Shinto English 神道英語

Kōgakkan University 皇學館大学 trains Shinto priests to work at shrines all over the country including what is widely considered to be the most sacred one, Ise Jingū 伊勢神宮, which is located near the university in Ise (the G7 leaders met in Ise a few months ago and visited it). This year I am co-teaching a course called Shinto English 神道英語, a class which is supposed to help prepare students to speak in English about the tradition and the shrines where they will be located in the future. This post contains some information about the class that might be helpful to people who want to know more about Shinto or the training of priests.



The textbook (『英語で伝える日本のこころ Basic Guide―SOUL of JAPAN公式ガイドブック』) is an annotated (Japanese) version of the freely available Soul of Japan, which was published by the main Shinto governing body (The Association of Shinto Shrines; Jinja Honchō 神社本庁) to explain Shinto to non-Japanese. It is written in a mix of plain English, which is accessible to a wide audience of readers whose first language might not be English, and some rather challenging vocabulary (“harbinger”) that might require a dictionary or a love of the TV series Battlestar Galactica. We chose the textbook, because it represents one of the most recent “authoritative” statements (according to The Association of Shinto Shrines) about what Shinto is and what it’s significance is for Japanese people.

In class, we’ll use this as a jumping off point to discuss students’ own interpretations of the materials (I suspect there will be many important deviations from the textbook), supplement it with some of the primary sources upon which the content was based, and share their thoughts on how the tradition was translated into English. A Journey through Time at Jingū is a secondary textbook we’ll use in some of the lessons as well.

Supplementary Materials

The aim of this class is to help our students (some of whom are not in the Shinto Department and may not intend to become priests) convey concepts and ideas about Shinto to non-Japanese. For this reason, the supplementary materials below are mainly introductory in nature or have both Japanese and English in them to aid in communication. They are, therefore, a lot different than the critical perspectives you’ll find in more academic articles and books on the topics (see titles at the end of this post). As this is our first time doing the class, I’m sure that we’ll be adding more as we go along.

Books / Pamphlets / Sites

  • Irei: The Spirituality of the Japanese
  • Evans, Ann Llewellyn. Shinto Norito: A Book of Prayers. Victoria, Canada: Matsuri Foundation of Canada, 2001.
  • Jinja Honchō 神社本庁. Jinja kankei yōgo Eiyakugo sankō reishū 神社関係用語英訳語参考例集. Tokyo: Jinja Honchō 神社本庁, 2003.
  • Jinja Honchō 神社本庁. Jinja kentei kōshiki tekisuto 神社検定 公式テキスト. 9 Vols. Tokyo: Fusōsha 扶桑社, 2012–2015.
  • Kokugakuin Daigaku 國學院大学.Encyclopedia of Shinto.
  • Sakurai Haruo 櫻井治男. Chishiki zero kara no jinja nyūmon 知識ゼロからの神社入門. Tokyo: Gentōsha 幻冬舎, 2012.
  • Shirayama Yoshitarō 白山芳太郎. Shintōgaku genron 神道学原論. Ise: Kōgakkan University Press 皇學館大学, 2014.
  • Study Group of Shinto Culture 神道文化研究会. Nichiei taishō jinja kankei yōgoshū 日英対照神社関係用語集 [Handy Bilingual Reference for Kami and Jinja]. Tokyo: Study Group of Shinto Culture 神道文化研究会, 2006.
  • Yamaguchi Satoshi 山口智. Eiwa taiyaku Shintō nyūmon 英和対訳 神道入門 [English-Japanese: Shinto from and International Perspective]. Tokyo: Ebisu-Kōshō 戎光祥, 2012.
  • Yamamoto Yukiyasu 山本行恭. Wakariyasui Shintō kurashi no naka ni ikiru Nihonjin no kokoro わかりやすい神道 暮らしの中に生きる日本人の心 [Introduction to Shinto: The Way of the Kami]. Suzuka: Ise-no-kuni Ichi-no-miya Tsubaki Jinja, 2009.



The English for our textbook will probably be challenging in places for our students, so I recorded it and I’ve got the files below. I’ll add files as I finish them, and I’ll upload or link to some of the supplementary materials we use. There may be some slight deviations from the text I linked to above, because I am using the annotated version for the audio.

Other General Resources on Shinto in English

  • Aston, William George. The Nihongi: Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to A.D. 697. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner and Co., 1896.
  • Bock, Felicia Gressitt. Engi-Shiki: Procedures of the Engi Era Books I-IV. 2 vols. Tokyo: Sophia University Press, 1970.
  • Breen, John and Mark Teeuwen . A New History of Shinto. Malden, MA: John Wiley and Sons, 2010.
  • Havens, Norman. “Shinto.” In Nanzan Guide to Japanese Religions, edited by Paul L. Swanson and Clark Chilson, 14–37. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2006.
  • Philippi, Donald L. Kojiki. Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, 1968.
  • Philippi, Donald L. Norito: A Translation of the Ancient Japanese Ritual Prayers. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990.
  • Picken, Stuart D.B. Sourcebook in Shinto: Selected Documents. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2004.
  • Picken, Stuart D.B. Historical Dictionary of Shinto. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2010.