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Shinto Priestess 2006/2/11 01:30
The way I see it, becoming a Shinto priestess will probably be near unthinkable if you are visibly not of Japanese descent (ie if you look and sound convincing enough, then you may be able to pull it off) the same way a visibly non-Japanese will never be a "real" Geisha or Samurai.

Traditional Japanese culture has survived because of the self-isolation and independence for the past centuries, and even within Japan, Ainu and Okinawans are not always treated as equal. Even people of non Japanese descent (such as Korean, etc) that are born in Japan are not usually considered Japanese-- they have to carry foreigner cards, I believe. It is very different from the way that no matter who your family is, if you are born in the US you are a US citizen.

That being said, it really is impossible, no matter how much you know, to become a "real" Shinto priestess if you are not Japanese.

Also, as other people mentioned, a lot of things are based on who your family is, such as carrying traditions, being part of a specific bloodline, etc. even if you are Japanese.
by Tamamushiiro rate this post as useful

the way is 2006/4/11 07:07
if your destiny is to become a shinto priestess then the way will find you!!!!!!!!!
when one looks for it one cannot see it,
when one listens for it one cannot hear it,
when one uses it IT is inexhausatble,
by michaeshige tomo rate this post as useful

Some ideas 2006/6/30 16:31
Hey there!

You have a hard road ahead of you if you want to pursue the Shinto clergy as a calling. Shinto is a major interest of mine, in both scholarship and practice, and I, too, at one point considered seeking out a chance to be clergy. Here are some thoughts and ideas (as well as some of my big mistakes) for you to consider that might help you out.

-Check local resources first, especially if you're not in Japan. There happens to be a pair of Shinto shrines in North America. They have already been mentioned. Last time I looked, Rev. Barrish at Tsubaki Jinja of America needed an apprentice. Give him a shout and see what comes of it.

-Read, read, read, read, read. Then read some more. Get 'under the skin' of the concept of Shinto from an academic perspective first. This isn't to discourage you from practicing and learning from that, but you need to know the book facts as well.

-Japanese. You've got to know the language, written, read, and spoken. Not only is it very difficult to communicate without this skill in Japan, but all rituals and most scholarly and practical written works on the subject are in Japanese.

-Formal training. Two universities in Japan, Kokugakuin in Tokyo and Kogakkan in Ise, offer a 1-2 year course in Shinto priest ordination. You'd have a hell of a time getting in, but if you are 100% dedicated to this idea, it's at least worth exploring. This failing, hunt up a shrine that is willing to take you under its wing for an apprenticeship.

-No tattoos. This is where I made my only big mistake, I'd say, and it's what kept me from having a chance to apprentice. I got inked before I checked into the requirements, and I only found out later that in traditional lines of thought, tattooing is considered permanent kegare, or ritual impurity. I have heard many explanations as to why it's so frowned upon in Shinto circles (especially considering that the original Yamato people tattooed their faces and necks), and the best explanation I have heard is that tattooing has strong social connections to "bad" images in Japan--gangsters, criminals, etc. I'm sleeved beyond salvation these days and my life has taken me elsewhere, but if you have a small tattoo or two and are very serious, you can get it removed and still be able to pursue your studies.

Best of luck to you, though. Drive on in spite of what people may say, and you'll find your means.
by Lisa rate this post as useful

Not-Japanese Shintoist priestess 2006/8/27 00:11
In the linked website you can find the experience of a non-japanese shinto priestess accepted ijn a temple of Tokyo. :)

by Matt rate this post as useful

I was a Shrine Maiden 2006/10/5 02:53
I worked at a shrine, Hakozaki-gu, this past summer. I am not of Japanese decent, I'm white, and my professor set up this internship for me. You do need to know Japanese, the more the better, and it was a wonderful experience. Everyone was really welcoming to me so I don't know what those people are talking about when they say that the Japanese won't ''let'' you. The key is getting in touch with someone at a shrine and getting more information as to whether they would be willing to or not. If you want to know more about my experience, I'd be happy to share it with you!!

