Basic Terms of Shinto

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Ta-asobi[Glossary: katori_jingu]

[Ta-asobi] Field play, a ceremony held around the first full moon of the lunar new year, in which the entire process of rice cultivation is pantomimed as part of the community's prayers for a bountiful harvest. Akazuka Suwa Jinja in Tokyo and Mishima Taisha in Shizuoka Prefecture are particularly well known for this performance.

In Summer, a similar festival celebrates the transplanting of the young rice plants. Izô no Miya in Mie Prefecture, Katori Jingû in Chiba Prefecture, and Sumiyoshi Jinja in Osaka are famous for this festival, called taue no matsuri. In the Chûgoku mountain region, especially Hiroshima and Shimane Prefectures, even ordinary rice planting is done to the accompaniment of drums.


see Jingû taima

Taisai[Glossary: taisai]

Major festivals, celebrated in shrines throughout Japan. Lesser festivals are called chûsai, and minor festivals are called shôsai. At the taisai held at Ise no Jingû and other major shrines, an imperial Messenger (chokushi or kenpeishi) is dispatched from the palace, and special shinsen offerings are presented.

Taisha-zukuri[Glossary: taisha-zukuri][Glossary: izumo_shrine]

[Taisha-zukuri] A style of honden architecture. One example of this ancient style is the honden of Izumo Taisha in Shimane Prefecture.

Takama no Hara[Glossary: takama_no_hara][Glossary: amatsukami]

Plain of High Heaven. In Shinto, ame (heaven) is a lofty, sacred world, the home of the amatsukami or Heavenly Gods. Some scholars have attempted to explain the myth of the descent of the gods from Takama no Hara as an allegory of the migration of peoples and have sought to identify it with a specific geographical location, but it is likely to have referred from the beginning to a higher world in a religious sense. See also ame-tsuchi.

Takamimusubi no kami[Glossary: takamimusubi_no_kami]

see Musubi


see Saikigu


An oracle delivered through a medium (usually a woman or child) possessed by a deity. See also sanja takusen.


A beautiful jewel. A hard, mysterious rock. Tamagaki is the sacred fence surrounding a shrine, while ikutama is a magic jewel that increases life, and tarutama is a magic jewel that increases abundance.

Tama2[Glossary: aramitama][Glossary: nigimitama]

Spirit. Soul. Particularly, a pure, lofty soul. Tama matsuri is a festival held to pray to, give thanks to, and appease the souls of the dead. Ireisai is a ceremony held to console the spirits of the dead. Chinkon, also called tamashizume or mitamashizume, is a ritual conducted to prevent the soul from leaving the body. Aramitama is a spirit empowered to rule with authority. Nigimitama is a spirit empowered to bring union and harmony. Kushimitama is a spirit that causes mysterious transformations. Sakimitama is a spirit that imparts blessings. Together, these are called shikon or the four spirits. In ancient Japanese, the words mono and mi were also used to refer to spirit.

Mono seems to have been used to refer to the spirit of an animal, while mi seems to have been used to refer to objects or bodies viewed as spirits. In modern Japanese, however, mono simply means being or object, and mi means body, fruit, or container.


A fence or wall surrounding shrine buildings or defining the boundaries of shrine precincts. May be made of wood or stone, and is sometimes found in multiple layers. At Ise no Jingû, the fence is fourfold, and the innermost fence is called the mizugaki.

Tamagushi[Glossary: shide]

[Tamagushi] A type of offering presented on the occasion of paying formal worship to a deity. (stringy fibers of a tree, about 30cm. in length) or shide (zig-zag strips of cloth or paper) are attached to a branch of sacred tree. Tamagushi are sometimes distributed to worshipers as amulets.

Tama matsuri

see Tama2

Tamaya[Glossary: mitama]

A Shinto memorial altar enshrining the spirits (mitama) of one's ancestors. Normally, a scroll bearing the names of the ancestors, or a mirror symbolizing their spirits, is placed into a small shrine, which is kept within the mi-tamaya and worshipped on a slightly lower level than the kamidana.

Ta no kami[Glossary: toyoukehime]

[Ta no kami] God of the rice fields and thus one of the most important deities to an agricultural people. Believed to descend from the heavens (or in some cases, from the mountains) in the spring and to leave in the autumn. In ancient times, identified with the deity Uka no mitama or Toyoukehime. See also yama no kami.

Tanritsu jinja

An independently incorporated Shinto shrine not affiliated with the Jinja Honchô, or other small associations of local shrines. The number of such shrines is not large in comparison to the total number of shrines in Japan.

Tatari[Glossary: tatari]

A warning or curse from a god dissatisfied or angered at the words or conduct of a human being. Strange phenomena, mysterious destructive happenings, unhappiness, and sudden death are often regarded as the result of such curses.


Originally a respectful term for a person of court rank. In the middle ages, came to be used in reference to Shinto priests, particularly oshi serving the Ise no Jingû. In some parts of Japan today, Shinto priests are still called tayû-san.


[Temizuya] Use of water to purify hands and mouth before worshiping at a shrine. The structure where these ablutions are performed is called a temizuya.

Tendai Shintô

Also called Sannô Ichijitsu Shintô or Hie Shintô. Said to have been established by Saichô (767-822), the founder of the Tendai sect of Buddhism in Japan, but actually a later development. The Tendai sect has its headquarters on Mt Hiei in Shiga Prefecture, and the god Sannô (Mountain King) said to occupy the mountain, was viewed as a manifestation of Sakyamuni Buddha appeared to spread Buddhism in Japan. Sannô was likewise identified with Amaterasu Ômikami, the supreme goddess of the native Shinto religion. The Tôshôgû at Nikkô is a famous shrine associated with Tendai Shintô.

