Shinto religious objects – The Kami worship
There is no universally agreed definition of Shinto.
However some scholars define Shinto as the belief in “kami”, the supernatural entities at the centre of the religion.
Shinto encompasses doctrines, institutions, ritual, and communal life based on kami worship.
Various scholars have referred to practitioners of Shinto as Shintoists, although this term has no direct translation in the Japanese language.
Table of Contents
- 1 - Shinto religious objects
- 1.1 - Altar
- 1.2 - Bow and arrow
- 1.3 - Hama yumi
- 1.4 - Azusa Yumi
- 1.5 - Stone lantern
- 1.6 - Sanbo
- 1.7 - Torch
- 1.8 - Shuin
- 1.9 - Mirrors in Shinto
- 1.10 - Hamaya
- 1.11 - Somin Shōrai
- 1.12 - Senjafuda
- 1.13 - Shide (Shinto)
- 1.14 - Shimenawa
- 1.15 - Shinboku
- 1.16 - Shintai
- 1.17 - Fukusa
- 1.18 - Ema (Shinto)
- 1.19 - Saisen
- 1.20 - Suzu (bell)
- 1.21 - Tamagushi
- 1.22 - Tamaya
- 1.23 - Tasuki (sash)
- 1.24 - Tenugui
- 1.25 - Cleyera japonica
- 1.26 - Uchide no kozuchi
- 1.27 - Gohei
- 1.28 - Ōnusa
- 1.29 - Himorogi
- 1.30 - Kabura-ya
- 1.31 - Hishaku
- 1.32 - Hokora
- 1.33 - Hu (ritual baton)
- 1.34 - Iwakura rock
- 1.35 - Jingu Taima
- 1.36 - Jōe
- 1.37 - Kamidana
- 1.38 - Omamori
- 1.39 - Katashiro
- 1.40 - Kusudama
- 1.41 - Magatama
- 1.42 - Mikoshi
- 1.43 - An (Shinto)
- 1.44 - O-mikuji
- 1.45 - Ofuda
- 1.46 - Yorishiro
Shinto religious objects
This is a list of some religious objects used for the practice of Shinto.
A raised flat surface for the purpose of offering up sacrifice as part of a religious activity. The word is sometimes used in Hinduism and occasionally with reference to Buddhism.
Bow and arrow
The bow and arrow is a ranged weapon system consisting of an elastic launching device (bow) and long-shafted projectiles (arrows). Humans used bows and arrows for hunting and aggression long before recorded history, and the practice was common to many prehistoric cultures. They were important weapons of war from ancient history until the early modern period, where they were rendered increasingly obsolete by the development of the more powerful and accurate firearms, and were eventually dropped from warfare. Today, bows and arrows are mostly used for hunting and sports.
The Hama Yumi (破魔弓) is a sacred bow used in 1103 A.D. in Japan. The Bow is said to be one of the oldest and most sacred Japanese weapons; the first Emperor Jimmu is always depicted carrying a bow.
An azusa yumi is a sacred bow (yumi) used in certain Shinto rituals in Japan, as well as a Japanese musical bow, made from the wood of the Japanese azusa or Japanese cherry birch tree. Playing an azusa yumi forms part of some Shinto rituals; in Japan, it is universally believed that merely the twanging of the bowstring will frighten ghosts and evil spirits away from a house. In Japanese poetry, the word azusa yumi functions as a makurakotoba.
Stone lanterns are a type of traditional East Asian lantern made of stone, wood, or metal. Originating in China, stone lanterns spread to Japan, Korea and Vietnam, though they are most commonly found in both China – extant in Buddhist temples and traditional Chinese gardens – and Japan. In Japan, tōrō were originally used only in Buddhist temples, where they lined and illuminated paths. Lit lanterns were then considered an offering to Buddha. Their use in Shinto shrines and also private homes started during the Heian period (794–1185).
‘Sanbo ‘ is a stand used in the Shinto rituals of shinto to place shinten. In ancient times, it was also used to present objects to a noble person. The same type of stand is also used in temples, but in this case it is sometimes written sampo, which stands for Three Treasures.
A torch is a stick with combustible material at one end, which is ignited and used as a light source. Torches have been used throughout history, and are still used in processions, symbolic and religious events, and in juggling entertainment. In some countries “torch” in modern usage is the term for a battery-operated portable light.
A shuin is a seal stamp given to worshippers and visitors to Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples in Japan. The seal stamps are often collected in books called shuinchō (朱印帳) that are sold at shrines and temples.
Mirrors in Shinto
A Shinto mirror Shinkyou (神鏡) is a mirror sacred in Shinto. Some mirrors are enshrined in the main hall of a shrine as a sacred object of the divine spirit, or are placed in front of the deity in a hall of worship. Mirrors in ancient Japan represented truth because they merely reflected what was shown, and were a source of much mystique and reverence. Japanese folklore is rich in stories of life before mirrors were commonplace.
Hamaya is an arrow given at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples as a Japanese New Year’s lucky charm or sacred tool. Sometimes set with a bow called a Hama-yumi.