by Laura rate this post as useful

Shocked 2006/11/15 04:09
After reading all these posts I am shocked that non-Japanese and non-Asians would have so much trouble becoming Shinto Priests/Priestesses. I know that religion and culture are intertwinded, but still anyone should be able to attain this position. I can understand demanding a good knowledge of Japanese. I am glad to see that at least a few foreigners have done so. As with so many things, I beileve it takes becoming "used to" foreigners as holding Shinto religious office. Like with Sumo.
by Hidesato Sakakibara rate this post as useful

shinto and japanese roots 2006/11/16 08:12
As I understand it, the thing with the japanese roots has very much to do with a local tradition of the land and the nature and where someone is born or the roots are - e.g. japanese. But in the ancient times it was the blood, seen as a very sacred thing. You're connected to the land by blood. A foreigner would not, or only if he/she lives there for longer. I even read once, that you can only be born into Shinto but not convert to Shinto. Guess this could be called an "Orthodox" view. But Shinto wouldn't be the only religion like this, there are others you can only be part of if you're born into them. (I'm sorry I cannot remember the name right now, it's too late in the evening). Some ofthe concepts of Shintoism can be found in other pagan religions. Certainly, as many of them are not openly approved and the traditional line has been broken by christianisation they don't have strong traditional bounds and certainly no acredited priesthood and much respect for the population.
My guess is that you may find more traditional shintoists and more progressive ones. In a not strongly traditional shrine you might have more chances even as a foreigner. I don't know about you and I guess every religion puts it's own standards, but I actually would expect a lot more of a priest than just being able to talk the language. To know Shinto at least should be a prerequisite. (and still I would put some degree of spiritual training and knowledge there too). And to know something if you're not practicing it, because there aren't any shrines there etc. is hard.... I mean you really want to become the priestesse of a religion you don't even really know?

But actually, the question I would ask myself first would be: why do you want to become a Miko?
Is it because you know already a lot about shinto and are acquainted with the practices and believe system?
If it's this good luck on your road, as far as I read about shinto for foreigners it won't be as easy. On the other hand, like others asked already, you should know enough to answer this question yourself. I mean usually there is first the interest in the religion, the practice, the knowledge and understanding and then maybe you have the vocation of becoming a priest(ess)

Or is it because you're in love with the image of a priestess as portrayed in many animes? The pretty priestess with the strong character, magically apt or so?
(I'm sorry, I don't want to offend anyone, but I know enough young girls who after watching Inu Yasha want to become a Miko - or rather like beautiful Kikyo ;-))

Or you just want to do it for fun, just because you like being part of a ritual and wear a nice "dress"?
Ok, nothing to be ashamed of, but maybe the correct formulation then would be "I want to participate in a shinto ritual as "helper". I think this would be different, then becoming a priestess, which would mean a greater commitment.

Or is it because you want to serve divinitiy in nature and its many forms - and not forms? If it's this, maybe another pagan religion from the many now emerging coming from your country is more open to your needs and easier to attend to?

At least I believe the important question is not how you become a miko, but rather why exactly do you want to become one, what wishes and needs do you want to fulfill in doing so?

Just my two cents
by Ishtar rate this post as useful

To Ya 2006/11/18 07:47
addressing Ya, who adressed the original post. You might have a point, but, forgive my boldness, she was just asking a question. It is hard to find those kinds of answers. I find your response, well, distasteful, and disrespectful to someone who is seeking knowledge. Perhaps you should think on that. I'm not saying you don't have a point. But even scholars get lost sometimes. So let's keep the bashing minimal please. It's remarks like that, that make others afraid to ask questions.
by Shiroi Aki rate this post as useful

two ways 2006/12/28 12:50
I'm a Shinto Miko, you have to know the ways of shinto or Kami way,and you have to be 13-20 years of age. any more queations, just email.
by Susoku rate this post as useful

