Leadership, Authority, and Religious Roles

How are Shinto leaders chosen and given authority?

Shinto priesthood has historically been a hereditary occupation. Even after the government officially took over the appointment of chief priests after 1868, hereditary succession continued in many localities. Perhaps the most important ingredients in maintaining standards among Shinto officials are the two educational institutions now solely responsible for the training of priests. Tokyo’s Kokugakuin (“national learning”) University is a relatively recent development, a private university that offers general education as well as the equivalent of Shinto seminary curriculum. It supplies research for the present centralized shrine authority, the Jinja Honcho. The Kogakkan (“Imperial hall of learning”) University near Ise was originally a public institution that closed after World War II and then reopened in 1952 as a private university. Priests-to-be study Japanese history and literature, but focus on Shinto studies, especially ritual and theology. Shinto priests are not ordained clergy, strictly speaking. They are laypeople granted certification or licensure upon satisfactory completion of the seminary curriculum and its qualifying exams.


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