Loooong post, most of which isn't important, unless you like reading about Random Shrines.
But first, kind of ranty bit ahoy; you can skip ahead if you are bored by my rationalizing things:
So apparently certain people assume that because I am researching Shinto, I must be converting to it. I think this is a kind of odd assumption for a couple of reasons:
1. You can't actually convert to Shinto. You just do it or you don't do it. It would be like converting to Halloween or converting to Labor Day barbecues.
2. I could be studying the ideology of Hitler without people assuming I am a Nazi, but apparently studying religion falls in an entirely different realm than studying political science or philosophy. People (and these are mostly people from an older generation than mine, I have found) assume that for you to be interested in a religion, you must believe in it. But the thing that fascinates me about Shinto is not actually the doctrine (or lack thereof, because, let's be honest, there is no real shared doctrine), but how people think about it and react to it and integrate it into their lives.
So, no, I am not converting to Shinto. You don't need to tell me about all the horrible things people have done in Shinto's name (I already know about them, because I wrote a thesis about it) or awkwardly ask me how I feel about Shinto or try to convert me to a different religion instead. You also don't need to tell me about how terrible Japan is for women or about the Japanese war atrocities or about your terrible experiences with drunken Japanese businessmen. I am marrying neither Japan nor Shinto, and I do not believe either to be entirely faultless. I am studying Shinto because it is interesting and I am studying in Japan because I happen to speak Japanese and also it is pretty hard to do fieldwork on Shinto outside of Japan. Oh, and also my experiences in Japan have been overwhelmingly positive up to this point. That helps too.
In related news, I am attempting to draw a dorky-finger-puppet-version of the history of Shinto. It seems like a good way to get my younger brother to remember what I'm studying in Japan.
In other news, I am actually doing research before I show up! Yay! My advisor sent me a bunch of websites for shrines in the Nagoya area, so I am looking at them and trying to compile information on them. Unfortunately, shrine websites are notoriously difficult to read, because they are A. horribly difficult to navigate (it took me five minutes to figure out how to get to a different page on Atsuta Shrine's website) and B. written in kanji I don't know.
So I am using The Internets and Rikai-kun* to piece together whatever I can about them. So here's what I've got.
Atsuta Shrine (熱田神宮)
Enshrines Atsuta as well as "The Five Gods of Atsuta," who include Amaterasu and Susanoo.** It was a first-rank shrine during State Shinto, which basically means it was SUPER DUPER IMPORTANT. It's also supposed to house THE SWORD, as in one of the three sacred treasures.*** But, most importantly, IT HAS A BOY SCOUT TROOP. I really, really, REALLY would love to do research on Boy Scout affiliations with shrines, because nobody has done ANYTHING on it.
Ueno Tenmangu (上野天満宮)
...I actually don't know if I have the correct reading on this one. The first two characters are normally read "Ueno" in a name, so I'm assuming they're the same here. Reading their website kind of feels like going back to 1997. I can't really find that much information on it, except that the shrine is dedicated to Tenjin, who is a Japanese poet who was exiled and then people were afraid he was going to come back as an angry ghost so they deified him and now he is the main god of education. So my guess is that it will be primarily targeting students taking entrance exams, as most Tenjin shrines are.
Shiroyama Hachimangu (城山八幡宮)
Once again, not a whole lot of information on the site, but I assume that it's a Hachiman shrine (linking to Wikipedia for people who are interested because eventually the footnotes will get out of hand). Apparently it is built on the ruins of a castle and also has a tree which was split in half but then grew back together, so it caters to people wanting love omamori**** or ceremonies having to do with love. Their website tells me that I should come pray there if I want to have eternally good relations with my boyfriend. Also, apparently they have night festivals! Awesome.
I'm gonna wander around Nagoya to see if I can find any tiny shrines as well, because those tend to be quirkier than the big tourist-draw ones.
And now I shall sleep, because I must finish packing up my room in the morning.
*My wonderfully helpful Japanese character recognition software.
**If you've studied the Kojiki, you should know who they are. If not, they're the sun goddess and her poo-flinging brother. (No, I'm not kidding. He really does fling poo. He also throws a skinned pony through her weaving hall roof. And you thought your younger brother was a pain.)
***Long story short: Amaterasu (the sun goddess) said to her grandson, "Hey, go become emperor of Japan," and her grandson said, "Okay, sure." So she gave him three treasures to prove that he was emperor: a sword, a mirror, and a jewel. The three treasures were then passed down the imperial line. There's a lot of debate as to where the treasures came from/what they are made of/whether they have stayed consistent through all of history.
****Omamori are little amulets intended to either ward off danger or beckon in good fortune. They most commonly take the form of a brocaded pouch containing a bit of sacred text or a written prayer. A lot of shrines have the same sort of omamori, like "protection from traffic accidents" and "success in examinations" and "prosperity in the family." I feel like I should just copy and paste my thesis here, but that would kind of be overkill.