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Home » 6. Belief and Practice » Associations and Organizations
This term indicates a group of people holding similar beliefs, but as in the manner of a mutual financing business or loan association, the group is also diverted toward economic goals. The origin of lies in the name of Heian period Buddhist text reading and study (kōdoku) conducted by groups of monks. Later, due to a process of infiltration of this practice into the populace, it became common to attach this name of to various ordinary groups of religious believers. As groups of believers, can be divided into those which arose naturally out of local societies and those which relied on an introduction from outside. In particular, the former group includes mountain kami, rice paddy kami, water kami, land kami, ocean kami, dedicated to the sun (nittai kō), dedicated to the moon (gettai kō), and those other kinds of based on beliefs in nature or in spirits. Or also, there are the ujigami, ubusuna, chinju Shinto type of worship groups. These types of , particularly the mountain kami and the rice paddy kami, take popular small shrines as their objects of worship and are conducted by traditional and native worship groups which have local residents at their centers. Opposed to that, the ujigami and the like take a high ranking shrine as its object of worship and its area of organization expands beyond the village and is operated by professional functionaries, and in many cases, the ujiko carry out only a secondary role. The visitation concerned with mountain beliefs are representative examples of that are introduced from the outside. When beliefs related to holy mountains began to spread in all directions due to the activity of mountain ascetics (shugenja), large numbers of visitation , worshipping at Dewa Sanzan, Daisen, Fuji Sengen, Ontake, Kumano Sanzan, Kotohira (Konpira), and Kirishima to name a few localities, were formed all over the country. Also, visitation for famous shrines and Buddhist temples, the Grands Shrines of Ise (Ise Jingū) first among them, were also formed in various places. As for the forms of the , there's the 'everyone visits' where all the members of the group make a visit, and there is the "proxy visit" where a representative is selected to represent several members and that proxy makes the visit. For visits to remote areas, in most cases, the took the latter form.

— Iwai Hiroshi
An example of group worship conducted by members of a . Every year on July 27, a yamabiraki is performed at Ōyama Afuri Jinja. The members of the Ohana Kō located in Tokyo's Nihonbashi neighborhood take part in the observance on this day as a group. The path leading up to the mound Ōyama is symbolically opened up by members of the Ohana Kō with a key. This practice has continued since the Edo period.

Kanagawa Prefecture, 2007

©Ōsawa Kōji

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