Shinto shrine

Shinto shrine

A Shinto shrine is a structure whose main purpose is to house ("enshrine") a Shinto "kami", and is usually characterized by the presence of a nihongo|shinden|神殿 (also called nihongo|"honden"|本殿 ["Shinden", [ Encyclopedia Britannica] ] )) or sanctuary, where the "kami" is enshrinedIwanami nihongo|Kōjien|広辞苑 Japanese dictionary] [See also Buddhist temples in Japan] . There may be a "haiden" ( _ja. 拝殿), or hall of worship, and other structures (see below).

The number of Shinto shrines in Japan is estimated to be around 100 000 [Breen, Teuween in "Breen, Teuween" (2000:1)] .

Interpreting shrine names

The term "Shinto shrine" is used in opposition to "Buddhist temple" to mirror in English the distinction made in Japanese between Shinto and Buddhist religious structures. This single English word however translates several non equivalent Japanese words, including nihongo|"jinja"|神社 as in Yasukuni Jinja, nihongo|"yashiro"|社 as in Tsubaki Ōkami Yashiro, nihongo|"miya"|宮 as in Watarai no Miya, nihongo|-"gū"|宮 as in Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū, nihongo|"jingū"|神宮 as in Meiji Jingū, nihongo|"taisha"|大社 as in Izumo TaishaThe History of Shrines] , nihongo|"mori"|杜, and nihongo|"hokora/hokura"|神庫.

Shrine names are descriptive, and a difficult problem in dealing with them is understanding exactly what they mean. Although there is a lot of variation in their composition, it is usually possible to identify in them two parts. The first is the shrine's name proper, or nihongo|"meishō"|名称. The second is the so-called nihongo|"shōgō"|称号, or "title"Shinto Online Network Association] .

The "meishō"

The most common "meishō" is the location where the shrine stands, as for example in the case of Ise Jungū, the most sacred of shrines, which is located in the city of Ise, Mie prefecture [ [ Ise, the Holiest Shrine] , Berkeley University ORIAS site accessed on August 10, 2008] . Very often the "meishō" will be the name of the "kami" enshrined. An Inari Shrine for example is a shrine dedicated to Inari. Analogously, a Kumano Shrine is a shrine that enshrines the three Kumano mountains. A Hachiman Shrine enshrines "kami" Hachiman. Tokyo's Meiji Shrine enshrines the Meiji Emperor. The name can also have other origins, often unknown or unclear.

The "shōgō"

The second part of the name defines the status of the shrine.
* is the most general name for shrine. Any place that owns a nihongo|"honden"|本殿 is a "jinja". These two characters used to be read either "kamu-tsu-yashiro" or "mori", both meaning "kami grove". Both readings can be found for example in the Man'yōshū.
* is a generic term for shinto shrine like "jinja".
* A nihongo|"mori"|杜 is a place where a "kami" is present. It can therefore be a shrine and, in fact, the characters 神社, 社 and 杜 can all be read "mori" ("grove")Sonoda Minoru in "Breen, Teuween" (2000:43)] . This reading reflects the fact the first shrines were simply sacred groves or forests where "kami" were present.
* The suffix nihongo|"-sha" or "-ja"|社, as in "Shinmeisha" or "Tenjinja", indicates a minor shrine that has received through the "kanjō" process a "kami" from a more important one.
* is an extremely small shrine [ [ Basic Terms of Shinto, "Hokora"] retrieved on July 1, 2008] .
* is a shrine of particularly high status that has a deep relationship with the Imperial household or enshrines an Emperor, as for example in the case of the Ise Jungū and the Meiji Jungū. The name "Jingū" alone, however, can refer only to the Ise Jingū, whose official name is just "Jingū".
* indicates a shrine enshrining a special "kami" or a member of the Imperial household like the Empress, but there are many examples in which it's used simply as a tradition.
* indicates a shrine enshrining an imperial prince, but there are many examples in which it's used simply as a tradition.
* A nihongo|"taisha"|大社(the characters are also read "ōyashiro") is literally a "great shrine" that was classified as such but the ancient system of shrine ranking, the nihongo|shakaku|社格, was abolished in 1946 [ [ Myōjin taisha] , Encyclopedia of Shinto, retrieved on July 2, 2008] . Many shrines carrying that "shōgō" adopted it only after the war.

