Basic Terms of Shinto

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Sometimes several deities are enshrined in the same honden of a shrine. The principal deity is enshrined in the center, and the altars to the left and right are used to enshrine the subordinate deities. These subordinate altars are called aidono, and the deities enshrined upon them are called aidono no kami.

Akaku kiyoki kokoro

see Seimei

Aki matsuri

Autumn Festival, a celebration to thank the gods for an abundant harvest. Many characteristics of the aki matsuri are common to other annual shrine festivals. At the Niinamesai, celebrated on November 23 and 24, for example, the Emperor makes an offering of the first fruits of the year's grain harvest and himself partakes thereof. At the Kannamesai, celebrated at Ise no Jingû, the first fruits are offered to Amaterasu Ômikami on October 15 and 16 at the Gekû (Outer Shrine) and on October 16 and 17 at the Naikû (Inner Shrine).


Evil, not only in the moral sense, but also in the sense of unhappiness, disaster, or inferiority of nature or value. See also tsumi, kegare, hito.

Amaterasu Ômikami[Glossary: amaterasu_omikami][Glossary: ninigi_no_mikoto]

A goddess endowed with the virtue of the sun, also known by the name Ôhirume no muchi. The ancestral deity of the imperial house. The most beloved offspring of Izanagi no mikoto, Amaterasu embodies the unity of Takama no hara, the Plain of High Heaven. According to early myth, Amaterasu showed human beings the way to make food, clothing, and dwellings, and was the source of all peace. Amaterasu Ômikami dispatched her grandson Ninigi no mikoto to the land called Toyoashihara no nakatsukuni to unify that land and to have his descendants establish the imperial house. Ise no Jingû is dedicated to this goddess, and the yata mirror (see sanshu no shinki) which she bestowed is enshrined there. There are many shrines throughout the country dedicated to Amaterasu Ômikami.

Amatsukami, Kunitsukami[Glossary: kunitsukami]

see Ame-tsuchi, Kami

Ame no masuhito

see Hito

Amenominakanushi no kami[Glossary: amenominakanushi_no_kami]

see Musubi

Ame-tsuchi[Glossary: kunitsukami][Glossary: amatsukami]

Heaven and earth. A Shinto myth explains that at the time of the creation, light, pure elements branched off to become heaven (ame), while heavy, turbid elements branched off to become earth (tsuchi). Ame became the home of the amatsukami or gods of heaven, while tsuchi became the home of the kunitsukami or gods of the land. The amatsukami are said to have descended from heaven to pacify and perfect this world.


see Hito

Aoi Matsuri

[Aoi Matsuri] An annual festival celebrated on May 15 at the two Kamo shrines in Kyoto. Said to have originated during the reign of Emperor Kimmei in the seventh century as a festival of prayer for abundant grain harvests. The procession, consisting of ox-drawn carts, horses with golden saddles, and participants in costumes with hollyhock flower (aoi) headdresses, sets out from the Kyoto Palace and makes its way toward the shrines. Considered one of the three largest festivals in Japan.

Araburu kami

Malignant gods who bring affliction to human beings. Although it may seem strange to consider them as kami, in Shinto it is thought possible to soothe and pacify their evil natures by means of matsuri and thus change them into benevolent deities. See also magatsuhi no kami.

Aramitama, Nigimitama

see Tama2


[Asagutsu] A kind of shoe worn by nobles in ancient times, and by Shinto priests during the performance of certain religious ceremonies today. Believed to have originally been constructed of leather, asagutsu have been made of hollowed paulownia wood finished in black lacquer since the Heian period.


Entertainment of the eastern provinces. In ancient times, the inhabitants of the eastern provinces offered music to the Court as a token of their submission, to allay the anxiety that was felt concerning their loyalty. During the reign of Emperor Daigo (r. 897-930), the musical notation for the azuma-asobi was fixed by imperial command. The songs, largely from the Sagami and Suruga regions, are still performed today at the imperial court and in shrines.

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