Shinto Shrine Construction and the DNA Strategy

4th October, 2002
Yoshinobu Miyake

One of the most landmark process of the birth of life on the earth is the invention of 'DNA' system. Or shall I say that DNA built up the system of 'life'?

The general characteristic of DNA system is to communicate the complicating information with the combination of simple codes. Also, it takes external molecule materials into itself with little mass and duplicates exact one with the original by exchanging its order.

DNA system is the most suitable way to change the contents constantly with soft containers and convey the same information structure. It is not trying to protect the contents by making strong-built containers which is durable for thousands years. We can see it clearly from a fact that bacteria, quite 'simple' and 'primitive' living things, have been existed for billions years without changing their appearance.

The New Shrine built with the next to the Old One

When I think about this DNA system, it always reminds me of a system called 'Shikinen Sengu (Periodical Relocation)' which held in some shrines including the Grand Shrine of Ise. Once in 20 years, they make a reproduction of 'the present shrine' and put 'the absolutely identical shrine' next to it. Then, they move 'the Divine Spirit' from 'the old shrine' to 'the new shrine' and dismantle 'the old shrine'. After this process the shrine is reproduced, which is different materially but identified with its information.

This is the same action as we, the living lives, do in daily life. We aim at 'permanent' by not making a hard container which is durable for thousands years (it is impossible to make things forever lasting), but remaking a new one constantly. Moreover, this action will inherit not only the shrine but also the technique how to build it. Because of this, even the shrine was destroyed by some accidents (natural calamities or war damages) it could be restored at once. It also inherits 'invisible' tradition such as courtesy, music and so on, so it enables to tell Shinto 'spirit' synthetically.

Look at the pyramids and Parthenon, which were built by strong stones. We no longer have idea what kind of rituals had been taken place there and it is very difficult to rebuild them once they are broken. When I think about this situation, it is worth to admire the great wisdom of ancient Japanese people.