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This article contains Japanese text. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of kanji and kana.

This is the glossary of Shinto, including major terms the casual (or brand-new) 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.

This article is part of a series on Shinto
Practices and Beliefs
Kami · Ritual purity · Polytheism · Animism · Japanese festivals · Mythology · Shinto shrines
Notable Kami
Amaterasu Omikami · Sarutahiko Okami · Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto · Inari Okami · Izanagi-no-Mikoto · Izanami-no-Mikoto · Susanoo-no-Mikoto · Tsukuyomi-no-Mikoto
Important Literature
Kojiki · Nihon Shoki · Fudoki · Rikkokushi · Shoku Nihongi · Jinnō Shōtōki · Kujiki
See also
Japan · Religion in Japan · Glossary of Shinto · List of Shinto divinities · List of Shinto shrines · Sacred objects · Japanese Buddhism · Mythical creatures

Shinto Portal
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An* (案) - a small table or platform used during Shinto ceremonies to bear offerings. It may have four, eight or sixteen legs.


  • bettō (別当) - before the shinbutsu bunri, when the Meiji period law forbade the mixing of Shinto and Buddhism, a bettō was a monk who performed Buddhist rites at a Shinto shrine.
  • bunrei (分霊) - process of division of a kami producing two complete copies of the original, one of which is then transferred to a new shrine through a process called kanjō.


  • chigi* (千木) - Forked decorations common at the ends of the roof of shrines.
  • chinju (鎮守/鎮主) - the tutelary kami or tutelary shrine of a certain area or Buddhist temple.
  • chinjusha* (鎮守社/鎮主社) - a small shrine built at a Buddhist temple and dedicated to its tutelary kami.
  • chōzuya (手水舎) - see temizuya.


  • ema* (絵馬) - small wooden plaques on which worshipers at shrines, as well as Buddhist temples, write their prayers or wishes.


  • fox - See kitsune.


  • gohei* (御幣) - also called onbe (御幣) or heisoku (幣束). A wooden wand decorated with two shide (zigzag paper streamers) and used in Shinto rituals as a yorishiro.
  • gongen (権現)
    • A Buddhist god that chooses to appear as a Japanese kami to take the Japanese to spiritual salvation.
    • Name sometimes used for shrines (e.g. "Tokusō Gongen") before the shinbutsu bunri.
  • gongen-zukuri (権現造) - a shrine structure in which the haiden, the heiden and the honden are interconnected under the same roof in the shape of an H.
  • goshintai (ご神体)- see shintai.


  • haiden* (拝殿) - literally "hall of prayer". A shrine building dedicated to prayer, and the only one of a shrine open to laity.
  • haraegushi (祓串) - an ōnusa having an hexagonal or octagonal wand.
  • heiden (幣殿) - a section of a shrine where offerings are presented to the gods.
  • harae (祓) - general term for rituals of purification in Shinto.
  • Hatsumōde (初詣) - the first shrine visit of the New Year. Some shrines, for example Meiji Shrine in Harajuku, Tokyo, see millions of visitors in just a few days.
  • himorogi (神籬) - temporary sacred spaces or altars used to worship. Usually, himorogi are simply areas demarcated with green bamboo or sakaki at the four corners supporting sacred border ropes called shimenawa.
  • hokora/hokura (祠, 神庫)
    • an extremely small shrine
    • One of the earliest words for shrine
  • honden (本殿) - literally "main hall". Also called shinden (神殿) ("divine hall"), the honden is the most sacred building of a shrine, intended for the exclusive use of the enshrined kami.
  • honsha (本社) - main shrine of a shrine complex. It is followed hierarchically by sessha and massha.
  • hyakudoishi (百度石) - literally "hundred times stone". Sometimes present as a point of reference for the hyakudomairi near the entrance of a shrine or Buddhist temple.
  • hyakudomairi (百度参り) - literally "a hundred visits". A worshiper with a special prayer will visit the shrine a hundred times. After praying, he or she must go at least back to the entrance or around a hyakudo-ishi for the next visit to count as a separate visit.