Thsnks for your help. 2007/2/4 12:39
Thank you everyone who has replied to my question. In all truth I posted the question some years ago. I was doing a projet on the Shinto religion and the priestess spiked my intrest. My drem in this life is to become a Geisha. I'm hearing all around the web that's it's impossible.I barely speak any japanese and, I'm desperatly trying to learn. Pluse I'm an African American going on twenty. But I'm not about to give up. I personally don't care if everyone else thinks it's impossible.I feel that I still have a chance, if someone would just offer me the oppertunity. And even if they don't I still have a long life ahead of me.
by Kelli rate this post as useful

Shintoism Americanized 2007/3/9 10:07
I think the way to jump start Shintoism in the United States is by or in the form of Speculative Shintoism and Budo. There is a group in the North East that is touching on this new horizon. Kesshin-no-Rekishi.org it looks like this is the way they are heading.
by Matsudaira Teru Katamori rate this post as useful

On being a black in Japan 2007/6/11 10:01
I'm sure that you have an idea of wanting to become a Shrine Miko. A lot of people, unfortunately, use the term miko interchangeably to mean Priestess. A Priestess is not a miko, and vice versa.

While I'm sure your intentions are wonderful (and who doesn't want to be a geisha, those women are beautiful and elegant), our chances of becoming anything more than simply an object of curiosity in Japan is slim and none, largely because Japan is not only almost entirely homogenous, but because of the racial issue that lighter = better. Notice how Geisha also paint their faces.

I like Miko a lot myself, but when going to a shrine, I do manage to get some stares. The clergy may be pretty warm with you if you continue to get more stares than they're comfortable with, and the attention that you'll grab is pretty up there, seeing as how a lot of Japanese (from my own personal experience) have never seen a black person up close. I still get people digging in my hair and rubbing against my skin to see that I'm not a Yamanba. I'm not trying to dash your hopes, but I hope you can realize that I'm being perfectly honest with you. The Japanese are not exactly the most tolerant set of people. When the initial curiosity wears off, you might meet hostility. I've been here for a good 3 years, and I've gotten comments thrown my way quite a bit.So, imagine being a miko and getting this treatment.

I say good luck to you, but do check out the Tsubaki Grand Shrine. I'm sure they'll be much more open to hiring you than the Japanese will.

Lots of Luck!
by A. rate this post as useful

Thats not true! 2007/6/21 14:38
How can anyone say that just because you are NOT Asian means that you CAN'T be a true Priestess even when you have been excepted by the shrine??? That dosn't make any sence, just because you were not BORN Asian you can't ever be excepted? I think that if you want to be somthing, it dosn't really matter what your blood is. Dose that mean that just because you come to the US from another country, your not an American? It just dosn't make sence to me. I have been searching for info on this subject of how to become a Priestess in Japan and to be honest. I've found that it really wouldn't be that hard. Just go to a nice little shrine and ask to help, yes you will have to learn as much Japanese as you can, but it will be worth it!
by Kirsti rate this post as useful

shrines 2007/6/22 12:15
I have lived in Japan for 10 years and I'm pretty sure that it wouldn't be as easy as going up to a nice little shrine and asking to help, I'm afraid. The main stumbling block is language, not ethnicity. Not just "as much Japanese as you can", but full native-level fluency in both spoken and written Japanese would be required for an actual position, I'm pretty sure.

Japan is also a bit different to the US. It's easy to become an American, it's pretty much impossible to "become" Japanese. Even children born in Japan to immigrant parents are not usually considered Japanese. Japanese people tend to have a far more strongly developed sense of "us" and "them" than some other nationalities do.

Someone above mentioned one way for foreigners to be involved in the daily life at a shrine- find a university program with an internship as a shrine- then it seems perfectly possible. I doubt that kind of program is common, but if you can track it down and be accepted, then that would be great.

From speaking to high school girls who work as miko in their spare time and from what I have seen in general, they mostly work in the small shops selling the good-luck charms and arrows that people buy when they go to shrines. It may not be the life that some people seem to imagine.
by Sira rate this post as useful

Hello everyone! 2007/10/21 22:05
Hey there!

