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Home » 4. Jinja (Shrines) » Shrine Architecture
Gokoku jinja
"Shrines for the protection of the nation," shrines dedicated to the spirits of individuals who died in Japanese wars from the end of the early modern period through World War II. Throughout most of the prewar period these shrines were known as shōkonsha or " spirit-inviting shrines," but all shōkonsha (over one hundred) built since the Meiji period were renamed gokoku jinja in 1939 following a Home Ministry ordinance issued that year. The ordinance divided the shrines into two categories: "specially selected gokoku jinja" designated by the Home Minister, and other gokoku jinja not so designated. The "designated" shrines were in principle limited to one per prefecture, and the enshrined spirits (saijin) were likewise limited to those of people who had resided inside the respective prefecture. Each shrine was staffed by one chief priest and several associate priests. None of the shrines were assigned honorific ranks (shakaku) within the modern shrine ranking system (see kindai shakaku seido), yet the ministerially designated shrines received treatment as de facto "prefectural shrines," while the other, non-designated shrines were considered equivalent to "village shrines." Following Japan's defeat in World War II, the shrines were placed under strict observation by the occupation armies, and many of the shrines changed their titles, though most have today reverted to their original names. Since the war's end, the shrines have been divorced from national administration and have followed the pattern of other shrines, registering themselves as religious juridical persons and becoming independent religious corporations under the umbrella of the Association of Shinto Shrines (Jinja Honchō). In most cases, they have added to their lists of enshrined kami individuals who have died in service to local public organizations. Tokyo's Yasukuni Jinja acted as the central or home shrine for gokoku jinja nationwide.

-Inoue Nobutaka
"Establishment of a National Learning Institute for the Dissemination of Research on Shinto and Japanese Culture"
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