Shinto Shrines

Shinto Shrines

A Shinto shrine is a structure whose main purpose is to house ("enshrine") one or more Shinto 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. (For details, see the section Interpreting shrine names.)

Structurally, a shrine is usually characterized by the presence of a honden or sanctuary, where the kami is enshrined. The honden may however be completely absent, 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 also when there are nearby altar-like structures called himorogi or objects believed capable of attracting spirits called yorishiro that can serve as a direct bond to a kami. There may be a haiden (拝殿, hall of worship?) and other structures as well (see below). However, the shrines' most important building is used for the safekeeping of sacred objects rather than for worship.

Miniature shrines (hokora) can occasionally be found on roadsides. Large shrines sometimes have on their precincts miniature shrines (sessha (摂社?) or massha (末社?)). The portable shrines (mikoshi) which are carried on poles during festivals (matsuri) enshrine kami and are therefore true shrines.

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

Read more about Shinto ShrinesArrival and Impact of Buddhism, Shintai, Famous Shrines and Shrine Networks, Structure of A Shinto Shrine, Shrine Architectural Styles, Interpreting Shrine Names, Shrines With Structures Designated As National Treasures, Kannushi, Gallery

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    Carolyn Wells (1862–1942)