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Home » 2. Kami (Deities) » Kami in Folk Religion
Ichinokami
[Ichi no kami]
Tutelary kami of the marketplace, believed to protect trade and marketplace order and to bring prosperity. Also known as Ichihime.

No specific kami originally existed as an object of worship (saijin) in the role of marketplace kami, but the concept of a tutelary of the marketplace likely developed with the emergence of the marketplace itself.

The kami most commonly enshrined as marketplace tutelary was Ichikishimahime, one of the central kami enshrined at Itsukushima Jinja, although Kotoshironushi no mikoto and Ōkuninushi no mikoto were also occasionally made to serve this role, and in later times the gods of fortune Ebisu and Daikoku became more common as well.

Objects serving as the physical manifestation (shintai) of the market kami include small wayside shrines and stone pillars engraved with iconographic representations of the kami (see shinzō), although natural round stones were apparently enshrined in earlier times, and many round or egg-shaped stones continue to be found in this role today. Other objects include roofed hexagonal stone pillars and pairs of Yin (female) and Yang (male) stone pillars. The stone objects of worship were sometimes carried in rituals to divine the market price of rice.

The kami's shintai was most commonly enshrined at places indicating boundries, including road intersections, approaches to bridges, and the borders of villages, where such kami were also worshipped as kami of the border (sakai no kami).

Legendary origins of the kami of the marketplace go back to 795, when Fujiwara Fuyutsugu enshrined the kami of the Munakata Shrine (dedicated to Ichikishimahime and two other goddesses) as tutelaries of the eastern market in Kyōto. Subsequently during the late Heian and Kamakura periods, the kami Ebisu gained popularity as an ichi no kami, and a shrine to Ebisu was ritually dedicated (kanjō) at Kamakura's Tsurugaoka Hachimangū in 1253. It was in the same period that the famous shrine Nishinomiya Ebisu was established. The cult of the kami of the marketplace continued to spread from Japan's medieval times. It became customary to enshrine the marketplace kami before establishing a market, and rituals to the kami were observed before the shrine.

With the increasing expansion of commerce, the marketplace deities Ebisu and Daikoku took on roles as more general tutelaries of commerce and good fortune, so that by the late Muromachi period, they had come to be enshrined within individual homes. It is believed that this practice represented a precurser to the popular cults of various deities of commerce seen in the early modern period.

While the worship of various deities for business success and good fortune continues today, the modernization of the economic distribution system has resulted in changes to the market itself, so that the belief in kami specific to the marketplace has rapidly waned, and their physical representations are likewise rarely seen outside of occasional shrines, parks, or the gardens of private residences.

-Suzuki Kentarō
"Establishment of a National Learning Institute for the Dissemination of Research on Shinto and Japanese Culture"
4-10-28 Higashi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-8440, Japan
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