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Home » 4. Jinja (Shrines) » Objects of Worship and Shrine Treasures
Shinboku, Shinju
Literally, "divine tree," a tree regarded as sacred, as the symbol of sacred territory or a place in which the kami dwell. When viewed in this way, the cutting or polluting of such trees is avoided. On the other hand, in some cases the term is used to denote the lumber dedicated for building shrines. During the Heian period, the sacred nature of certain trees was exploited for political ends, as when priests (jinin) of the Kasuga Shrine in Nara carried a sacred sakaki tree when making demands in Kyoto.

Since ancient times certain trees or entire groves within shrine precincts were regarded as sacred, as attested by expressions such as "the cryptomeria revered by the priest (hafuri or hōri) of Miwa," or "the sacred forest (kannabi)" (both expressions found in Man'yōshū), or from the records of Emperor Kōtoku in Nihongi, "he despised the way of the kami by felling the trees at the Ikukunitama Shrine." Sacred trees are seen frequently today, encircled by sacred border ropes (shimenawa) or enclosures. In most cases such trees represent very old or large specimens. In other cases, certain specific trees may be linked in some way to the kami of the shrine, such as the shirushi no sugi at Kyoto's Fushimi Inari Shrine and the Ōmiwa Shrine, or the pines of the shrines Ōharano Jinja, Kitano Tenmangū and Sumiyoshi Taisha, the cryptomeria (nagi) of Kasuga Taisha and Kumano Taisha, the tataegi of the Suwa Taisha, and the "flying plum tree" (tobiume) at Dazaifu Tenmangū See also sakaki .

-Sakurai Haruo
Sacred cryptomeria at Ōmiwa Jinja

Nara Prefecture, 2006

©Tsujimura Shinobu

A shinboku on the grounds of Atsuta Jinja.

Aichi Prefecture, 2005

©Ōsawa Kōji

Kaminoki (shinboku) Benzaiten: A Sacred tree and its attached shrine.

Kyoto Prefecture, 2006

©Ōsawa Kōji

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