Furloughed flight attendants from Japan Airlines (JAL) have been offered a temporary role as Shinto shrine maidens, a ceremonial position with emphasis on hospitality.
JAL Flight Attendants Now Shinto Shrine Maidens
Shinto is polytheistic faith which originated in Japan. About 70% of Japanese citizens practice Shinto traditions (about the same percentage practice Buddhism, another faith tradition with many overlaps to Shinto) even while the majority reject transcendent faith (but still practice religious rituals). In Shinto, a miko (巫女) is a shrine maiden or a supplementary priestess. Duties were once thought sacred or even prophetic, but today most entail serving as hostesses to shrine visitors. Specifically, shrine maidens are now tasked with ensuring that visitors remain socially distanced while inside shrines.
Last month, several Fukuoka-based flight attendants entered training at the Munakata Taisha shrine. These were optional, paid positions and only open to unmarried women. Shrine visits peak during the New Year celebrations.
A spokesperson for the shrine told CNN:
“We think Japan Airlines’ first-class customer service may inspire all our staff at shrines. At the same time, we would like the JAL staff to experience the Japanese traditional culture and Japanese spirit and make the best use what they learned for future.”
Unlike the vows required in other faith traditions, flight attendants do not have to be religious or subscribe to any belief system to serve in this role.
The new shine roles are ephemeral in nature, but another indicator that even with a vaccine, recovery of international air travel will be slow in 2021. The service I experienced on JAL in first class was unparalleled…the best I’ve ever experienced (and I’ve experienced incredible service on many airlines over the years). I can only surmise that shrine visitors are in for a treat.
image: Chris Gladis / Flickr