To this discussion, I can only say:
I was born German, blond, green-brown eyes... I live in Kyoto and work as Miko. Sounds unbelievable? Yeah, thought so first, too. But I tried as hard as I could to get a job and finally, I did!

But I should admit, that I can both speak and write Japanese better than the average... But if you work hard on your Japanese abilities, you can also do it! :)

by Kacchi rate this post as useful

confused 2007/10/24 00:14
Perhaps I'm totally uninformed. Being married to a Japanese woman, and having spent time in Japan much of it with her family, who do observe Shinto to the extent that most Japanese do (that is, rather casually), my impressions were somewhat different. First, I always was given to understand that all Japanese are Shinto by birth. Second, that only Japanese are, or can be Shinto. I mean REALLY Shinto (and yes, I know that dilettantes fancy themselves Shinto and even set up "shrines" to prove it). I have further been told that Kami no Michi has no deieties, no moral precepts, no written liturgy, etc. So, how the concept of reincarnation comes into it is a puzzle. I believe that that is a Buddhist concept not Shinto. Perhaps I'm all wrong about this, or perhaps that Kami no Michi is so diffuse that there can be many interpretations of it.
by Tay rate this post as useful

Amazed 2008/1/12 15:47
I am amazed that anyone would deny someone clergy based on race. Blood shouldnt be important spirit should be important, and spirit is in your heart(Not the organ the spiritual one) I believe that if you rJapanese at heart and you respect the customs and beliefs blood should not make a difrrence.
by Riku rate this post as useful

Not only Shinto 2008/1/12 16:17
here are plenty of religions that you have to be born into- basically if you are not born a Hindu or a Parsee (another Indian religion) then you will never be one, or not accepted as one by that community. Shinto is not such a closed community as Shinto doesn't have a "congregation" as such like Christianity does. I know a number of foreigners who have been married in Shinto shrines- Catholic churches usually do not allow you to marry there unless you are an active member of the congregation- I wouldn't be allowed to marry at a Catholic church.

The overriding reason why non-Japanese don't become Shinto priests is due to the language barrier- very difficult to reach that level of Japanese without growing up here, it's not a language you pick up in a few months.
by Turkish delight rate this post as useful

Shinto 2008/1/12 16:30
don't blame the Japanese for putting restrictions on what a Foreigner can or cannot do! we all put restrictions on what guests and families in our own houses can and can't do, why shouldn't countries be able to do the same. Most countries do have restrictions. In the USA for example, if you are not born in the USA you can become a congressman, a governor but not a president. In France it used to be-and may still be-that you couldn't be a postman (of all things! as if the country security depended on mail delivery) if you weren't born in France.
I can accept that the Japanese are very touchy about Shintoism because it is one of the few things that are truly and absolutely uniquely Japanese.
people who say that we can be, or do,anything we set our mind to are deluding themselves. We all have limitations that cannot be overcome no matter how much we try. I would dearly love to be a singer, for example, but my singing voice is so extremely bad that not only the other kids in school and the teacher would run away, the sound of my own voice made me nauseous.
by Red Frog rate this post as useful

shinto 2008/2/12 06:35
well, i agree with red frog; you shouldnt be angry at them for putting restrictions, because its cultural pride, basically. Everyone likes the feel of having a certain place where you dont have to do anyting to feel that you belong. Its like those shirts that say,"kiss me, i'm irish". just something about you, and only you, that sets you apart. i also would love to be a miko, seeing as it would be a lovely reason to prolong a stay there. (i'm trying to get my mom to let me go to japan) back on the cultural thing, its just something that makes the Japanese feel Japanese, the same way my family says sometimes that i obsess over japan. (i'm half japanese)so i can sympathize your views, and can only say," Go for it!", but i also share some feelings with my fellows who jelaously gaurd Shintoism. This may not make much sense, but being Japanese is special, and we like to have that cultural pride. AZN PRIDE!!!!
by michiko rate this post as useful

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