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Home » 4. Jinja (Shrines) » Shrine Architecture
Originating in ancient times, himorogi refers to a temporarily erected sacred space or "altar" used as a locus of worship. Today, himorogi are represented by the demarcation of a physical area with branches of green bamboo or sakaki at the four corners, between which are strung sacred border ropes (shimenawa). In the center of the area a large branch of sakaki festooned with sacred emblems (hei) is erected as a yorishiro, a physical representation of the presence of the kami and toward which rites of worship are performed. In more elaborate cases, a himorogi may be constructed by placing a rough straw mat upon the ground, then erecting a ceremonial 8-legged stand (hakkyaku an) upon the mat and decorating the stand with a framework upon which are placed sacred border ropes and sacred border emblems. Finally the sakaki branch is erected in the center of this stand as the focus of worship.

Since the Edo period, various attempts have been made to understand the derivation of the word himorogi. Early appearances of the word include the expression "heavenly himorogi" (ama tsu himorogi) in the account of the "descent of the heavenly grandchild" (tenson kōrin) as found in "alternate writing" outlined in Book II of the Nihongi. The word also appears later in the Nihongi in the account of the reign of Emperor Sujin, where it states that a shikataki himorogi (probable meaning: "an altar of firm stones") was erected in the village of Yamato no Kasanui and used for the worship of Amaterasu ōmikami. A passage from the reign of Emperor Suinin relates that of the "divine treasures of Izushi" (Izushi no kandakara) brought by the Korean prince Amenohihoko, one was called a kuma-himorogi (meaning obscure). The Man'yōshū likewise includes phrases such as "though I dedicate an altar on the divine mountain" (kamunabi ni himorogi tatete iwaedomo), making it clear that these expressions refer to temporary altars constructed for worship. During the Aoi Festival at the Kyoto shrine Kamo Wakeikazuchi Jinja, the "sacred seat" (miare dokoro) is represented by a square space surrounded by green branches, in the center of which is placed an evergreen tree, and this structure can likewise be considered one form of the practice in which a kami descends to a space surrounded by such sacred borders. Other practices related to this custom might include the sacred fences (mizugaki and shibagaki) found surrounding shrines, and the fence of branches surrounding a new emperor's enthronement palace (Daijōkyū).

-Sugiyama Shigetsugu
Himorogi (temporarily erected sacred space or "altar")

Shinto Museum of Kokugakuin University

A himorogi erected outside on the precincts of Ōyama Afuri Jinja.

Kanagawa Prefecture, 2007

©Ōsawa Kōji

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