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Home » 4. Jinja (Shrines) » Shrine Architecture
Sessha, Massha
Categories of shrine ranking. At present, sessha and massha are not explicitly defined by official regulations, but the terms are widely used as general referents for shrines of smaller scale that exist as auxiliaries under the management of a larger main shrine. In most cases, the auxiliaries are related in some way to to object of worship (saijin) of the main shrine, or represent a local land tutelary (jinushigami) or other shrine with close ties to the main shrine. A distinction is sometimes made between those existing within the precincts (keidaichi) of the main shrine (keidai sessha, keidai jinja or keidaisha), and those possessing their own independent grounds outside the main shrine (keidaigai sessha). Under the Meiji-period system of shrine rankings, auxiliaries of nationally endowed shrines (kankokuheisha) were selected based on the following five conditions: (1) a shrine dedicated to the "spouse deity," "child deity" (mikogami) or other relation of the main shrine's deity; (2) a shrine preexisting the appearance or arrival of the main shrine's deity at the place; (3) a shrine devoted to the "rough spirit" (aramitama) of the main shrine's object of worship; (4) a shrine devoted to the "landlord tutelary deity" (jinushigami) of the main shrine; and (5) other shrines of particularly relevant lineage. A shrine meeting one of these conditions was designated a sessha ("auxiliary shrine"), while any others were called massha ("branch shrines"). In the case of the Grand Shrines of Ise, those nationally endowed shrines listed in the Engishiki Jinmyōchō were considered sessha, while those listed in the Enryaku gishikichō were considered massha.

-Mori Mizue
Kitano Tenmangū sessha

Kyoto Prefecture, 2004

©Fujii Hiroaki

Mitsui-sha in Kamomioya Shrine

Kyoto Prefecture, 2006

©Tsujimura Shinobu

The branch shrines within the shrine grounds of Matsunoo Taisha. They include Koromodesha, Ikkyosha, Kotohirasha, and Soreisha. The roof of the main shrine building can be seen in the background.

Kyoto, 2006

©Ōsawa Kōji

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