Rice and Rites

The season of taue matsuri has begun. These are festivals marking the beginning of planting rice plants out in the paddy fields, and are an important part of many jinjas’ ritual years. Indeed, the cycle of rice agriculture shapes the annual matsuri of most jinja, with the kinensai asking for a good harvest in February, and the niinamësai giving thanks for it in November, with matsuri asking that the weather not damage the crops in between. Indeed, at most jinja the important matsuri are tied to the rice crop in… Read More »Rice and Rites

New Priests

Jinja Shinpō has just published the statistics for new graduates of the training courses for priests, as they do every year. I wrote about these last year as well, and similar trends are continuing. This year, 74 students graduated from Kōgakkan University in Isë with a priest’s licence, of whom 46 went to work at jinja. On the other hand, 169 students were licensed by Kokugakuin University in Tokyo, of whom 120 went to work at a jinja. As always, a little under 10% went to work at their family… Read More »New Priests

Invisible Jinja

A couple of weeks ago, Jinja Shinpō ran an editorial about “invisible jinja”. This was not about literally invisible jinja, but rather about the ones that do not show up in any statistics, so most people are not aware of them. There are about 80,000 jinja in Japan that have legal status as religious corporations. There is a great range of sizes and prosperity here, from single jinja that employ dozens of priests to single priests who look after dozens of jinja. One of the major problems that Jinja Honchō… Read More »Invisible Jinja

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