Can Shinto Priests Get Married?

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Key Takeaways:

  • Shinto priests are permitted to marry and have children. Both men and women can become Shinto priests.
  • Earlier, Shinto weddings were limited to the families of Shinto priests due to historical and cultural reasons.
  • Today, Shinto priests conduct wedding ceremonies for all couples regardless of their background.
  • While priests can marry, their spouses take on assisting roles and many live on shrine grounds.
  • Shinto priesthood is hereditary, passed down through generations, allowing priests to marry within their community.


The Shinto religion of Japan has a long and rich history dating back over 2000 years. As one of the country’s indigenous faiths, it is deeply woven into the cultural fabric of Japan. An important question for many is – can Shinto priests get married?

Shinto priests play vital roles in communities by maintaining shrines, performing rituals, and officiating ceremonies. Their lifestyles and religious obligations generate significant interest around whether marriage is permitted. This article will provide a comprehensive evaluation of the marital status of Shinto priests.

The content covers key considerations around Shinto priests marrying, both historically and in modern times. Factors enabling priests to wed along with impacts on their spouses are explored. The hereditary nature of Shinto priesthood is also analyzed regarding marriage practices. Overall, this article aims to satisfy curiosity around this topic by delving into the intricacies in detail.

Readers can expect to gain valuable insights into the lives of Shinto priests. The breadth of information presented will address common myths and clarify the truth about the marriage permissions for this significant religious group in Japan. Whether simply curious or actively researching Shintoism, this piece contains rich facts to expand your knowledge.

Are Shinto Priests Allowed to Marry?

Yes, Shinto priests are permitted to get married under the precepts of their religion. Both men and women can become priests in Shintoism, known as kannushi and miko respectively. They are allowed to wed spouses of their choosing and have children.

This contrasts some other faiths where priests take vows of celibacy. Shintoism does not prohibit marriage or having families. Priests are regular members of society in this regard. Their lifestyles may have additional obligations, but matrimony itself is not restricted.

How Did Shinto Wedding Traditions Evolve Over Time?

While they can marry now, Shinto wedding ceremonies were historically limited. For centuries, only unions between members of priestly families were conducted at shrines. Regular citizens had common law marriages not officiated by clergy.

This tradition evolved from the blending of Shintoism with Buddhism in Japan. Weddings were not a Shinto ritual necessity and thus reserved for its inner community. By the 19th century, some temples began offering wedding services to the public, but costs were prohibitive for most.

After World War II, the 1947 Constitution of Japan established religious freedom and separation of religion and state. Shinto priests started performing weddings for all couples regardless of background. By the 1990s, Shinto ceremonies saw a popular revival as cherished cultural tradition.

So while priests themselves could always marry, public Shinto wedding rituals are a relatively modern development as the religion adapted within Japanese society.

What Factors Enable Shinto Priests to Marry?

Several key factors underlie the ability of Shinto clergy to wed spouses:

Gender Equality

Shintoism has male and female priests unlike some faiths with all-male clergy. Women play active roles leading rituals, maintaining shrines, and officiating ceremonies. Both genders are afforded the same rights.

Non-Celibate Priesthood

Shinto priests do not take vows of celibacy. Their duties are not seen as conflicting with marriage and families. Priests are expected to nurture their communities and pass down knowledge.

Hereditary Priesthood

Shinto clergy positions are hereditary, passed down through generations. Sons often inherit the role from fathers. This creates priestly families who marry within their community.

Flexibility of Shintoism

The indigenous nature of Shinto allowed its marriage traditions to flexibly evolve over centuries. It adapted as Buddhism and later Western culture influenced Japanese society.

Limited Priestly Duties

Shinto priests do not have exhaustive religious obligations. Many pursue secular careers simultaneously. This leaves time for marital and family relationships.

These factors create an accommodating environment for Shinto priests to wed spouses without restrictions.

How Do Marriages Impact the Spouses of Shinto Priests?

