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Home - Religion
Shinto Shrines

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Shinto shrines are places of worship and the dwellings of the kami, the Shinto "gods". Sacred objects of worship that represent the kami are stored in the innermost chamber of the shrine where they cannot be seen by anybody.

People visit shrines in order to pay respect to the kami or to pray for good fortune. Shrines are also visited during special events such as New Year, setsubun, shichigosan and other festivals. New born babies are traditionally brought to a shrine a few weeks after birth, and many couples hold their wedding ceremonies there.

The following structures and objects can be typically found at a shrine:

Torii

One or more torii gates mark the approach and entrance to a shrine. They come in various colors and are made of various materials. Most torii, however are made of wood, and many are painted orange and black.

Komainu

Komainu are a pair of guardian dogs or lions, often found on each side of a shrine's entrance. In the case of Inari Shrines, they are foxes (see picture) rather than dogs.

Purification trough

Found near the entrance, the water of these fountains is used for purification. You are supposed to clean your hands and mouth before approaching the main hall. More details

Main and offering hall

Depending on the shrine's architecture style, the main hall (honden) and offering hall (haiden) are two separate buildings or combined into one building. The main hall's innermost chamber contains the shrine's sacred object, while visitors make their prayers and offerings at the offering hall. More details

Stage

Stages for bugaku dance or noh theater performances can be found at some shrines.

Ema

Shrine visitors write their wishes on these wooden plates and then leave them at the shrine in the hope that their wishes come true. Most people wish for good health, success in business, passing entrance exams, love or wealth.

Omikuji

Omikuji are fortune telling paper slips found at many shrines and temples. Randomly drawn, they contain predictions ranging from daikichi ("great good luck") to daikyo ("great bad luck"). By tying the piece of paper around a tree's branch, good fortune will come true or bad fortune can be averted.

Shimenawa

A shimenawa is a straw rope with white zigzag paper strips (shide). It marks the boundary to something sacred and can be found on torii gates, around sacred trees and stones, etc. A rope similar to the shimenawa is also worn by yokozuna, the highest ranked sumo wrestlers, during ritual ceremonies.

There can be a variety of additional buildings such as the priest's house and office, a storehouse for mikoshi and other auxiliary buildings. Cemeteries, on the other hand, are almost never found at shrines, because death is considered a cause of impurity in Shinto, and in Japan is dealt with mostly by Buddhism.

The architecture and features of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples have melted together over the centuries. There are several construction styles, most of which show (Buddhist) influences from the Asian mainland. Only a few of today's shrines are considered to be built in a purely Japanese style. Among them are Shinto's most important shrines, the Ise Shrines.

There are tens of thousands of shrines across Japan, some of which can be categorized into a few major groups of shrines. Some of these groups are:

  • Imperial Shrines
    These are the shrines which were directly funded and administered by the government during the era of State Shinto. They include many of Shinto's most important shrines such as the Ise Shrines, Izumo Shrine and Atsuta Shrine, and a number of shrines newly built during the Meiji Period, such as Tokyo's Meiji Shrine and Kyoto's Heian Shrine. Imperial shrines can be recognized by the imperial family's chrysanthemum crest and by the fact that they are often called "jingu" rather than "jinja".

  • Inari Shrines
    Inari Shrines are dedicated to Inari, the kami of rice. They can be recognized by fox statues, as the fox is considered the messenger of Inari. There are thousands of Inari Shrines across Japan, among which Kyoto's Fushimi Inari Shrine is most famous.

  • Hachiman Shrines
    Hachiman Shrines are dedicated to Hachiman, the kami of war, which used to be particularly popular among the leading military clans of the past. Of Japan's thousands of Hachiman Shrines, the most famous is probably Kamakura's Tsurugaoka Hachimangu.

  • Tenjin Shrines
    Tenjin Shrines are dedicated to the kami of Sugawara Michizane, a Heian Period scholar and politician. They are particularly popular among students preparing for entrance exams. Tenjin Shrines can be recognized by ox statues and plum trees, Michizane's favorite trees. The first and most famous Tenjin Shrine is Dazaifu Tenmangu near Fukuoka.

  • Sengen Shrines
    Sengen Shrines are dedicated to Princess Konohanasakuya, the Shinto deity of Mount Fuji. More than one thousand Sengen Shrines exist across Japan, with the head shrines standing at the foot and the summit of Mount Fuji itself.

