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Home » 4. Jinja (Shrines) » Objects of Worship and Shrine Treasures
Mitamaya
A place or facility for enshrining the spirits of ancestors or noble persons; also called otamaya or reibyō. Ancient domestic rites were observed with the fourth- (or second-) month ritual of kinensai (spring festival), and the eleventh-month harvest festival of niinamesai, at which times ancestral tutelaries (ujigami or yakatsukami) were feted together with the deity of foodstuffs Ukanomitama and the hearth deity known as kamadogami. One theory proposed for this overlapping system of worship is based on the assumed ancient understanding that the spirits of ancestral deities (sojin) were originally the spirits received from the rice grain.

  From the Heian period, however, the cult of vengeful spirits (onryō) arose, and the popularity of the Pure Land cult and the overall social unease of the times contributed to the spread of ceremonies performed for the repose of the dead. This led to a decline in the earlier spring and fall ujigami rituals, and in their place, it became customary to invite the spirits of the dead to return in the first month and for the urabon-e (or obon) festivals held on the fifteenth day of the seventh month.

  In the medieval period the practice arose of enshrining the spirits of dead individuals, as seen in the example of memorial tablets for Emperor Gotoba, and the early modern period saw an increase in the practice of holding so-called "Shinto funerals" (shinsōsai), in which individual humans were treated as kami. Under the Yoshida house of ritualists, such posthumous kami were conferred spirit ranks such as Myōjin-gō, Reisha, and Reijin-gō, and they were sometimes also worshipped at shrines.

  With the spread of National Learning (Kokugaku), it became more common to enshrine the spirits of ancestors or sorei within ordinary homes, and the location where such ancestral spirits were enshrined was called a soreisha or mitamaya. According to Shinto custom, the mitamaya is independent from the household Shinto altar (kamidana) and located on a slightly lower level.

  
-Okada Yoshiyuki
"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/
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Ver. β1.3