The Weekly Jinja Shinpoh reported in its November 23 edition on the second year of the Shinto community's "Rice to the Children of Asia" assistance plan. Inaugurated in 1991, the first year of the plan involved the sending of two tons of rice grown in dedicated shrine paddies to Bangladeshi orphanages.
For the second year of the project, project leaders made it their goal to gather fifteen tons of aid rice, although the paper noted that as of the end of October, actual donations subscribed by shrines amounted to only some seven tons.
Together with monetary donations, the "sacred rice" is to be collected in Tokyo by the end of November and sent to Bangladesh via ship around the second week of December, arriving in Chittagong sometime in mid-January. In Bangladesh, the rice will be met by cooperating members of OISCA International (Organization for Industrial, Spiritual and Cultural Advancement International) together with Japanese volunteers who will assist in delivering the rice and monetary donations to the orphanages within Bangladesh. Among the Japanese volunteers are included students of Shinto from Kokugakuin and Kogakukan Universities.
Sources close to the project admit that the amount of aid is rather small in relation to the actual needs of the orphanages in Bangladesh. At the same time, they assert that this project of international goodwill may represent a unique step outward for Japanese Shinto shrines, which have been the object of past criticism for their insular nature as religious institutions.