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April 26, 2003

Shinto Priestesses

There are a very few shrines run by priestesses.

However, Koukagakkan and Kougakuin, the two shrine priest accreditation universities for the national association of shrines, are non discriminatory in awarding shrine qualifications. Additionally some of the other training centres of smaller associations, such as the Shinto related sect of Kurozumi-kyou, also train women to be priests.

As a result of this policy, and the fact that shrine priest is not a popular job (often paying less than the cost of maintaining the shrine), there are a few female shrine priests who "run" shrines.

However, it is not *entirely* clear to me who "runs" a shrine. I believe, that Shinto makes distinctions between the roles of men and women, priests and mikos, but it is not entirely clear that the roles of women/mikos are subordinate.

Often it *is* the case that men run the shrine, and female university students
perform the subordinate role of selling talismans at the shrine shop. Traditionally
however, it is the miko who performs sacred dances for the pleasure of the gods (Kagura), and who is also said to be possesed by the god. Thus the role of miko is not necessarily in a subordinate. In the day to day running of the shrine the Miko may also be very involved.

I think that the usual economic pressures of gender relations were men are supposed to work to support women and women are supposed to be financially dependent houseworkers for men, has the usual impact on shrine priests and mikos (as it does on doctors and nurses) but who runs a shrine? (Who runs a hospital?) It is clear that Miko's and nurses get a lot less pay -- they are economically discriminated against. It is not clear to me that in the case of the shrine, the miko is discriminated against in terms of her value, traditionally at least. But I am not at all sure. I have very strange views about sexism in Japan: I am into Japanese mens' liberation.

BTW In Okinawan tradition the Kaminchu (priestesses) and Yuta (shaman) are very much in charge. My aging some what chauvist male Japanese professor visited the region with a young graduate student. He was not allowed even to observe their rituals, since he is male, but his graduate student, a woman, was allowed to participate.

Posted by timtak at April 26, 2003 02:25 PM

I happen to know a Shinto priestess, who claims to be one of the first to be accepted and get qualified without having any family connections to Shinto. It was very difficult for her, and she had to be very persistent. She now runs a small shrine near Nara. She tells me that priestesses were the norm in early times, but that in the warrior age it was taken over by men.

By the way, I don't find that your view about sexism in Japan is strange. Anyone who has lived here would know that men need liberating, not women. Indeed, many Japanese women I've spoken to express pity for men's plight. Of course, people who have never lived in Japan are the ones who would claim to know most definitely how women are oppressed.

Cheers and hope to read some more of your always stimulating posts

Posted by: John Dougill at November 24, 2003 11:29 PM

Hi John
I am glad to have found someone who agrees that Japanese gender relations are not as simple as Ueno Chizuko would have us believe - she is quite adamant that Japanese women are, like their western counterparts, viewed as an underclass.
I tend to agree with the post De Beauvoir, "Women are the Second Sex" theory with regard to women in the West. There is an extent to which "mankind" is judged according to the standards of men, or at least of some sort of men. Perhaps the reverse could be said of the Japanese. The Japanese are women?

Posted by: Timothy Takemoto at December 17, 2003 10:10 AM

I want to become a priestes but where do I go for training?And do you have to have a history of priests in your family.

Posted by: Mii at August 4, 2004 04:18 PM

hi im akiko-chan, im only 15 and my grandma is teaching me they ways of a pristiss. we have an old shrime in japan but my family move to canada and so my granpa still lives at the shrime. my grandma said that she does not want me to forget who our anceaters are. im worndeing why there is china towns in cities and why not japan towns its just not fair my gradma wants to move back to japan but i just jot the hang of english and i have made lots of friends but i still want to learn how to be a miko its just not if our wondering why my english grammer is ok its becaus my tearcher is helping me with this just to tell you.

Posted by: akiko-chan at August 14, 2004 07:04 PM

Hi Akiko and teacher,,
I hope listen carefully to what your grandmother has to show you and that you do not let your old shrine in Japan fall into disuse.
There is an area of London where a lot of Japanese live but I think that the Chinese are more collectivist than Japanese. The Japanese try harder to fit in and make new friends, which is not a bad thing methinks.
I hope you become a great and powerful miko one day.

Posted by: Timothy Takemoto at August 14, 2004 07:57 PM

hello, my name is Jennifer Stanton, and i am only 15 years old. I am an everyday normal teendager, my family is catholic, but i do not wish to be this religion, i have become very intrigued with priestesses in japan. I would wish to become one, but i don't know how to, or no one to teach me, could you please help me. E-mail me or post something, please.

Posted by: jen at June 24, 2010 03:29 PM

Kamichuu? That is a name of a manga.

Please consider joining the shintoml mailing list.
then look at this thread

Shinto is kind of sexist so shinto priestesses are usually assistants and dancers (Miko).

Japanese language will take you about 4 or 5 years to learn.

The training to become a shinto priest(ess) can be done in about a month, or a 4 year university degree.


Posted by: Timothy Takemoto at June 24, 2010 04:27 PM