Basic Terms of Shinto

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A style of shrine architecture represented by the honden of the two Kamo shrines of Kyoto. The most widespread style today, it is thought to be a development of the Nara period under the influence of Continental culture.


A priestess belonging to the Board of Ceremonies in the Imperial Household Agency (Kunaichô). Naishôten attend exclusively to religious ceremonies in the shrines of the imperial palace.

Nakatomi no harae[Glossary: nakatomi_no_muraji]

see Harae

Naobi no kami[Glossary: naobi_no_kami]

Deities who restore conditions to normal. They remove all sin, pollution, and disaster to bring back the pure, bright, correct, and straightforward world of the gods. Ô-naobi-no-kami means "Great Naobi God." Kan-naobi-no-kami means "Sacred Naobi God."

Naorai[Glossary: naorai]

see Matsuri

Natsu matsuri[Glossary: natsu_matsuri][Glossary: kitano_tenjin]

Summer festival. Summer is the season when pestilences, insect damage to crops, and unexpected disasters such as storms and floods are most likely to occur; summer festivals characteristically are held to pray for protection against such calamities. Major summer festivals in Japan include those of Yasaka Jinja (Gion Matsuri), Kitano Jinja, and Iwashimizu Hachimangû.

Negi[Glossary: negi]

see Shinshoku

Nenchû gyoji[Glossary: nenchu_gyoji]

[Nenchu gyoji] The cycle of annual events traditionally observed by a family, a village, or on a national scale. Includes observances such as New Year's celebrations, the Doll Festival on March 3, Children's Day on May 5, tanabata, bon matsuri, moon-viewing on the 15th of the eighth lunar month, and shichi-go-san.

Ne no kuni[Glossary: ne_no_kuni]

Also called ne no kuni soko no kuni. The subterranean world. Often thought to be the same as Yomi.


see Nihon shoki

Nihon shoki[Glossary: nihon_shoki]

The Chronicles of Japan, a classical Japanese history written in Chinese. Compiled at the imperial court in 720 under the influence of continental culture, it indicates the development of a national consciousness. Thirty volumes of historical narratives cover the time from the age of the gods through the reign of Empress Jitô (r. 690-697). The first half of the work contains many myths and legends, while the latter half is more historically reliable. Together with the Kojiki, it is an important source for Shinto theology.

Niinamesai[Glossary: niinamesai]

see Aki matsuri

Ningen-shin[Glossary: nigimitama][Glossary: yasukuni_jinja]

Human kami. Of the numerous kami worshiped in Shinto, many are the spirits of human beings worshiped as kami. For example, the spirit of Sugawara Michizane is worshiped as Tenjin, the spirit of Tokugawa Ieyasu is worshiped as Tôshôgu, and the spirits of the war dead are worshiped as gods at Yasukuni Jinja. It should be noted that it is not the individual but rather that person's spirit (tama) that is revered and worshiped as a kami.


Dance of the ninjô, the conductor of the kagura orchestra. During the Heian period, the Konoe-toneri (head of the imperial guard) performed this function. As the master of ceremonies, the ninjô plays an important role in kagura, in the burning of the niwabi fire, tuning of instruments, and assembling of musicians. As he dances, the ninjô holds in his hand a branch of sacred evergreen to which is attached a ring called a wamuchi.

Norito[Glossary: norito]

Words addressed to a deity or deities in an ancient style of Japanese. The chief priest recites the norito (a general term including norito, yogoto, and iwaigoto) on behalf of the faithful. It was believed that beautiful, correct words brought about good, and that words of the opposite sort caused evil. This attitude stems from a belief in kotodama, a spiritual power residing in words. The style of expression is typified by the norito recorded in the Engi shiki, the book of court procedures compiled in the tenth century. Norito include words of praise for the gods, lists of offerings, words identifying the persons originating and pronouncing the prayer, and the subject of the prayer; but they contain no didactic elements. With the establishment of state Shinto (see Kokka Shintô) in the Meiji period, shrine norito were standardized by the government, but these restrictions were removed after World War II.

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