In Japanese mythology and folklore, Somin Shōrai was a poor man who gave food and shelter to a certain god in the guise of a traveler who was looking for a place to stay. As a reward, the god provided Somin Shōrai’s family a means to save themselves from an oncoming pestilence that eventually claimed the lives of those who had turned him away earlier. The story of Somin Shōrai is the basis for the Shinto custom of walking through a large ring of twisted miscanthus reeds during the beginning of summer at many Shinto shrines across Japan. Talismans bearing Somin Shōrai’s name are also popularly held to ward off disease and misfortune.
Senjafuda are votive slips, stickers or placards posted on the gates or buildings of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples in Japan. Unlike ofuda, which bear the name of the shrine, senjafuda bear the name of the worshipper, and can be purchased pre-printed with common names at temples and shrines throughout Japan, as well as at stationery stores and video game centres. Senjafuda were originally made from wooden slats, but have been made of paper since the Edo period.
Shide are zigzag-shaped paper streamers, often seen attached to shimenawa or tamagushi, and used in Shinto rituals in Japan. A popular ritual is using a haraegushi, or “lightning wand”, named for the zig-zag shide paper that adorns the wand. A similar wand, used by miko for purification and blessing, is the gohei with two shide. A Shinto priest waves the haraegushi over a person, item, or newly bought property, such as a building or a car. The wand is waved at a slow and rhythmic pace, but with a little force so that the shide strips make a rustling noise on each pass of the wand. For new properties, a similar ritual known as jijin sai is performed with a haraegushi, an enclosed part of the land, and sake, or ritually purified sake known as o-miki.
Shimenawa are lengths of laid rice straw or hemp rope used for ritual purification in the Shinto religion.
The term shinboku (神木) refers to trees and forests as himorogi in Old Shinto, as well as shintai. A tree is a tree, a forest, a shintai, a yorishiro, a Shinto shrine, a warding. It is also called goshingi.
In Shinto, shintai , or go-shintai 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 can be also called mitamashiro .
Fukusa are a type of Japanese textile used for gift-wrapping or for purifying equipment during a Japanese tea ceremony. Fukusa are square or almost square pieces of lined fabric ranging in size from about 9–36 inches (230–910 mm) along one side. They are typically made of fine silk, and may be decorated with embroidery in auspicious designs.
Ema are small wooden plaques, common to Japan, in which Shinto and Buddhist worshippers write prayers or wishes. Ema are left hanging up at the shrine, where the kami are believed to receive them. Typically 15 cm (5.9 in) wide and 9 cm (3.5 in) tall, they often carry images or are shaped like animals, or symbols from the zodiac, Shinto, or the particular shrine or temple. In ancient times, people would donate horses to the shrines for good favor; over time this was transferred to a wooden plaque with a picture of a horse, and later still to the various wooden plaques sold today for the same purpose. Once inscribed with a wish, ema are hung at the shrine until they are ritually burned at special events, symbolic of the liberation of the wish from the writer.
In Japanese, saisen is money offered to the gods or bodhisattvas. Commonly this money is put in a saisen box , a common item at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples in Japan.
Suzu are round, hollow Japanese Shinto bells that contains pellets that sound when agitated. They are somewhat like a jingle bell in form, though the materials produce a coarse, rolling sound. Suzu come in many sizes, ranging from tiny ones on good luck charms to large ones at shrine entrances. Suzu are, however, classified as small bells, since big bells are referred to as kane. The former is associated with Shinto and shrines while the latter is related to Buddhist temples and ceremonies.
Tamagushi is a form of Shinto offering made from a sakaki-tree branch decorated with shide strips of washi paper, silk, or cotton. At Japanese weddings, funerals, miyamairi and other ceremonies at Shinto shrines, tamagushi are ritually presented to the kami by parishioners, shrine maidens or kannushi priests.
A tamaya is an altar used in Shinto-style ancestor worship, dedicated in the memory of deceased forebears. It generally has a mirror symbolizing the spirits of the deceased or a tablet bearing their names and is used not only to enshrine blood relatives, but also to honor respected non-family members.
A tasuki is a fashion accessory used for holding up the long sleeves of the Japanese kimono. It is a sash made from either cloth or cord that loops over each shoulder and crosses over the wearer’s back. The bottom of the kimono sleeves can then be tucked into the loop, holding them back for convenience and functionality.
A tenugui , literally “hand-wiper”, is a thin Japanese hand towel made from cotton. Typically, tenugui are about 35 by 90 centimetres in size, plain woven, and almost always dyed with some pattern. Usually the long sides are finished with a selvage, and the short sides are just cut and so soon show some fraying.
Cleyera japonica (sakaki) is a flowering evergreen tree native to warm areas of Japan, Taiwan, China, Myanmar, Nepal, and northern India. It can reach a height of 10 m. The leaves are 6–10 cm long, smooth, oval, leathery, shiny and dark green above, yellowish-green below, with deep furrows for the leaf stem. The bark is dark reddish brown and smooth. The small, scented, cream-white flowers open in early summer, and are followed later by berries which start red and turn black when ripe. Sakaki is one of the common trees in the second layer of the evergreen oak forests. It is considered sacred to Japanese Shintō faith, and is one of the classical offerings at Shintō shrines.
