part of the prefecture is a peninsula, the Noto Peninsula, and until the administrative reforms of the late nineteenth century, it was Noto Province (Noto no Kuni). Keta Taisha was the Ichi-no-Miya, or First Jinja, of that Province. Ichi-no-Miya was not a formal designation, and arose from a local consensus as to the most important jinja in the…

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Kamikakushi & Kamikakurë

Kamikakushi & Kamikakurë

“Kamikakushi” means “hidden by the kami”, and could be translated “Spirited Away”. Indeed, the Japanese title of the Miyazaki anime called “Spirited Away” in English is “Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi”: “Sen and Chihiro’s Kamikakushi”. Historically, it was thought that people who entered particular sacred areas, such as forests or mountains, might be taken away by the kami. Very occasionally, they might reappear years later. The oldest legend clearly referring to this idea is that of Urashima Tarō, a story…

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Okinagatarashihimë

Okinagatarashihimë

Okinagatarashihimë is one of the most widely revered kami in Japan, but very few people even within the country have so much as heard her name. She is one of the three Hachiman kami, and one of the two (with Hondawakë) who are enshrined in almost all Hachiman jinja — the remaining kami is very variable. Okinagatarashihimë is also known as Jingū Kōgō, and Japanese legend, particularly in the Nihonshoki, records her as the wife of one Tennō and the…

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Female Shinto Priests

Female Shinto Priests

A couple of days ago, I was having a conversation with a professor of Shinto Studies at Kokugakuin University, and the subject of female priests came up. His speciality is the period 1868 to 1945 (a clearly distinct period of Japanese history), and what he had to say was interesting. Apparently, in the late nineteenth century, there were female priests at some jinja. This happened because, with the separation of Shinto and Buddhism, many Buddhist clergy who had managed jinja…

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The Practice of Haraë

The Practice of Haraë

Haraë is a central concept and ritual in Shinto. It is normally translated as “purification”, and this is not a bad translation; haraë is how one gets rid of kegarë, or impurity. Haraë is very closely linked to misogi, which is also a way to get rid of kegarë. Indeed, in contemporary Shinto it is not clear that they are really different, and it is not uncommon to see references to “misogiharaë” or “haraëmisogi”. The main difference is that misogi…

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The Miko Experience

The Miko Experience

In the last few days, I’ve come across a couple of jinja running events at which women can experience being miko. In both places, the stated intent is to counteract the image of miko that comes from manga and anime by providing an opportunity to see what it is really like. One of them is Amagasaki Ebisu Jinja, in Amagasaki City, which is just to the west of Osaka. Their miko experience is one hour, and while the website, which…

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Tsukuyomi, the Kami of the Moon

Tsukuyomi, the Kami of the Moon

The fiftieth anniversary of Apollo 11 turned our thoughts to the moon and thus, in the context of Shinto, to Tsukuyomi (or Tsukiyomi) no Mikoto, a brother of Amaterasu Ōmikami and generally accepted to be the kami of the moon. In the Kojiki myth of the birth of Amaterasu Ōmikami, she is born when Izanaki washes his left eye, and Tsukuyomi is born when he washes his right eye. (Susano’o is born when he cleans out his nose.) Amaterasu Ōmikami…

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Nigimitama and Aramitama

Nigimitama and Aramitama

Kami traditionally have two aspects, called the aramitama and the nigimitama. “Mitama” means spirit or soul, while “ara” means wild and violent, and “nigi” means calm and peaceful. “Aramitama” could be translated as “wild spirit”, and “nigimitama” as “calm spirit”. As kami are often thought of as spirits, it might look as though the aramitama and nigimitama are almost separate kami. Indeed, they are sometimes treated that way. At the Naikū of Jingū in Isë, for example, there are separate…

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What’s In A Name?

What’s In A Name?

This blog is called “Mimusubi”, which is also the name for my general project of publishing about Shinto (and my trademark for both). Why did I choose that name? “Mimusubi” is taken from the name of two of the first kami to arise in the creation myth found in the Kojiki, the oldest surviving record of Japanese legends. According to this text, the first three kami to appear were Amenominakanushi, Takamimusubi, and Kamumusubi (or Kamimusubi). Amenominakanushi promptly disappears from the…

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Pool of the Fireflies

Pool of the Fireflies

A couple of weeks ago, Jinja Shinpō carried an article by the deputy chief priest at Hikawa Jinja, in Saitama City, north of Tokyo. This is a large jinja, with extensive precincts, and the story was about their attempts to get genji fireflies breeding in the pond there again. Apparently, in the past, the area was one of the top two areas in Japan for fireflies, but then a city got built on top of the wetlands, and suddenly it…

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