In Shinto, shintai ( 神体 , "body of the kami"), or go-shintai ( 御神体 , "sacred body of the kami") when the honorific prefix go- is used, are physical objects worshipped at or near Shinto shrines as repositories in which spirits or kami reside. Shintai used in Shrine Shinto (Jinja Shinto) can be also called mitamashiro ( 御霊代 , "spirit replacement" or "substitute").
In spite of what their name may suggest, shintai are not themselves part of kami, but rather just temporary repositories which make them accessible to human beings for worship.Shintai are also of necessity yorishiro , that is objects by their very nature capable of attracting kami.
The most common shintai are man-made objects like mirrors, swords, jewels (for example comma-shaped stones called magatama), gohei (wands used during religious rites), and sculptures of kami called shinzō ( 神像 ), but they can be also natural objects such as rocks (shinishi ( 神石 )), mountains (shintai-zan ( 神体山 )), trees (shinboku ( 神木 )), and waterfalls (shintaki ( 神滝 )) Before the forcible separation of kami and Buddhas of 1868 ( shinbutsu bunri ) a shintai could even be the statue of a Buddhist deity.
Famous shintai include the mirror (part of the Imperial Regalia of Japan), Mount Miwa, Mount Nantai, the Nachi Falls, and the Meoto Iwa rocks. Many mountains like Mount Miwa or the Three Mountains of Kumano (Kumano sanzan) are considered shintai and are therefore called shintaizan (神体山, shintai mountain). The most widely known and renowned shintai is Mount Fuji.
A yokozuna , a wrestler at the top of sumo's power pyramid, is a living shintai. For this reason, his waist is circled by a shimenawa , a sacred rope which protects sacred objects from evil spirits. A kannushi, that is, a Shinto priest, can become a living shintai when a kami enters his body during religious ceremonies.
The founding of a new shrine requires the presence of either a pre-existing, naturally occurring shintai (for example a rock or waterfall housing a local kami), or of an artificial one, which must therefore be procured or made to the purpose. An example of the first case are the Nachi Falls, worshiped at Hiryū Shrine near Kumano Nachi Taisha and believed to be inhabited by a kami called Hiryū Gongen.In the second, the mitama (spirit) of a kami is divided in half through a process called kanjō and one of the halves is then stored in a yorishiro. This is the process which has led to the creation of networks of shrines housing the same kami, as for example the Hachiman shrine, Inari shrine or Kumano shrine networks.
Because over the years the shintai is wrapped in more and more layers of precious cloth and stored in more and more boxes without being ever inspected, its exact identity may become forgotten.
The first role of a shrine is to house and protect its shintai and the kami which inhabits it.If a shrine has more than one building, the one containing the shintai is called honden ; because it is meant for the exclusive use of the kami, it is always closed to the public and is not used for prayer or religious ceremonies. The shintai leaves the honden only during festivals (matsuri), when it is put in a "divine palanquin" ( mikoshi , a term usually translated in English as "portable shrine" ), and carried around the streets among the faithful. The portable shrine is used to physically protect the shintai and to hide it from sight.
Inari Ōkami, also called Ō-Inari (大稲荷), is the Japanese kami of foxes, of fertility, rice, tea and sake, of agriculture and industry, of general prosperity and worldly success, and one of the principal kami of Shinto. In earlier Japan, Inari was also the patron of swordsmiths and merchants. Represented as male, female, or androgynous, Inari is sometimes seen as a collective of three or five individual kami. Inari appears to have been worshipped since the founding of a shrine at Inari Mountain in 711 AD, although some scholars believe that worship started in the late 5th century.
A Shinto shrine is a structure whose main purpose is to house ("enshrine") one or more kami. Its most important building is used for the safekeeping of sacred objects and not for worship. Although only one word ("shrine") is used in English, in Japanese, Shinto shrines may carry any one of many different, non-equivalent names like gongen, -gū, jinja, jingū, mori, myōjin, -sha, taisha, ubusuna or yashiro.
Fushimi Inari-taisha (伏見稲荷大社) is the head shrine of the kami Inari, located in Fushimi-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan. The shrine sits at the base of a mountain also named Inari which is 233 metres (764 ft) above sea level, and includes trails up the mountain to many smaller shrines which span 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) and take approximately 2 hours to walk up.
The Japanese term shinbutsu bunri (神仏分離) indicates the separation of Shinto from Buddhism, introduced after the Meiji Restoration which separated Shinto kami from buddhas, and also Buddhist temples from Shinto shrines, which were originally amalgamated. It is a yojijukugo phrase.
Nachi Falls in Nachikatsuura, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan, is one of the best-known waterfalls in Japan. With a drop of 133 meters, it is the country's tallest water fall with single uninterrupted drop; however, the tallest waterfalls with multiple drops in Japan are Hannoki Falls, at 497 m (seasonal), and Shōmyō Falls, at 350m.
In Shinto shrine architecture, the honden, also called shinden (神殿), or sometimes shōden (昇殿) as in Ise Shrine's case, is the most sacred building at a Shinto shrine, intended purely for the use of the enshrined kami, usually symbolized by a mirror or sometimes by a statue. The building is normally in the rear of the shrine and closed to the general public. In front of it usually stands the haiden, or oratory. The haiden is often connected to the honden by a heiden, or hall of offerings.