Uchide no kozuchi
Uchide no kozuchi is a legendary Japanese “magic hammer” which can “tap out” anything wished for. This treasure is also rendered into English as “magic wishing mallet”, “lucky hammer”, “the mallet of fortune”, etc.
Gohei , onbe , or heisoku are wooden wands, decorated with two shide used in Shinto rituals.
An ōnusa or simply nusa is a wooden wand traditionally used in Shinto purification rituals.
Himorogi in Shinto terminology are sacred spaces or altars used to worship. In their simplest form, they are square areas with green bamboo or sakaki at the corners without architecture. These in turn support sacred ropes (shimenawa) decorated with streamers called shide. A branch of sakaki or some other evergreen at the center acts as a yorishiro, a physical representation of the presence of the kami, a being which is in itself incorporeal.
Kabura-ya is a type of Japanese arrow used by the samurai class of feudal Japan. Kabura-ya were arrows which whistled when shot and were used in ritual archery exchanges before formal medieval battles.
A Hishaku is a tool for scooping water or soup. It has a vessel shape with a handle.
Hokora or hokura is a miniature Shinto shrine either found on the precincts of a larger shrine and dedicated to folk kami, or on a street side, enshrining kami not under the jurisdiction of any large shrine. Dōsojin, minor kami protecting travelers from evil spirits, can for example be enshrined in a hokora.
Hu (ritual baton)
A hu is a flat scepter originating from China, where they were originally used as narrow tablets for recording notes and orders. They were historically used by officials throughout East Asia, including Japan, Korea, Ryukyu, and Vietnam. They are known as shaku in Japan, and are worn as part of the sokutai ceremonial outfit. They continue to be used in daoist and shinto ritual contexts in some parts of East Asia.
Iwakura (岩倉) refers to the belief in rocks as Yorishiro containing Kami in ancient Shintoism. It also refers to the rock itself, which is the object of worship.
Jingu Taima is a exorcism stick, an exorcism tool, wrapped in clean washi wrapped in Ise Grand Shrine. They are a form of Ofuda.
Jōe is a garment worn in Japan by people attending religious ceremonies and activities, including Buddhist and Shinto related occasions. The jōe is essentially a white kariginu, traditional hunting robes worn by nobles during the Heian period.
Kamidana are miniature household altars provided to enshrine a Shinto kami. They are most commonly found in Japan, the home of kami worship.
Omamori are Japanese amulets commonly sold at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, dedicated to particular Shinto kami as well as Buddhist figures, and are said to provide various forms of luck or protection.
A Katashiro is a kind of Yorishiro in which a Godly Spirit takes refuge. In Shinto rituals and folk customs, dolls are used as human substitutes to transfer sins and impurities during exorcisms. They are usually made of paper or thin boards. After the exorcism, they are thrown into the river or sea, or burned. During Hinamatsuri in March, people used these dolls to stroke the parts of their bodies that were not in good shape, and then cast them into the river or sea to pray for the growth of their children.
The Japanese kusudama is a paper model that is usually created by sewing multiple identical pyramidal units together through their points to form a spherical shape. Alternately the individual components may be glued together. Occasionally, a tassel is attached to the bottom for decoration.
Magatama are curved, comma-shaped beads that appeared in prehistoric Japan from the Final Jōmon period through the Kofun period, approximately 1000 BCE to the 6th century CE. The beads, also described as “jewels”, were made of primitive stone and earthen materials in the early period, but by the end of the Kofun period were made almost exclusively of jade. Magatama originally served as decorative jewelry, but by the end of the Kofun period functioned as ceremonial and religious objects. Archaeological evidence suggests that magatama were produced in specific areas of Japan and were widely dispersed throughout the Japanese archipelago to the Southern Koreanic kingdoms via trade routes.
A mikoshi (神輿) is a sacred religious palanquin. Shinto followers believe that it serves as the vehicle to transport a deity in Japan while moving between main shrine and temporary shrine during a festival or when moving to a new shrine. Often, the mikoshi resembles a miniature building, with pillars, walls, a roof, a veranda and a railing.
The An is a small table, desk or platform used during Shinto ceremonies to bear offerings. It may have four, eight or sixteen legs; the eight-legged variety, called hassoku-an or hakkyaku-an , is the most common.
Omikuji (御御籤/御神籤/おみくじ) are random fortunes written on strips of paper at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples in Japan. Literally “sacred lot”, these are usually received by making a small offering and randomly choosing one from a box, hoping for the resulting fortune to be good. As of 2011, coin-slot machines sometimes dispense omikuji.
In Japanese religion, an ofuda ) is a talisman made out of various materials such as paper, wood, cloth or metal. Ofuda are commonly found in both Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples and are considered to be imbued with the power of the deities or Buddhist figures revered therein. Such amulets are also called gofu (護符).
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 .