tructure of a Shinto shrine

A shrine may include within its grounds several structures, each destined to a different purpose. Among them are the nihongo|"honden"|本殿 or sanctuary, where the "kami" are enshrined, the nihongo|"heiden"|幣殿 or hall of offerings, where offers and prayers are presented, and the "haiden" ( _ja. 拝殿) or hall of worship, where there may be seats for worshipers. The "honden" is the building that contains the "goshintai" ( _ja. 御神体), literally, "the sacred body of the kami". The "goshintai" is actually a temporary repository of the enshrined "kami" [Smyers, page 44] . Of these, only the "haiden" is open to the laity. The "honden" is located behind the "haiden" and is much smaller and unadorned. Other notable shrine features are the torii, or sacred gates, that delimit the sacred grounds and have become the symbol of Japan, the "temizuya" ( _ja. 手水舎), the fountain where visitors cleanse their hands and mouth, and the "shamusho" ( _ja. 社務所), the office that administrates the shrine.

It was not uncommon for a Buddhist temple to be built inside or next to a shrine, or viceversa for a shrine to include Buddhist subtemplesSee Shinbutsu shūgō article] . If a shrine housed a Buddhist temple, it was called a "jinguji" ( _ja. 神宮寺). Analogously, temples in the entire country adopted tutelary kami (nihongo|chinju|鎮守/鎮主 and built temple shrines to house themMark Teuween in "Breen and Teuween" (2000:95-96)] . After the forcible separation of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines (shinbutsu bunri) ordered by the new government in the Meiji period, the connection between the two religions was officially severed, but continued nonetheless in practice.

Other structures they may be present within the grounds of a shrine are:
* The "kaguraden" ( _ja. 神楽殿), a stage for Noh or kagura ritual dance
* The "koma-inu" _ja. 狛犬, or lion-dog statues at its entrance
* The "maiden/maidono" ( _ja. 舞殿), where dances and music are performed
* The "rōmon" ( _ja. 楼門), or two-storied gate
* The "sessha" ( _ja. 摂社), or auxiliary shrine dedicated to a deity closely related to that of the main shrine
* The "suesha" ( _ja. 末社), or subordinate shrine
* The "tamagaki" ( _ja. 玉垣) or fences surrounding the shrine
* The "tōrō" ( _ja. 燈籠), or stone lanterns

The evolution of Shinto shrines

We know that in the Yayoi period the Japanese did not have the notion of anthropomorphic deities, and felt the presence of spirits in nature and its phenomenaTamura, page 21] . Mountains, forests, rain, wind, lightning and sometimes animals were thought to be charged with spiritual power, and its material manifestations were worshipped as "kami", entities closer in their essence to Polynesian mana than to a Western God. Yayoi village councils sought the advice of "kami" and developed instruments to evoke them called nihongo|"yorishiro"|依り代, a word that literally means "approach substitute". "Yorishiro" were conceived to attract the "kami" and give them a physical space to occupy, thus making them accessible to human beings.

Village council sessions were held in a quiet spot in the mountains or in a forest near a great tree or other natural object that served as a "yorishiro". These sacred places and their "yorishiro" gradually evolved into the shrines of a religion that did not have yet a name for itself. The origin of shrines can be still seen in the Japanese words for "mountain" and "forest", which can also mean "shrine".

The very first buildings at shrines were surely huts built to house some "yorishiro". A trace of this origin can be found in the term nihongo|"hokura"|神庫, literally meaning "deity storehouse", which evolved into "hokora" (also written with the character 神庫), one of the first words for shrine. Many shrines have on their grounds one of the original great "yorishiro": a big tree, surrounded by a sacred rope called nihongo|"shimenawa"|標縄・注連縄・七五三縄 and now itself an object of worship. Analogously, many other sacred objects we find today in shrines (mirrors, swords, comma-shaped jewels) were originally "yorishiro", and only later became "kami" themselves by association. Some time in their evolution, the word nihongo|Miya|宮 meaning "palace" came into use, indicating that shrines had by then become the imposing structures of today.

Today's Shinto shrines, with their main hall (nihongo|"shaden"|社殿 and prominent religious images, came into being under the strong influence of Buddhism, but hints of what the first shrines were like can still be found. Ōmiwa Shrine in Nara, for example, contains no images because it serves the mountain on which it stands [en icon [ Ōmiwa Shrine site] ] . For the same reason, it has a worship hall (a nihongo|"haiden"|拝殿), but no place to house the deity (nihongo|shinden|神殿).

The "Kannushi"

The nihongo|"Kannushi"|神主 or nihongo|shinshoku|神職 is a priest responsible for the shrine's maintenance and for officiating ceremonies. He generally does not proselitize. Traditionally, most shrines did not have a "Kannushi" and were maintained by a committee of parishioners called Ujiko ( _ja. 氏子). In a "jinguji", a Buddhist monk had of course to maintain both his shrine and his temple.