Gallery: A to H


  • Inari* (稲荷) - the kami of fertility, rice, agriculture, foxes, industry, and worldly success. Inari shrines can be easily identified by the stone foxes which protect it.
  • iwakura (磐座)* - a rock where a kami has been invited to descend for worship, and which is therefore sacred. See the article yorishiro.
  • iwasaka (岩境) - a stone altar or mound erected in the distant past to call a kami for worship. See the article yorishiro.


  • jinja* (神社) - the most general name for a shrine, as in Tsubaki Jinja.
  • jingū (神宮) - a shrine enshrining a member of the Imperial family, as for example Meiji Jingū which enshrines the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken.
  • jōe (浄衣) - garment worn by kannushi during religious ceremonies.


  • kadomatsu (門松) New Year decorations placed in pairs in front of homes to welcome the kami of harvest.
  • kaguraden* (神楽殿) - a pavilion or stage dedicated to the performing of the kagura (sacred dance). Also called maidono (舞殿).
  • kagura (神楽) - literally "sacred sance".
    • A type of Shinto dance with deep ties to the Emperor and his family, accompanied by instruments. Also called mikagura (御神楽).
    • A type of Shinto dance performed at shrines during religious rites, with many local variants. Also called satokagura (里神楽).
  • kamadogami (竃神) - a kami which lives in people's ovens.
  • kami (神) - term broadly meaning "spirit" or else "deity", but having with several separate meanings.
    • deities mentioned in Japanese mythologies and local deities protecting areas, villages and families[1].
    • unnamed and non-anthropomorphic spirits found in natural phenomena[1].
    • a general sense of sacred power[1].

According to a famous definition by Motoori Norinaga, a kami is "any thing or phenomenon that produces the emotions of fear and awe, with no distinction between good and evil".

  • kamidana* (神棚) - literally "kami shelf". A miniature shrine placed or hung high on a wall in some Japanese homes.
  • kanjō - a process through which a kami (usually obtained dividing in two another kami through a process called bunrei) is transferred to a new shrine.
  • kannushi* (神主) - a Shinto priest.
  • kasoegi (斗木) - see katsuogi.
  • katsuogi* (鰹木, 勝男木, 葛緒木) - short decorative poles on a shrine's roof set at a right angle to the roof's ridgepole.
  • kegare (穢れ) - defilement due to natural phenomena, for example the contact with dead bodies.
  • kitsune* (狐) - statue or image of a fox, animal believed to have magical powers and to be a messenger to kami Inari. Inari shrines are always protected by statues of foxes, sometimes wearing red votive bibs.
  • (講) - a lay worship group focusing on a particular kami or sacred location which may perform pilgrimages and other rites.
  • komainu* (狛犬) - stone warden dogs usually present at the entrance of a shrine.
  • kotodama or kototama (言霊) - supernatural power possessed by words capable of influencing matter.

Gallery: I to K


  • magatama* (勾玉 or 曲玉) - a comma shaped jewel often used as a yorishiro.
  • maidono (舞殿) - see kaguraden.
  • massha* (末社) - a synonym of sessha.
  • miko* (巫女, 神子, 巫)
    • A woman who helps kannushi in their work.
    • A woman possessing magic powers and capable of giving oracles (shamanness).
  • mikoshi* (神輿) - a portable shrine.
  • miya (宮) - often defines a shrine enshrining a special kami or a member of the Imperial household, for example an Empress, but can also simply mean shrine.
  • mori (杜) - any place where a kami is present, for example a sacred forest or a shrine.


  • nusa (幣)- See ōnusa.


  • omamori (お守り) - amulets on sale at shrines and temples for particular purposes, for example health or success in business.
  • omikuji* (御御籤 or 御神籤) - oracles written on strips of paper often found at shrines wrapped around tree branches.
  • Ōnusa (大幣) or haraegushi (祓串) - wooden wands used in rituals. Decorated with many shide, they are waved left and right during ceremonies.
  • Ōyashiro (大社) - see Taisha.

