What Is Shinto?

OK, so this looks like a fairly fundamental question. I’m in the process of writing an essay on the history of Shinto for my Patreon, and that reminded me of just how difficult this question is. I’m not talking about the question of the “real essence” of Shinto; I’m talking about the much more basic question of whether a particular activity is part of Shinto. For example, is Shugendō Shinto? I think most people these days would say “no”, but it was central to the practices of many jinja, and… Read More »What Is Shinto?

The State of Jinja in Iwatë Prefecture

This week’s Jinja Shinpō has an article on the back page reporting the results of a survey carried out by the Iwatë Prefecture Jinjachō. Iwatë Prefecture is in northeast Japan, and it is one of the prefectures that were badly hit by the earthquake and tsunami in 2011. The purpose of the survey was to find out how the depopulation of rural Japan was affecting jinja in that area. The answer appears to be “badly”. In the rural areas of the prefecture, about 80% of jinja have fewer than 500… Read More »The State of Jinja in Iwatë Prefecture

Buddhas at a Jinja

There is an interesting article in this week’s Jinja Shinpō about the dedication of a new building at a jinja in northern Japan. This happens a lot, but the building in question is called the “Thousand Buddhas Hall”, and it has been built to house over two hundred Buddha images. The jinja in question is Dewa Sanzan Jinja, a complex of three jinja on three mountains (which is what “sanzan” means), in the western area of northern Japan (which is what “Dewa”) means. Until the Meiji Revolution, these jinja were… Read More »Buddhas at a Jinja

The Shinto Art Work

The book collecting Rei Torii’s art has an official English title: The Shinto Art Work. I was given a copy by one of my students, so I’ve been able to look through it. I still like the art a great deal, and even the “Dances of the Land of Eternal Youth” series, which is in a very different style from the others, has grown on me. There is a significant amount of Japanese commentary, explaining the background to the pictures, and saying something about Mr Torii’s artistic development, but even… Read More »The Shinto Art Work

Kanda Myōjin

Kanda Myōjin is an old jinja in Tokyo. It claims to date back to the eighth century, and thus predate the city by about nine centuries. It may well be that old; it is certainly known to have existed before the Tokugawa shoguns moved their capital to Edo and turned it into a city. It claims to be the general tutelary jinja for the city of Tokyo as a whole, with a focus on the people who live there, rather than on the government. That is, it is a popular… Read More »Kanda Myōjin

Shinto People

I have just released a new essay funded by my Patreon. This one is about the types of people associated with jinja, from priests and miko to casual visitors. What do you have to do to become a priest? What sort of people become priests? What is a sōdai, and why do they play an important role? It answers all these questions, and more. If you have missed this essay, don’t worry. You can get back numbers.