Skip to content


A “yorishiro” is a temporary vessel for kami. They are used when a matsuri is being conducted away from a jinja, where the goshintai (“honourable kami body”) is a permanent vessel for the kami. The scholarly consensus is that in the earliest days of Shinto there were only yorishiro, and that permanent goshintai became part of normal practice around the time Buddhism started to spread in Japan, probably as a result of the influence of Buddhist temples and images. Historically, yorishiro appear to have included trees, rocks, and people. There… Read More »Yorishiro

Assessing Online Matsuri

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a set of links to online videos of matsuri. In the August 3rd issue of Jinja Shinpō there was a report of an extensive, and interesting, discussion of a range of issues concerning the pandemic, including considerable discussion of this point. I’d like to pick that up here. Although the discussion took place online, all three people were from the area around Tokyo. Imai Itaru is a director of Tokyo Jinjachō, and chief priest of a jinja in Tokyo, while Takeda Atsushi is… Read More »Assessing Online Matsuri

Non-Hereditary Priestess

Every issue of Jinja Shinpō includes a column in a series called “Komorëbi”, which means “Sunlight through Leaves”. Around a dozen people are asked to write these for two years, taking turns so that each individual writes about eight columns. They normally try to recruit a range of people with Shinto connections, and priests are normally a minority of the authors. A new cycle is just starting, and a couple of weeks ago one of the authors published her first column. She is the newly-appointed chief priest of ten jinja… Read More »Non-Hereditary Priestess

The Gion Procession

As I have mentioned before, the Gion Matsuri in Kyoto is normally one of the biggest matsuri in Japan. It runs for the whole of July, and includes several large processions, including mikoshi and large decorated floats. This year, due to COVID-19, things have had to be done a bit differently. The matsuri traces its origins back to 863, when a matsuri, called a “goryōë”, was held in the Shinsen’en (“Gardens of the Spring of the Kami”) in Kyoto to appease the angry spirits (goryō) that were believed to be… Read More »The Gion Procession

Izumo Jinja Essays Now Available

The two essays I wrote about important jinja in Izumo (modern Shimanë Prefecture) for my Patreon are now available on Amazon. These two jinja, Izumo Ōyashiro and Miho Jinja, are both ancient, with roots in the myths recorded in the eighth century. Izumo Ōyashiro is one of the most significant jinja in Japan, and has a line of chief priests that claims unbroken descent from Amaterasu Ōmikami, although the jinja enshrines Ōkuninushi no Ōkami. Miho Jinja has a number of fascinating matsuri, in which local residents, from particular families, take… Read More »Izumo Jinja Essays Now Available

The Meiji Persecution of Shinto

Conventional historiography of Shinto in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries says that Shinto was backed by the State, and used to place pressure on other religions. Even people within Shinto tend to agree with the first part of that, even if they are reluctant to agree that Shinto was involved in the persecution of other religions. However, my reading about the period has led me to think that this is a bad way of looking at the issue. I am not going to comment on possible persecution of… Read More »The Meiji Persecution of Shinto