- The Shinto clergy, or a Shinto priest. Another general term is kannushi (-san). During the Tokugawa period from 1665 shrines and priestly ranks within shrines were officially licensed only by the Yoshida and Shirakawa families. Following the Meiji restoration the Shinto priesthood was centrally controlled by government, and since 1945 priestly ranks have been regulated largely by the Jinja Honcho, who regard as the most 'orthodox' (the English word is used) those priests who are appointed to affiliated shrines by the president of Jinja Honcho following a course of instruction at Kogakkan or Kokugakuin universities, though priests may also be trained at a number of other seminaries to pass the qualifying examinations. Within individual shrines priestly ranks reflecting seniority include guji, the chief priest; gon-guji, assistant chief priest; negi, senior priest(s); gon-negi, assistant senior priest(s); shuten, priests and miko, shrine maidens. The Jinja Honcho also bestows recognition of priestly merit at a national level through a system of quasi-academic ranks and grades ranging from jokai (purity), the highest, through meikai (brightness), seikai (righteousness) and chokkai (uprightness). The priestly rank of saishu is restricted to the Ise Jingu. There are about 20,000 Shinto priests in Japan, the majority of whom serve more than one shrine and supplement their income by other employment (see under Jinja Honcho).
A Popular Dictionary of Shinto. Brian Bocking.