I haven't had much to write about the last few days, but I suppose I should write something here just to let all of you know I'm alive.
Hey, guys, I'm alive.
I went to Gosha Shrine today to talk to Nakano-san, and we wound up talking for about two and a half hours. Sooooooooooooo much information. A lot of it was stuff that I had read about before--like elementary school kids taking field trips to the shrine or kids taking college entrance exams using the shrine as a place to announce their commitment, not just ask for a free pass--so it was cool to get a real life confirmation.
I also learned quite a bit about the female priesthood. It's very unusual for women to be Shinto priests; apparently 30 years ago only about 1% of the priesthood was female. Now it's about 10%. Part of the reason why it was so rare was that women were believed to be kegare, which is a term that is sort of a catch-all for "impure," "polluted," or "defiled." In Shinto, there is a taboo against blood, and since women menstruate, they were believed to be automatically impure. (There were even time periods when women weren't allowed to come onto shrine grounds when they were menstruating or pregnant, because it was feared that they would defile the shrine.) However, that view is slowly changing--the speaker at the lecture I went to on Monday said that he believes that blood is only impure when it shouldn't be there, i.e. because women menstruate so they can give birth, it's "natural" for the blood to be there. Nakano-san said that the kami don't care whether their priests are male or female; they care more about what's in your soul than what your body looks like. And then she added, "Anyway, isn't Amaterasu a woman? And she's the top kami!"
Also, I found out a little bit about Nakano-san's background. She's been a shinshoku* for 7 or 8 years now. Before that she was a "normal housewife," although she quickly amended that statement with, "Actually, I don't know about the normal part. I'm weird."** Her husband was Gosha Shrine's guji, and she began studying to enter the priesthood so she could help him. There's a test you can take to enter the priesthood, and she apparently studied for it intensively for a month (while raising three children and helping out at the shrine and being a "normal housewife") and then passed it on the first try. Given the huge number of subjects the test covers--Japanese history, the Shinto classics, the proper norito writing forms, the proper protocols for shrine ceremonies--that's kind of amazing. Her husband then got a job at a shrine in Yamanashi Prefecture (which is one heck of a commute from Aichi Prefecture, where Nagoya is located) and she became the guji of Gosha Shrine.
Anyway, I got lots of notes which I will turn into something semi-coherent at some point, instead of the random Japanglish scribbles that are currently in my notebook.
ALSO, Nakano-san lent me a children's book of stories from the Kojiki, which will be fun to read. I've read a chunk of the Kojiki (in translation) and little snippets of modernized Kojiki in Japanese, so this'll be a new experience for me.
In other news, FLOSS IS REALLY HARD TO FIND IN JAPAN. I ran out of floss a couple of days ago and didn't manage to find any until today. They didn't have it at the grocery store. They didn't have it at the convenience store. Where they did have it, though, was at this bizarre health food store/pharmacy on the way back from Gosha Shrine. Weird.
*A Shinto priest.
**I mostly think she's awesome.