Encyclopedia of Shinto Kokugakuin University
 main menu
  »New EOS site



  »Guide to Usage

  »Contributors & Translators


  »Movies List

Home » 4. Jinja (Shrines) » Objects of Worship and Shrine Treasures
A household Shinto altar, a facility for the conduct of domestic rites within a home, in which amulets of the kami, an "apportioned spirit" (bunrei) of the kami, and similar items may be enshrined. The place chosen for installation of the kamidana should be clean, well-lighted, and quiet, in a location convenient for worship and placement of offerings; an orientation facing the east or south is generally considered desirable. While kamidana have today become important sites for daily devotion to the kami, the institution of the kamidana itself is not particularly old. Toward the end of the Heian period, rites for ancestral spirits (sorei) were entrusted to Buddhism, and it became customary to enshrine ancestral tablets (ihai) in Buddhist altars (butsudan). At the same time a move to conduct ritual by household units arose. From the medieval period, the spread of the Ise cult led to the custom of installing kamidana for the enshrinement of kami that had been "dedicated" (kanjō) from another locale. In the Edo period, priests called oshi promoted the broader spread of the Ise cult to the populace, and it became customary to construct special Ise altars (Daijingūtana) to enshrine an amulet (taima or ofuda) from the Grand Shrines (Jingū). The institution of kamidana thus spread to individual households from around the mid-Edo period. In addition to the kamidana used within Shrine Shinto (Jinja Shintō), other kamidana may be found with specific names and varying locations in accordance with the kami enshrined, including Ebisu-dana, Kōjin-dana, Toshitoku-dana, and Kadogami-dana. Kamidana may also be found dedicated to tutelaries of craftsmen with special artisan skills, or to other tutelaries of specific trades. Others are worshipped for success in business and for good fortune.

-Okada Yoshiyuki

Saitama Prefecture, 2007

©Ōsawa Kōji

"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
URL http://21coe.kokugakuin.ac.jp/
Copyright ©2002-2006 Kokugakuin University. All rights reserved.
Ver. 1.3