A Kumano shrine is a type of Shinto shrine which enshrines the three Kumano mountains: Hongū, Shingū, and Nachi. There are more than 3,000 Kumano shrines in Japan, and each has received its kami from another Kumano shrine through a process of propagation called bunrei (分霊) or kanjō (勧請).
An Inari shrine is a type of Japanese shrine used to worship the deity Inari. Inari is a popular deity associated with foxes, rice, household wellbeing, business prosperity, and general prosperity. Inari shrines are typically constructed of white stucco walls with red-lacquered woodwork, and their entrances are marked by vermilion torii. Both Buddhist and Shinto Inari shrines are located throughout Japan.
The Japanese word mitama refers to the spirit of a kami or the soul of a dead person. It is composed of two characters, the first of which, mi, is a simply an honorific. The second, tama (魂・霊) means "spirit". The character pair 神霊, also read mitama, is used exclusively to refer to a kami's spirit. Significantly, the term mitamashiro is a synonym of shintai, the object which in a Shinto shrine houses the enshrined kami.
Mount Nantai literally "man's body mountain", also called Futara-san (二荒山) is a stratovolcano in the Nikkō National Park in central Honshū, the main island of Japan. It stands at 2,486 m high. A prominent landmark, it can be seen on clear days from as far as the Pacific coast, 100 km away.
Futarasan jinja (二荒山神社) is a Shinto shrine in the city of Nikkō, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan. It is also known as Nikkō Futarasan Shrine, to distinguish it from the shrine in nearby Utsunomiya. Futarasan enshrines three deities: Ōkuninushi, Tagorihime, and Ajisukitakahikone. It is located between Nikkō Tōshō-gū and the Taiyū-in Mausoleum. Many visitors go to all three, as well as to Rinnō-ji.
The Takekoma Inari Shrine (竹駒稲荷神社) is a Shintō shrine in the city of Iwanuma in Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. It is considered one of the three main shrines dedicated to the kami Inari, and claims to be the second-oldest Inari shrine in Japan. It was also referred to as the Takekoma Myojin (武隈明神)
Kumano Nachi Taisha (熊野那智大社) is a Shinto shrine and part of the UNESCO-designated World Heritage Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range of Japan. The Kumano Kodō route connects it to other sites under the same classification, which are primarily located in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan. The four sites on the route, classified as pilgrimage destinations and World Heritage Sites, are: 1) Nachi Taisha; 2) Hongū Taisha; 3) Hayatama Taisha; 4) Koya-san.
Kanjō (勧請) in Shinto terminology indicates a propagation process through which a kami, previously divided through a process called bunrei, is invited to another location and there re-enshrined.
A gongen (権現), literally "incarnation", was believed to be the manifestation of a buddha in the form of an indigenous kami, an entity who had come to guide the people to salvation, during the era of shinbutsu-shūgō in premodern Japan. The words gonge (権化) and kegen (化現) are synonyms for gongen. Gongen shinkō (権現信仰) is the term for belief in the existence of gongen.
A yorishiro (依り代・依代・憑り代・憑代) in Shinto terminology is an object capable of attracting spirits called kami, thus giving them a physical space to occupy during religious ceremonies. Yorishiro are used during ceremonies to call the kami for worship. The word itself literally means approach substitute. Once a yorishiro actually houses a kami, it is called a shintai. Ropes called shimenawa decorated with paper streamers called shide often surround yorishiro to make their sacredness manifest. Persons can play the same role as a yorishiro, and in that case are called yorimashi or kamigakari.
Shinto architecture is the architecture of Japanese Shinto shrines.
This is the glossary of Shinto, including major terms the casual reader might find useful in understanding articles on the subject. Words followed by an asterisk (*) are illustrated by an image in one of the photo galleries. Within definitions, words set in boldface are defined elsewhere in the glossary.
Ōmiwa Shrine, also known as Miwa Shrine, is a Shinto shrine located in Sakurai, Nara Prefecture, Japan. The shrine is noted because it contains no sacred images or objects because it is believed to serve Mount Miwa, the mountain on which it stands. For the same reason, it has a worship hall, but no place for the deity to be housed. In this sense, it is a model of what the first Shinto shrines were like. Ōmiwa Shrine is one of the oldest extant Shinto shrines in Japan and the site has been sacred ground for some of the earliest religious practices in Japan. Because of this, it has sometimes been named as Japan's first shrine. Ōmiwa Shrine is a tutelary shrine of the Japanese sake brewers.
Mishaguji (ミシャグジ), also known as Misakuji(n), Mis(h)aguchi or Mishakuji among other variants, is a deity / deities or spirit(s) that featured in certain religious rites formerly practiced in the Upper Shrine of Suwa, one of the two shrines that comprise the Suwa Grand Shrine complex in Nagano Prefecture. In such ceremonies, the Mishaguji were 'summoned' by one of the shrine's high-ranking priests, the Kan-no-Osa or Jinchōkan (神長官), into persons or objects that would act as their vessels (yorishiro) for the duration of the ritual, being then 'dismissed' upon its completion.