Gallery: L to O


  • saisen (賽銭) - offerings from worshipers. The box collecting the offerings is called saisen bako (賽銭箱)(literally saisen box), usually situated near the entrance, or in front of the halls of a shrine, as well as of a Buddhist temple.
  • sakaki (榊) - a flowering evergreen tree native to Japan often used in rituals, for example to make tamagushi.
  • sandō* (参道)- the approach leading from a torii to a shrine. The term is also used sometimes at Buddhist temples too.
  • sanpai sahō (参拝作法)− the way in which the Japanese worship at shrines, bowing twice, clapping twice, then bowing one last time.
  • seisatsu* (制札) - a signboard containing announcements and rules for worshipers.
  • sessha* (摂社)- smaller shrine housing a kami having a strong relationship with that of the honsha. A synonym of massha.
  • shaku (笏)- a flat baton often seen in portraits of noblemen and samurai, but also used by kannushi. Has a purely decorative function.
  • shamusho (社務所)- a shrine's administrative office. It often sells omamori and other goods.
  • shide* (垂, 紙垂, 四手) - a zigzag-shaped paper streamer, often attached to a shimenawa or tamagushi and used in rituals.
  • shimboku* (神木) - a tree considered divine, usually surrounded by a shimenawa.
  • shimenawa* (標縄・注連縄・七五三縄) - lit. "enclosing rope". A length of braided rice straw rope used for ritual purification.
  • shinbutsu bunri (神仏分離) - the forbidding by law of the syncretism of Shinto and Buddhism, and the effort to create a clear division between Shinto and Buddhism on one side, and Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines on the other.
  • shintai (神体) - lit. "divine body". A sacred object, usually a mirror, a jewel, or a sword, which represents the kami for worship.
  • shrine - English word which translates several more specialized Japanese words (see article Shinto shrine). Any structure housing ("enshrining") a kami. See also gongen, hokora, jinja, Jungū, massha, miya, mikoshi, mori, Taisha, yashiro.
  • shinbutsu kakuri (神仏隔離) − the tendency in medieval and early modern Japan to keep particular kami separate from any form or manifestation of Buddhism.
  • shinbutsu shūgō (神仏習合) - syncretism of Buddhism and local religious beliefs, the normal state of things before the shinbutsu bunri.
  • State Shinto (国家神道 Kokka Shintō) - term first used after World War II to broadly classify Shinto ideals, rituals and institutions created by the government to promote the divinity of the emperor and the uniqueness of Japan (kokutai).

Gallery: P to S


  • Taisha (大社) - literally "great shrine", this term is usually part of the official name of a shrine, as for example in Izumo Taisha.
  • taisha-zukuri (大社造) - the oldest style of shrine architecture used for example at Izumo Taisha and thought to resemble that of ancient habitations.
  • tamagaki (玉垣) - The fence delimiting the sacred soil of a shrine.
  • tamagushi* (玉串) - literally "jewel skewer". A form of offering made from a sakaki-tree branch and strips of paper, silk, or cotton.
  • temizuya* (手水舎) - a fountain near the entrance of a shrine or at a Buddhist temple where worshipers can cleanse their hands and mouths before worship.
  • torii* (鳥居)- the iconic Shinto gate at the entrance of a sacred area, usually a shrine.
  • tōrō (灯籠) - a lantern at a shrine or Buddhist temple.


  • yashiro (社)- generic term for shrine, similar to jinja.
  • yorishiro (依り代)- an object capable of attracting kami for a ceremony. Trees, rocks, magatama, gohei, even persons can be a yorishiro.
  • yorimashi (憑坐) - a human yorishiro, in particular a child or woman, used by a faith healer for oracles.

Gallery: T to Z


  1. ^ a b c Smyers (1999:219)


  • Encyclopedia of Shinto, Kokugakuin University, accessed on April 2, 2009
  • Iwanami Kōjien (広辞苑?) Japanese dictionary, 6th Edition (2008), DVD version
  • Japanese Art Net User System Dictionary of Japanese Architectural and Art Historical Terminology accessed on April 2, 2009
  • Smyers, Karen Ann (1999) (in English). The Fox and the Jewel: Shared and Private Meanings in Contemporary Japanese Inari Worship. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0-8248-2102-5. OCLC 231775156. 


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