Popular "kami"

A "kami" worshipped at a shrine is generally a Shinto "kami", but sometimes Buddhist or Taoist deities are worshiped, as well as other "kami" not generally considered to belong to Shinto. Some shrines are established to worship living people or figures from myths and legends.In recent centuries, especially significant "kami" have come to be enshrined throughout Japan. Some "kami" and shrines that have widespread geographic distribution are:

* Asama Shrine (also called Sengen Shrine)
* Aso - See also Aso Shrine
* Ebisu
* Hachiman - See also Hachiman Shrine
* Hikawa Shrine
* Inari - See also Inari Shrine
* Kumano Shrine
* Munakata Shrine
* Shinmei Shrine
* Suwa Shrine
* Tenjin - See also Tenman-gū
* Toshogu

hrines designated as National Treasures

* Tōhoku region
** Osaki Hachiman Shrine (Sendai, Miyagi)
*Kantō region
** Nikkō Tōshō-gū (Nikkō, Tochigi)
** Rinnō-ji (Nikkō, Tochigi)
*Chūbu region
** Nishina Myōjin-gū (Ōmachi, Nagano)
*Kansai region
** Ise Shrine (Ise, Mie)
** Onjō-ji (Ōtsu, Shiga)
** Hiyoshi Shrine (Ōtsu, Shiga)
** Mikami Shrine (Yasu, Shiga)
** Oharasasa Shrine (Yasu, Shiga)
** Tsukubusuma Shrine (Nagahama, Shiga)
** Namura Shrine (Ryūō, Shiga)
** Kamo Shrine (Kyoto, Kyoto)
** Daigo-ji (Kyoto, Kyoto)
** Toyokuni Shrine (Kyoto, Kyoto)
** Kitano Tenman-gū (Kyoto, Kyoto)
** Ujigami Shrine (Uji, Kyoto)
** Sumiyoshi Taisha (Osaka, Osaka)
** Sakurai Shrine (Sakai, Osaka)
** Kasuga Shrine (Nara, Nara)
** Enjō-ji (Nara, Nara)
** Isonokami Shrine (Tenri, Nara)
** Udamikumari Shrine (Uda, Nara)
*Chūgoku region
** Sanbutsu-ji (Misasa, Tottori)
** Izumo Taisha (Taisha, Shimane)
** Kamosu Shrine (Matsue, Shimane)
** Kibitsu Shrine (Okayama, Okayama)
** Itsukushima Shrine (Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima)
*Shikoku region
** Kandani Shrine (Sakaide, Kagawa)
*Kyūshū region
** Usa Shrine (Usa, Ōita)

ee also

* List of Shinto shrines
* Nijunisha (Twenty-two shrines), a group of the most important shrines
* Senjafuda
* Himorogi



* cite book
last = John Breen
first = Mark Teuween (editors)
coauthors =
title = Shinto in History: Ways of the Kami
publisher = University of Hawaii Press
month = July | year = 2000
location = Honolulu
id = ISBN 978-0824823634

* cite book|last=Tamura|first=Yoshiro|title=Japanese Buddhism - A Cultural History|publisher=Kosei Publishing Company|location=Tokyo|year=2000|edition=First Edition|pages=232 pages|chapter=The Birth of the Japanese nation in|isbn=4-333-01684-3
* Smyers, Karen Ann. The Fox and the Jewel: Shared and Private Meanings in Contemporary Japanese Inari Worship. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1999. ISBN 0-8248-2102-5
* [ The History of Shrines] , "Encyclopedia of Shinto", retrieved on June 10, 2008
* [ Shinto Shrines or Temples?] retrieved on June 10, 2008
* [ Shrine Architecture] "Encyclopedia of Shinto", retrieved on June 10, 2008
* [ Overview of a Shinto Shrine] , a detailed visual introduction to the structure of a Shinto shrine, "Encyclopedia of Shinto" retrieved on June 8, 2008
* [ Jinja no Shōgō ni Tsuite Oshiete Kudasai] , Shinto Online Network Association, retrieved on July 2, 2008 (in Japanese)

External links

* [ Shinto Rites & Procedures - How to perform Shinto rites.]
* [ Kokugakuin University Shinto Jinja Database]
* [ Chokusaisha] entry, "Encyclopedia of Shinto", accessed on June 8, 2008 
* [ Shinto Shrine types] accessed on June 8, 2008 

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