When Shinto priests marry, their spouses take on certain roles and obligations. Though permitted to wed, the priestly duties impose some expectations on wives typically:

  • Residing on shrine grounds in provided housing
  • Assisting with daily shrine upkeep and maintenance
  • Participating in rituals, festivals, and ceremonies
  • Helping administer shrine affairs and business matters
  • Handling priestly household tasks and child-rearing responsibilities

The spouses of female Shinto priests take on similar supportive duties. Though not officially clergy themselves, priestly wives contribute significantly in subtle but vital ways. Their efforts indirectly enable the functioning of shrines through supporting the priests.

Marriage also limits employment options for spouses somewhat due to residency on shrine compounds and their assistance obligations. But families gain the benefit of low-cost shrine housing. Overall the spouses lead lives integrated closely with priestly roles.

Why Can Shinto Priests Marry Within Their Community?

Shinto priests can marry as they wish because priesthood is hereditary, passing from father to son over generations. Male children grow up observing their father’s duties and are groomed to inherit the mantle. Daughters also receive extensive training to possibly fill future priestess roles.

Sons who demonstrate the inclination and competency begin apprenticeships during youth. They are initiated after thorough preparation and take over responsibilities when mature. The passage of priestly knowledge and lineage occurs within tightly-knit family units and communities.

Therefore, Shinto priests often wed spouses who come from similar backgrounds. Their unions consummate the bonds between priestly families. This enables the heritage and traditions to continue through offspring with overlaps on both parental sides.

If no biological sons exist, a priest may adopt a male successor. But direct descent or marrying within the priestly community are the strong preferences for perpetuating bloodline and legitimacy.

What are the Ritual Roles of Shinto Priests and Priestesses?

Both Shinto priests and priestesses perform a variety of rituals and ceremonies of spiritual significance:

  • Overseeing worship at shrines
  • Maintaining purity at shrine sites
  • Presiding over festivals and celebrations
  • Reciting incantations and prayers
  • Making offerings to deities (kami)
  • Performing blessings, exorcisms, and purifications
  • Conducting rites of passage like weddings, funerals, coming-of-age ceremonies
  • Providing spiritual guidance and comfort to worshippers

These ritual duties reinforce connections between the kami, nature, community, and Shinto devotees. Priests transmit traditional knowledge and practices through the generations as cultural safekeepers.

Both married and unmarried priests fulfill these roles. Marital status does not limit the sacred responsibilities. Priestesses equally uphold rituals while having the same marriage liberties as male clergy.

Do Shinto Priests Have Any Restrictions on Marriage?

Shintoism places no outright restrictions on priests marrying spouses of their choice. There are no celibacy vows or rules against starting families. Priests have freedom in their marital decisions.

However, social pressures exist which impact marriage practices to some degree:

  • Expectation to wed within the small community of priestly families
  • Responsibility to continue the family lineage and heritage
  • Need for spouse to reside on shrine grounds in provided housing
  • Obligation for spouse to assist in priestly duties and shrine functions
  • Limited employment options available for spouses

These factors make it highly likely for Shinto priests to enter marriages arranged within their inner social circles. But personal choice still governs marital selection. Priests are not dogmatically restricted regarding marriage.

Can a Shinto Priest Remarry After a Spouse’s Death?

Yes, in the sad event of a spouse’s demise, a Shinto priest or priestess may remarry another partner. There are no prohibitions against remarriage after losing a husband or wife.

The expectations would remain the same for the new spouse to live on shrine grounds and assist the priest with responsibilities. Any children from previous or future marriages are accepted without stigma.

Widowed priests often remarry because companionship is valued highly in Japanese culture. Remaining single generally only occurs if the priest is advanced in age or has heirs to continue the family lineage.


In conclusion, Shinto priests can and do marry spouses and have children. While wedding ceremonies were historically limited to priestly families, modern Shinto weddings are open to the general public. Factors like gender equality, non-celibate clergy, hereditary positions, and flexible beliefs allow Shintoists to shape marriage traditions that suit their indigenous Japanese faith. Spouses of priests live integrated lives tied to shrine functions. Though social pressures exist, Shinto priests ultimately have freedom to wed and remarry within their overall religious obligations to community

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