Many of Japan’s traditions and ideas are unfamiliar to those outside of Japan. Therefore, JAPAN Forward and Jinja Honcho have collaborated to bring readers an explanation of the key concepts of kami, matsuri, shrines, myths, and many other traditions and beliefs which form the core of Japanese culture.
The “Soul of Japan” series provides an introduction to Shinto, Ise Jingu, and the broader significance of shrines in Japanese life.
Japanese regard the sea, the mountains, the forest, and natural landmarks as places where the kami reside. In ancient times, these were regarded as sacred places, without the need for special buildings, as the kami were believed to exist everywhere.
A practice also arose of decorating evergreen trees in sacred courtyards to which the kami could be summoned in order to perform rituals. Later, dwellings were built for the kami in the forests — structures to be renewed in perpetuity where rituals could be conducted. This is the origin of the shrines, known as jinja.
There are more than 80,000 jinja in Japan today where various kami are enshrined, particularly those who appear in the story of the Divine Age and historical ﬁgures known for their great achievements.
Rituals to pray for the peace, security, and prosperity of the nation and community are conducted at jinja throughout the year. Prayers may also be dedicated at a jinja for the well-being of the local parishioners and the guardian kami of the community.
While these observances are typically handled by members of the Shinto priesthood, individuals will often visit a jinja to participate in the yearly cycle of matsuri. And on commemorative occasions throughout one’s life, they will visit in order to make wishes and offer prayers of appreciation to the kami.
Jinja are sacred places, and are always kept clean and pure. Often surrounded by trees, jinja are infused with the divine energy of nature. They are places to worship, but also places to relax.
Visiting a jinja, we feel physically and spiritually rejuvenated. Jinja are special spaces for us to reﬂect on ourselves and express our gratitude to the kami.
OTHER PARTS OF THE SOUL OF JAPAN SERIES:
- [Soul of Japan] What is Shinto?
- [Soul of Japan] Kami, the Divine Powers of Nature
- [Soul of Japan] Matsuri, the Sacred Rituals of Prayers and Festivities
- [Soul of Japan] The Divine Age of Shinto
- [Soul of Japan] Amano-Iwato, the Celestial Cave
- [Soul of Japan] Ninigi-no-Mikoto, the Kami Who Established A Nation
- [Soul of Japan] Ise Jingu: a Place to Pray for the Imperial Family and the Nation
- [Soul of Japan] The Enshrinement of Amaterasu-Omikami at Jingu
- [Soul of Japan] Imperial Rituals of Matsuri at Jingu
- [Soul of Japan] Shikinen Sengu, the Ritual of Rebuilding and Renewal
- [Soul of Japan] Visiting a Jinja
Source: Jinja Honcho
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