- Jinja Honcho
- Usually translated into English as 'The Association of Shinto Shrines' or 'The Shrine Association', Jinja Honcho is the present co-ordinating or governing body for most of 'shrine Shinto' (jinja shinto). The word 'honcho' actually means not 'association' but 'head government office' so to Japanese ears 'honcho' carries official connnotations, though it would be wrong to infer that Jinja Honcho is a government organisation. It was formed on 3 February 1946 as a voluntary body under the terms of the Shinto Directive to absorb some of the centralised administrative functions of the Jinja-kyoku and Jingi-in, as part of the postwar programme to separate religion and state in Japan. Its headquarters used to be in Shibuya (Tokyo) near Kokugakuin University, with which it is very closely connected. In 1988 the headquarters moved to contemporary purpose-built accommodation near the Meiji jingu. Jinja Honcho currently affirms no particular Shinto teaching except the principle of 'guidance of the spiritual leadership of the Ise shrines' which it describes as the spiritual homeland (furusato) of Japan, though it did formally adopt in the 1950's a kind of Shinto creed (seishin seikatsu no koryo). Jinja Honcho promotes in broad terms the modern concept of Shinto developed in the Meiji period, namely that Shinto is a national system of faith and practice, that it is separate from Buddhism and that shrines throughout Japan form a single hierarchical network with Ise, the shrine of the Imperial Household, at the apex. In accordance with the 1947 Constitution of Japan the Jinja Honcho makes no formal claim for the superior status of Shinto over other religions in Japan, nor does it assert that Shinto is a civic duty and 'not a religion' (hi-shukyo), though there is continuing ambivalence on this point, exemplified in cases concerning the Yasukuni jinja, jichinsai and goshi. Sub-offices of the Jinja Honcho set up in each prefecture to deal with the locally affiliated shrines are called Jinja cho. It is the president (tori; cf. torisha) of the Jinja Honcho who formally appoints priests to shrines and awards priestly ranks (kai-i). This was the prerogative before Meiji of the jingihaku. The president of the jinja honcho and heads of the local jinja cho also undertake shrine visits as kenpeishi in place of the emperor or local governors. Most of Japan's shrines (jinja) are independent but affiliated to the Jinja Honcho, each incorporated member shrine constituting, unlike the Honcho itself, a separate 'religious juridical person' (shukyo hojin). An 'incorporated shrine' is a legal entity which may include several individual shrines. Some shrines did not join the Honcho or have left. The Yasukuni jinja and Fushimi Inari taisha are notably independent of Jinja Honcho and there are some fifteen smaller shrine networks such as the jinja honkyo or 'shrine association' of Kyoto. Nevertheless more than 80 per cent of shrines remain part of this national network. In 1993-4 the official Yearbook of Religions (shukyo nenkan) gave the following statistics for incorporated shrines and individuals affiliated to the Jinja Honcho [1970 figures are given in square brackets for comparison]. Shrines—79,173 [78,986]. 'Kyoshi' (a loose term for 'clergy'—in the Shinto case shinshoku)—20,336 [17,011]. 'Believers'—82, 631, 196 [58,511,647]. It should be remembered that most of Jinja Honcho's 'Shinto' believers will also be among the 88 million or so who identify themselves in surveys as 'Buddhist' believers in a total Japanese population of ca. 120 million.
A Popular Dictionary of Shinto. Brian Bocking.