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Maintaining Matsuri

Matsuri can be difficult to maintain. Unlike buildings, which will stand there for at least a few years even if no-one does anything to look after them, a matsuri needs people to perform it. Those people need to know how to perform it, and need to have the necessary items. Naturally, this makes more elaborate matsuri more difficult to preserve, as there are more things to learn, and more items to prepare and maintain. On the other hand, a more elaborate matsuri is also more interesting, and people may be… Read More »Maintaining Matsuri

Imperial Offerings

The Tennō often visits different areas of Japan, to open major events, or see the victims of natural disasters. This is a major part of his job. When he visits a prefecture in Japan, he almost always sends offerings to certain jinja, the ones that received state offerings before the end of the war, in each prefecture. These offerings are not widely reported, but Jinja Shinpō always has a detailed account. The word used to describe them strongly suggests that the offering is of money, but I have no idea… Read More »Imperial Offerings

Meiji Jinja Policy

Jinja Shinpō is currently running a series of articles on important Shinto figures of the Meiji period. This has included people who are very famous generally, such as Meiji Tennō, and also people who are almost unknown even within Shinto circles now, but were important at the time. (They are up to eighteen without covering any women, as far as I recall, but this is no cause for surprise; the Meiji government was not keen on important women.) Last week, the article was about Koto’oka Hirotsunë, one of the less… Read More »Meiji Jinja Policy

Scandal! Scandal! Read All About It!

In the shadows of the jinja precincts, the chief priest’s brother lies in wait, katana gripped in his hand. The rage and resentment that has festered ever since he was forced to resign almost boils over, and he glances at his wife, the woman he met in the city’s pleasure quarter. Her katana catches the light for a moment. The chief priest arrives, and the two of them leap from the shadows. In moments, the priest lies bleeding to death on the ground. The assassin kills his wife, and then… Read More »Scandal! Scandal! Read All About It!

Meiji Tennō and Jingū

Jingū at Isë is one of the most important jinja in Shinto, and is actually a complex of 125 jinja. Of these, two are of central importance: Kōtajingū, generally known as the Naikū, or Inner Sanctuary, which enshrines Amaterasu Ōmikami, and Toyoükë Daijingū, known as the Gekū, or outer sanctuary, which enshrines Toyoükë Ōmikami, a kami of food and daily life who serves Amaterasu Ōmikami. Most of the matsuri at Jingū are actually performed at the Gekū, and although the most important rituals are performed at both, they are performed… Read More »Meiji Tennō and Jingū

Era Names

Japan has a system of era names, and this system is used in parallel with the western system of dates. This year, for example, is Heisei 30. This system goes back to 701, when the Taihō era began. (There are a few possible earlier eras, but there were substantial intervals between them, and some historians suspect that they were later constructions.) Historically, a typical era was about five years long, and eras were almost never changed at the beginning of the year. Thus, for example, the change between the Manji… Read More »Era Names