Leadership, Authority, and Religious Roles

Are there any organizations or institutions that have their own distinctive structures of leadership within Shinto?

An important organization in Shinto is the shrine guild (miya-za), composed of village elders who share responsibility for their local clan or parish shrine. Each man agrees to oversee shrine affairs for a full year. Other organizations called kosha have occasionally sought to raise funds to send members on pilgrimage or to galvanize public support for a particular project such as shrine renovation. Some of those groups eventually grew into the various Shinto sects of modern times. Various groups known as sodai-kai, ujiko-kai, and ujiko-sodai (loose synonyms for “associations of parishioners/worshippers”) have sprung up all over Japan for the purpose of gathering donations and sponsoring festivals. Unlike some other traditions, Shinto is not famous for developing major internal organizations such as religious or monastic orders. That may connect to the fact that the Shinto priesthood itself is historically associated with heredity and clan and has never been an ordained clergy as such. There are, however, exceptions, such as the monastic order that grew out of a sectarian lineage called Yui-itsu Shinto.


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