Shinto Shrine

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Shinto Shrine

Shinto Shrine


A Shinto shrine is a structure whose major purpose is to dwelling ("enshrine") one or more Shinto kami. (Its most important building is utilized for the safekeeping of sacred things 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 terms like gongen, -gu, jinja, jingu, mori, myojin, taisha, ubisuna or yashiro. (For minutia, glimpse the section "Interpreting shrine names".)

Structurally, a shrine is generally distinguished by the presence of a honden [note 1] or sanctuary, where the kami is enshrined. The honden may although be absolutely missing, as for example when the shrine stands on a sacred mountain to which it is dedicated, and which is worshiped directly. The honden may be missing furthermore when there are nearby altar-like organisations called himorogi or objects accepted adept of attracting spirits called yorishiro that can assist as a more direct bond to a kami. There may be a haiden and other organisations as well.

Miniature shrines called hokora can rarely be found at the edge of streets. Large shrines occasionally have on their precincts miniature shrines called sessha. The portable shrines conveyed by trustworthy on poles during festivals (matsuri) and called mikoshi really enshrine a kami and are thus factual shrines.

The number of Shinto shrines in Japan is estimated to be round 100,000.

Mount Nantai, worshiped at Futarasan Shrine, has the shape of the phallic stone rods found in pre-agricultural Jomon sites.

In the Yayoi period the Japanese did not have the idea of anthropomorphic deities, and sensed the presence of spirits in environment and its phenomena. Mountains, forests, rain, wind, lightning and occasionally animals were thought to be charged with spiritual power, a power whose worldly manifestations were worshiped as kami, entities closer in their essence to Polynesian mana than to a Western god. The spirits which gave life to human bodies came from environment and returned to it after death. Ancestors were thus themselves kami to be worshiped. Yayoi-period village councils sought the advice of ancestors and other kami, and developed instruments to evoke them called yorishiro, a saying that literally means approach substitute. Yorishiro were conceived to attract the kami and give them a personal space to live at, therefore making them accessible to human beings.

Village assembly sessions were held in a calm location in the hills or in a plantation near a large tree or other natural object that served as a yorishiro. These sacred places and their yorishiro step-by-step developed into today's shrines, whose origins can be still glimpsed in the Japanese phrases for "mountain" and "forest", which can furthermore signify "shrine". Many shrines have on their grounds one of the original large yorishiro: a large-scale tree, surrounded by a sacred rope called shimenawa. The very first buildings at locations dedicated to adoration were certainly huts constructed to dwelling some yorishiro. A trace of this origin can be found in the term hokura (???), literally significance "deity storehouse", which developed into hokora, ...
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