  • Shrines dedicated to the founders of powerful clans
    Some powerful clans in Japanese history established and dedicated shrines to the their clans' founders. The most famous example are the several dozens of Toshogu Shrines dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, including the famous Toshogu Shrine at Nikko. Another example is Kanazawa's Oyama Shrine which is dedicated to Maeda Toshiie, the founder of the powerful, local Maeda clan.

  • Local Shrines
    Many shrines are dedicated to local kami without association to other shrines.

Any Questions? Ask them in our question forum.

List of Famous Shrines
Dewa Sanzan
 1  Yudono-san
The most sacred of the three Dewa Sanzan.
User rating: 92/100 (15 votes)
Visited by: 34 users
 2  Gas-san
The highest of the three Dewa Sanzan.
User rating: 86/100 (16 votes)
Visited by: 40 users
 3  Haguro-san
Easiest accessible of the three Dewa Sanzan.
User rating: 87/100 (27 votes)
Visited by: 56 users
Sanriku Coast
 1  Shiogama Shrine
One of the region's most important shrines.
User rating: insufficient data
Visited by: 4 users
  
Sendai
 1  Osaki Hachimangu
Beautiful family shrine of the Date clan.
User rating: 71/100 (44 votes)
Visited by: 108 users
  
Nikko
 1  Toshogu Shrine
Lavish mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu.
User rating: 91/100 (694 votes)
Visited by: 1307 users
 2  Futarasan Shrine
Dedicated to Nikko's sacred mountains.
User rating: 85/100 (414 votes)
Visited by: 767 users
 
Narita
 1  Katori Shrine
Popular head shrine of Katori shrines nationwide.
User rating: 72/100 (29 votes)
Visited by: 70 users
  
Saitama
 1  Hikawa Shrine
Important shrine in the Greater Tokyo region.
User rating: 71/100 (17 votes)
Visited by: 39 users
  
Tokyo
 1  Meiji Shrine
Dedicated to the deity of Emperor Meiji.
User rating: 86/100 (1808 votes)
Visited by: 3306 users
 2  Yasukuni Shrine
Dedicated to the deities of Japan's war dead.
User rating: 78/100 (524 votes)
Visited by: 1086 users
 
Kamakura
 1  Hachimangu Shrine
Kamakura's most important Shinto shrine.
User rating: 84/100 (575 votes)
Visited by: 1182 users
 2  Zeniarai Benten
Shrine where visitors wash their money.
User rating: 79/100 (202 votes)
Visited by: 460 users
 
Fuji Five Lakes
 1  Sengen Shrine
Important shrine at the foot of Mount Fuji.
User rating: 76/100 (59 votes)
Visited by: 161 users
 2  Chureito Pagoda
Pagoda with Mount Fuji in the background.
User rating: 81/100 (25 votes)
Visited by: 42 users
 
Fujinomiya
 1  Sengen Shrine
Most important shrine dedicated to Mount Fuji.
User rating: insufficient data
Visited by: 15 users
  
Hakone
 1  Hakone Shrine
Hakone's most famous Shinto shrine.
User rating: 79/100 (245 votes)
Visited by: 527 users
  
Shizuoka
 1  Kunozan Toshogu
Ieyasu's second most important mausoleum.
User rating: 81/100 (14 votes)
Visited by: 37 users
  
Nagano
 1  Togakushi Shrine
Three popular shrines in the mountains.
User rating: 92/100 (17 votes)
Visited by: 41 users
  
Noto Peninsula
 1  Keta Taisha Shrine
Popular shrine dedicated to the deity of love.
User rating: 89/100 (9 votes)
Visited by: 25 users
  
Kanazawa
 1  Oyama Shrine
Shrine dedicated to the former local lord.
User rating: 72/100 (105 votes)
Visited by: 201 users
  
Nagoya
 1  Atsuta Shrine
One of Shinto's most important shrines.
User rating: 77/100 (200 votes)
Visited by: 425 users
  
Ise
 1  Ise Shrines
Japan's most sacred shrines.
User rating: 89/100 (304 votes)
Visited by: 632 users
  
Kyoto
 1  Fushimi Inari Shrine
The ultimate torii gate experience.
User rating: 95/100 (1065 votes)
Visited by: 1813 users
 2  Heian Shrine
Modeled after the ancient Imperial Palace.
User rating: 81/100 (781 votes)
Visited by: 1547 users
 3  Kamo Shrines
Two of Kyoto's most important shrines.
User rating: 80/100 (221 votes)
Visited by: 496 users
 4  Kitano Tenmangu
Popular shrine hosting a monthly flee market.
User rating: 79/100 (246 votes)
Visited by: 612 users
 5  Yasaka Shrine
Popular shrine hosting the Gion Festival.
User rating: 77/100 (581 votes)
Visited by: 1177 users
 
