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TOP  >  What is Shinto?  >  4-b. Shinto Priesthood
Jinja Shinto (Shrine Shinto)


Shinto Priesthood

After the Meiji era, when Japan opened the door to the west in order to exchange with them officially, the hereditary system of the Shinto priesthood was abolished, although there still exist some shrines for which priests who have a certain family background can exclusively serve. There are six grades for the priesthood: the Superior, the First, the Second, the Semi-Second, the Third, the Fourth grades. There are also five ranks for priesthood called Johkai, Meikai, Seikai, Gon-Seikai, Chokkai. As to grades above the semi-second, they are given only to those who have served in shrines for more than twenty years as priests, though they are some exceptional cases according to educational background and the rank of each priest. To become Guji (or the chief priest), it is required to obtain ranks higher than Meikai in the case of serving for certain eminent shrines, and in the case of serving for ordinary shrines, to obtain those ranks which are higher than Gon-Seikai.

There are several institutions to give education and examinations to those who wish to become priests or to prepare for obtaining higher grades and status as priests, After the Second World War, the priesthood has been opened to women, and presently there are about two thousand female priests among twenty thousand priests in total. Even those shrines served only by male priests, the dance of Kaguramai (sacred dance offered to Kami) is always performed by women. This is a tradition followed in Japan from the mythological time. In some agricultural areas, we can see festivals or rites which are performed by a community member who has no education as a professional priest, but just rotating annually a religious obligation among the community members, as mentioned in the section of the Folk Shinto.

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4-a. Jinja (The shrine)
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What is Shinto?
4-c. The Concept of Kami

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