Skip to content

Priests of Many Jinja

I have mentioned before (in the book if not on this blog) that most Shinto priests are responsible for multiple jinja. Simple arithmetic makes this clear: there are about 80,000 jinja, and about 20,000 priests. However, things are worse than that makes it sound, because large jinja in cities may have over a dozen priests, leaving even fewer priests to serve multiple jinja in rural areas. I read something that referred to a man who was chief priest of over a hundred jinja, but I’m not sure how reliable that… Read More »Priests of Many Jinja

More Back Issues Available

Some more of the old Patreon essays are now available for purchase if you missed them. First, The Descent from the Heavens and The Hyūga Generations are available on Amazon in Imperial Origin Myths. These are the myths of how the ancestors of the Tennō got to Japan, and what they did there, up to the birth of the first Tennō, Jinmu. They were first released earlier this year. Second, Shinto from the Shore is available independently on Gumroad. This essay is from 2017, and describes how I thought about… Read More »More Back Issues Available


A few days ago, I was talking about translation with people at Jinja Honchō (as I often do, that being my job…), and the difficulty of translating certain words came up. I have mentioned before that “kami” is basically untranslatable, which is why I don’t. In this post, I want to talk about “worship”. It is not uncommon for “sūhai” or “hairei” to be translated as “worship”, “haiden” to be translated as “worship hall”, and “sūkeisha” to be translated as “worshipper”. I try to avoid all of those translations. “Sūhai”… Read More »“Worship”

Of Ships and Shrines

Yes, I normally call them “jinja”, but I couldn’t resist the alliteration. It seems that the old Imperial Japanese Navy had a custom of installing jinja on its ships. This was not just a kamidana, but rather a full jinja, with the kami brought from a jinja that had some connection to the ship. The Navy, and the modern Maritime Self-Defense Forces (MSDF — which are definitely not a navy), had a practice of naming ships after geographical features of Japan, which meant that a jinja connected with that feature… Read More »Of Ships and Shrines

Matsuri Strategy

The slogan in Japan these days is “with corona” (wizu korona), which suggests adapting the way you do things so that you can get on with something as close as possible to normal life before COVID-19 has gone away. Jinja are also doing this, in an attempt to maintain both the traditions and their financial basis. The October 5th issue of Jinja Shinpō included a report from the chief priest of a jinja in Tokyo, Ōtori Jinja (probably — the reading for the kanji is not given, and jinja are… Read More »Matsuri Strategy

Disagreement about COVID-19

Revd Sano’s article really seems to have started a new trend for articles critical of Jinja Honchō in Jinja Shinpō. The October 5th issue included a short article criticising a different aspect of Jinja Honchō’s activities: its response to the pandemic. To be honest, this criticism is rather more muted, because it opens with an appreciation of the guidelines and pictograms that Jinja Honchō and the prefectural Jinjachō have made available, and goes on to raise two questions rather than directly criticise. The questions, however, are critical. The article was… Read More »Disagreement about COVID-19