Uji
 1  Ujigami Shrine
Has one of Japan's oldest shrine buildings.
User rating: 75/100 (20 votes)
Visited by: 34 users
  
Amanohashidate
 1  Kono Shrine
Shrine with an interesting connection to Ise.
User rating: 75/100 (8 votes)
Visited by: 13 users
  
Osaka
 1  Sumiyoshi Taisha
Head shrine of all Sumiyoshi Shrines.
User rating: 79/100 (152 votes)
Visited by: 332 users
 2  Tenmangu Shrine
Shrine with a very long, adjacent shopping arcade.
User rating: 77/100 (47 votes)
Visited by: 120 users
 
Nara
 1  Kasuga Taisha
Nara's most celebrated Shinto shrine.
User rating: 85/100 (522 votes)
Visited by: 978 users
  
Asuka
 1  Tanzan Shrine
Mountain shrine famous for autumn colors.
User rating: 80/100 (14 votes)
Visited by: 35 users
 2  Kashihara Shrine
Shrine dedicated to Japan's first emperor.
User rating: 74/100 (27 votes)
Visited by: 65 users
 
Yoshino
 1  Yoshimizu Shrine
Temporary quarters of Emperor Go-Daigo.
User rating: 83/100 (27 votes)
Visited by: 55 users
 2  Mikumari Shrine
Shrine with an unusual architecture.
User rating: 80/100 (21 votes)
Visited by: 40 users
 
Kumano
 1  Nachi Taisha
One of the three Kumano shrines.
User rating: 90/100 (46 votes)
Visited by: 97 users
 2  Hongu Taisha
One of the three Kumano shrines.
User rating: 85/100 (34 votes)
Visited by: 68 users
 3  Hayatama Taisha
One of the three Kumano shrines.
User rating: 78/100 (22 votes)
Visited by: 48 users
Miyajima
 1  Itsukushima Shrine
Famous shrine with floating torii gate.
User rating: 94/100 (878 votes)
Visited by: 1554 users
  
Izumo
 1  Izumo Taisha
Japan's second most important shrine.
User rating: 91/100 (105 votes)
Visited by: 223 users
  
Tsuwano
 1  Inari Shrine
Nicely situated shrine with torii covered approach.
User rating: 91/100 (7 votes)
Visited by: 17 users
  
Hagi
 1  Shoin Shrine
Dedicated to the local hero Yoshida Shoin.
User rating: insufficient data
Visited by: 12 users
  
Yamaguchi
 1  Yamaguchi Daijingu
A small version of the Ise Shrines.
User rating: 81/100 (25 votes)
Visited by: 43 users
  
Kotohira
 1  Kompirasan
Shikoku's most popular shrine.
User rating: 83/100 (91 votes)
Visited by: 203 users
  
Uwajima
 1  Taga Shrine
Fertility shrine with attached sex museum.
User rating: insufficient data
Visited by: 4 users
  
Dazaifu
 1  Tenmangu Shrine
Dedicated to a Heian period scholar and politician.
User rating: 81/100 (184 votes)
Visited by: 415 users
  
Kunisaki Peninsula
 1  Usa Shrine
Important shrine dedicated to Hachiman.
User rating: insufficient data
Visited by: 10 users
  
Aso
 1  Aso Shrine
Ancient shrine in the caldera of Mount Aso.
User rating: 75/100 (33 votes)
Visited by: 85 users
  
Kirishima
 1  Kirishima Shrine
Devoted to Ninigi no Mikoto.
User rating: 78/100 (32 votes)
Visited by: 72 users
  
Takachiho
 1  Amano Iwato Shrine
Cave where the sun goddess hid herself.
User rating: 85/100 (31 votes)
Visited by: 70 users
 2  Takachiho Shrine
Site of nightly yokagura dance performances.
User rating: 78/100 (40 votes)
Visited by: 84 users
 
Miyazaki
 1  Miyazaki Shrine
Shrine with large park in the city center.
User rating: 75/100 (31 votes)
Visited by: 75 users
  
Nichinan
 1  Udo Shrine
Shrine constructed in a cliff side cave.
User rating: 75/100 (22 votes)
Visited by: 56 users
  

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English Links
Shinto Online Network Association
General information.
Jinja Honcho
Official website of the Association of Shinto Shrines.

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