Generally, the job grade immediately below the Guji is called Negi; however in some Beppyo jinja (Shrines on the Special List), including Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine, there is another position called the Gonguji (assistant chief of those who serve shrines and who control festivals and general affairs) between the Guji and Negi.
At Izumo Taisha Shrine, there is also a position called the Kyoto between the Guji and Gonguji. At Ise Jingu Shrine, the position immediately below the Saishu, the head priest, is the Guji, and the Guji position is divided into Daiguji (high priest of a great shrine) and Shoguji (assistant to the high priest of a great shrine).
In the olden days, Miya, gu or shrine signified a residence for the Imperial Family, and the Guji used to be a court official serving the Court for the Crown Prince, Empress and other Imperial family members. Later, the job of the Guji was changed to a position engaging in the construction of shrines and tax collection, which was further changed to a position for those who served the gods and were in charge of court rituals.
Under the shrine system after the Meiji period, Guji became a title for the chief of the Kanpeisha (shrines designated as official by the Jingikan, the department of religious affairs) or the Kokuheisha (shrines under the control of the provincial governors). After WWII, when shrine ranking became a thing of the past, Guji became the title for chiefs of all shrines.
Guji after the War
The Guji is a person responsible for the shrine rituals, and the manager of shrine administration and all staff working within the shrine. According to the regulations of the Association of Shinto Shrines, the Guji is the executive representative of the shrine as a religious corporation; and as a rule, only the Guji can become the executive representative.. Therefore, there must always be a person in the post of Guji at every shrine.
Guji for the shrines under the Association of Shinto Shrines are appointed by the Tori of the Association of Shinto Shrines (Excluding the Daiguji of Ise Jingu Shrine, who are appointed by Imperial decision). Some smaller shrines only have one staff, the Guji, and it is not rare to find one Guji concurrently serving several shrines.
Therefore, there are more Guji than Gonnegi, even though the Guji is a higher ranking priest than the Gonnegi.
Guji for Beppyo jinja must be ranked as Meikai (the second highest rank of Shinto priest) or higher, and Guji for other shrines must be ranked as Gonseikai (the fourth rank of Shinto priest) in order to be appointed to the position.
In the event that a Guji is not appointed due to circumstances beyond control (such as the death of a Guji with no successor), a temporary Guji will be appointed until the official appointment of the next Guji. In most cases, executives or counselors of the Shrine Agency with jurisdiction over the shrine are appointed to the position.
In the event that the Guji, who had previously served for extended period and showed an outstanding achievement in Shinto, retires, he will be given a title as an honorary chief priest based on the recommendation of the next Guji. Shinto priests awarded with this honorary chief priest title may attend shrine rituals in the attire prescribed for the position held at the time of retirement, and are treated equivalent to the Guji for the rest of their lifetimes and allowed to provide advice to the Guji, as stipulated by the Association of Shinto Shrines.