Saturday, January 14, 2017

Anime With Shrine Maidens

Shinto Shrines appear in anime fairly often.  If an anime runs long enough you are going to get a visit to a shrine for new years, or after school, or just a place to walk through, or maybe a scene will be even set in one.  They are part of the Japanese landscape and play an important religious role.  When I was visiting Kyoto in 2016 my hotel was near Yasaka Shrine and I wandered through it early in the morning and in the late evening when I was back from touring around.  In the morning, people on the way to work or kids going to school would cut through the grounds, sometimes stopping to offer a prayer or make a wish.  In the evening it was quite dark, even with the lighting on, and the place took on an air of mystery.  There were fewer worshippers and tourists, but you never really felt unsafe, and there was a security guard patrolling the grounds.   
Front Gate, Yasaka Shrine
When a Shinto shrine with shrine related characters is in an anime, the focus is usually on the shrine maiden (miko), rather than the priest of the shrine.  It is usually an opportunity to show a cute female character in the traditional white and red miko garments.  I have to say I kind of find this phenomenon fascinating myself and one of  my favourite characters out of Love Live is Nozomi who is a part time miko at Kanda Myojin Shrine in Akihabara.  Miko help out with shrine operations by cleaning, performing ceremonial dances, and selling fortunes (omikuji) or charms.  This isn't usually a full time job and it is for younger women and teens.  I also like foxes which really helps out when watching anime about Inari shrines which have fox guardians.
You can see how green it is around Yasaka Shrine
Shinto is an interesting religion with deep connections to nature, nature dieties, and especially the Inari shrines relating to good crops.  The religion has also taken quite a beating in Japan during the Meiji era as the central government set out to control Shinto as a way of controlling the deification of the Emperor.  They eliminated thousands of small family run shrines via consolidation and even set up their own administration.  After WWII these restrictions were dropped.  Shinto shrines do not receive government support and are supported by visitors and worshipers, so buy a charm or make an offering.  I've even read some interesting stuff about how some shrines even use an anime affiliation to attract visitors - like Kanda Myojin for Love Live! and Washinomiya for Lucky Star.
Torii Gates
Below is a brief listing of anime which have shrine maidens or have a shrine as a significant setting.  It is by no means comprehensive as there have to be dozens of shows. 
  • Aria
  • Stein's Gate
  • Lucky Star
  • Love Live
  • Sailor Moon
  • Cardcaptor Sakura
  • Tayutama
  • Shrine of the Morning Mist
  • Kannazuki No Miko
  • Kannagi
  • Inu Yasha
  • Gingitsune
  • Lucky Star
  • Kamichu
  • Inari Kon Kon 
Out of these anime, there are three which I really like as they really feature shrines, and I'll cover them below.
Fushimi Inari
I really like this anime about the relationship between a teenage daughter of the priest of a small Shinto Shrine and its resident fox guardian.  The fox is a little cranky, ancient, but rediscovers some of the joys of living when Makoto (the daughter) involves him with some of her adventures.  Makoto is the true successor of the shrine as she has the sight to see Gintarou the giant white fox spirit.
A young girl, Yurie, becomes a kami (kind of like a Japanese god) and learns to use her powers.  The whole show is pretty closely tied to Japanese mythology with kami and of course a local Shinto Shrine where one of her best friends is a shrine maiden and daughter of the priest.  Some of the explorations about the world of the gods and how they interact with us on our plane are pretty good.

Inari Kon Kon
This one is a recent favourite and a great deal of it happens at Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto.  After visiting the shrine, it is one of my top attractions in Japan as it is just pretty amazing with its thousands of torii gates.  The main character is a girl named Inari Fushimi and she gains the power of being able to transform into another human shape from the resident goddess, Uka, who also happens to like playing dating sims.  The granting of the transformation power eventually gets both Inari and and Uka into trouble and they need to venture into the realm of the gods again to resolve everything.

More anime related posts.

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