Basic Terms of Shinto

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Ichi no miya

An old appellation for the representative shrine of a given region. Its origin is not clear. In the latter part of the Heian period, shrine worship by the imperial house came to be limited to the Kinki region (the Home Provinces), and the system of 22 shrines (nijûnisha) was established. In local areas also, the most distinguished shrine was made the ichi no miya or first shrine, and ni no miya and san no miya (second and third shrines), were also designated to facilitate the visits of the local governor. There were often changes in the ranks of these shrines.

Ikutama, Tarutama

see Tama2

Imi[Glossary: imi]

The original meaning of the word imi is avoidance. In Shinto, pollution is a thing to be avoided, and so anything that presents an impediment to religious ceremonies is called imi. The period of mourning is also called imi. Imikotoba are words which are avoided and replaced by other words. Imina originally meant the name of a dead person that was used during the person's lifetime; later it came to mean "real name," and ultimately to mean the name that was given to a person after death.


Taboo words. Certain words abhorred by the deity are avoided during the period of religious rites, and substitute words are used. This practice is mentioned in the Engi shiki, and there are similar taboos among people engaged in hunting, forestry, and fishing.

Inari[Glossary: inari]

A tutelary deity of rice cultivation and the five grains. In the Shinto classics Inari is desiguated as Uka-no-mitama-no-kami. This god is enshrined in the Fushimi Inari Taisha and many other Inari shrines; prayers and thanksgivings concerned with agriculture are offered.


see Tama2

Ise no Jingû[Glossary: ise_no_jingu][Glossary: kotai_jingu_gishiki-cho][Glossary: yamato_hime_no_mikoto_seiki]

[Ise no Jingu] The Grand Shrine of Ise, the largest and most revered shrine in Japan, composed of the Kôtai Jingû (Naikû) and the Toyouke Daijingû (Gekû), plus their respective subordinate shrines. The imperial ancestress Amaterasu Ômikami is enshrined in the Naikû, and the god Toyouke Ômikami in the Gekû. According to legend, the Naikû was founded in the year 5 AD, during the reign of Emperor Suinin (legendary reign 29 BC to 70 AD), and the Gekû in 478, during the reign of Emperor Yûryaku (r. 456-479). The deity of the Naikû, Amaterasu Ômikami, is symbolized by the yata mirror, one of the three imperial regalia (sanshu no shinki). The shikinen sengû, (the custom of rebuilding the shrine every twenty years), was prescribed by Emperor Temmu (r. 673-686) and first carried out by Empress Jitô (r. 686-689). According to legend, Amaterasu Ômikami was enshrined by the princess Toyosuki-irihime no mikoto during the reign of Emperor Sûjin (legendary reign 97 to 30 BC), and moved to a divinely selected spot on the upper reaches of the Isuzu River by Princess Yamatohime no mikoto. Since that time, the shrine has continued to incorporate under its jurisdiction many subsidiary shrines. The Grand Shrine of Ise is the spiritual center of all shrines in the country and the focus of the faith of the Japanese people. It is patronized by the imperial family, and there is extensive historical evidence of the widespread popular devotion to the shrine, such as the spontaneous mass pilgrimages called okagemairi and the widespread enshrinement of taima amulets on family altars.

Ise kô

A confraternity dedicated to the worship of Ise no Jingû. Such confraternities are generally based on a village unit, sponsoring religious meetings several times a year, and sending representative pilgrims chosen from its membership to worship at the shrine.

Ise Shinto

A school of Shinto thought established by priests of the Grand Shrine of Ise (Ise no Jingû) in the medieval period. In its early period, it contained Buddhist elements, and in its later period, Confucianist elements were added. It established a Japanese Shinto theology ranking purity and honesty as the highest virtues and teaching that these virtues should be acquired through a religious experience.

Iwasaka[Glossary: iwasaka]

A place where a deity is worshiped in the open. A spot of unpolluted land is selected and surrounded with stones. This word appears in the Kojiki.

Iwashimizu Matsuri

An annual festival celebrated on September 15 at the Iwashimizu Hachimangû in Kyoto. In ancient times it was called hôjôe, and celebrated on the full moon of the eighth month by releasing living creatures such as birds and fish into the skies and rivers, accompanied by Buddhist rituals. Today this festival still contains Buddhist elements.


A word originally meaning to perform abstinence (saikai) and serve a deity. Today used to mean the holding of ceremonies for the purpose of a blessing or to speak words of congratulations or blessing. Also used in nominal form, o-iwai. O-iwai may be performed with or without religious worship, but prayer for the protection of the gods is generally implied.

Izanagi no mikoto and Izanami no mikoto[Glossary: izanagi][Glossary: izanami][Glossary: oyashimaguni][Glossary: tsukuyomi_no_mikoto]

The first wedded couple in the age of the gods (the seventh generation of deities). They gave birth to the terrestrial regions (Oyashimaguni), mountains, rivers, seas, plants, animals, and men, and became the gods of the earth and of all things on earth. Izanami died giving birth to the God of Fire and became a goddess in the land of Yomi. Izanagi went to visit her there but broke a taboo and was forced to part with her. Having come in contact with pollution, he feared that misfortune would result, and so went to the sea and purified himself. (See misogi.) He is thus regarded as the founder of the practice of harae. The three most important deities born to Izanagi and Izanami are Amaterasu Ômikami, Susanoo no mikoto, and Tsukiyomi no mikoto.

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