Tenjin[Glossary: tenjin][Glossary: kitano_tenjin]

Originally meant "Heavenly God," but later came to refer exclusively to the spirit of courtier-scholar Sugawara Michizane (845-903). A victim of political intrigue, Michizane was sent into exile but continued to protest his innocence through poetry until his death. His angry spirit was later judged to be the source of a series of disasters, and so he was posthumously pardoned, given a promotion in court rank, and ultimately deified. He is revered as the patron saint of scholarship at such shrines as the Dazaifu Tenmangû in Fukuoka Prefecture and Kitano Tenjin shrines throughout Japan. See also Tenjin Matsuri.

Tenjin Matsuri[Glossary: kitano_tenjin]

(1) Generally, the festivals of the many Kitano Tenjin shrines located throughout Japan.

(2) Specifically, the annual festival celebrated on July 25 at the Tenmangû in Osaka. This typical summer festival (natsu matsuri) features a procession along the Dojima River, which flows through the city, of a mikoshi on a decorated boat. See also Tenjin.


Heavenly King. As part of the syncretism of Buddhism and Shinto (shinbutsu shûgô), the Shinto deity Susanoo no mikoto came to be identified with Gozu Tennô, an Indian god of pestilence. While such associations were officially abolished in the Meiji period, the word Tennô is still widely used. Revered for his power to cast out all evil, Tennô is worshiped at shrines such as Yasaka Jinja in Kyoto and Tsushima Jinja in Aichi Prefecture. See also Gion, Tennô Matsuri.

Tennô Matsuri

In ancient times, a lively summer festival was held throughout the country in honor of Susanoo no mikoto, also known as Gozu Tennô, to pray for freedom from pestilence and disaster. The Tennô Matsuri or Tsushima matsuri held annually on June 14 and 15 at Tsushima Jinja in Aichi Prefecture is a famous example still celebrated today. See also Tennô.

Tenshin chigi

see Kami


A ceremony of Chinese origin, held around the time of the first full moon of the lunar new year. People form a large procession and stamp the earth as they sing to pacify the spirit of the earth and pray for a plentiful harvest. A tôka festival is still held today at Atsuta Jingû in Nagoya.


Eternal Land, generally conceived as lying across the ocean. Legendary accounts describe tokoyo no kuni as a world blessed with boundless wealth, pleasure, and peace. Those who came from tokoyo no kuni to visit this world were thought to impart special blessings. Seems to have originally been a religious concept of a dwelling place for purified souls of the dead, but the word was also used to refer to actual foreign countries.

Tokushu shinji[Glossary: tokushu_shinji]

Special Shinto ceremonies. Among the numerous ceremonies celebrated at a particular shrine, some have origins unique to the shrine and possess rich local color. Examples include the Miare Matsuri celebrated at Kamo Wakeikazuchi Jinja in Kyoto and the morotabune ceremony held at Miho Jinja in Shimane Prefecture.

Tônin[Glossary: tonin]

see Miyaza

Torii[Glossary: torii]

[Torii] A distinctive arch or gateway erected at the entrance to the sacred precincts of a shrine, separating the inner area from the profane world surrounding it. May also be erected along the avenue of approach.

Tori-mono[Glossary: sakaki]

Articles held in the hand of the main performer in kagura and other religious performances. In the kagura songs there are songs relating to sakaki (sacred tree), mitegura (sacred offerings), tsue (staff), sasa (bamboo-grass), yumi (bow) , tsurugi (sword), hoko (halberd), hisago (gourd), and Kazura (vine). It was thought that the spirit of the deity went into action through the mediumship of these nine articles, and the person who held these articles in his hand possessed the character of a medium for the spirit of the deity.

Tori no Ichi[Glossary: tori_no_ichi]

[Tori no ichi] Rooster Day Market. A festival celebrated at Washi Jinja in the Asakusa section of Tokyo and in various localities. In the Asian zodiac, a cycle of twelve animals is used to count days, months, and years. The tori no ichi festival is held on the two or three "days of the rooster" that fall in the month of November. These days are considered ennichi, and in the shrine, engimono (lucky objects) such as kumade (rakes) and otafuku masks depicting a round-faced woman are sold. The kumade are especially prized by merchants; they are believed to have the power to rake in good fortune.


[Toro] Lanterns. Lanterns have been used in shrines from ancient times. Although there have been changes in the materials, use, and shape of the lanterns with time, the main types are stone lanterns, metal lanterns, and wooden lanterns. Also there are hanging lanterns.

Toshigami[Glossary: toshigami]

God of the year, received into the house and worshiped at New Year's. Accounts of this belief appear as early as such classic works as the Engi shiki. A special altar in the house is set aside for the deity, offerings are presented, and prayers are made for abundant harvests. In some regions, the toshigami is viewed as the god of food or the god of agriculture. The deity may appear in the form of an old man and woman. In some parts of Kagoshima Prefecture, young men disguise themselves as old men with white beards on New Year's Eve and distribute gifts of rice cakes to homes where there are young children.

Toshigoi no Matsuri[Glossary: toshigoi_no_matsuri]

see Haru matsuri


see Miyaza

Toyoashihara no Mizuho no Kuni

Land Where Abundant Rice Shoots Ripen Beautifully, a poetic name for the land of Japan. As opposed to heaven (Takama no Hara), the terrestrial regions are viewed as a world of imperfection, but salvation is promised through the protection and grace of the gods. Such names illustrate the Shinto belief, called kotodama, in the power of words.


Waiting for the moon. A popular religious custom by which believers assemble on set evenings, such as the fifteenth, seventeenth, nineteenth, and twenty-third days of the first, fifth, and ninth months, hold religious ceremonies, present offerings to a deity, and pray. See also himachi.

Tsukinami no matsuri[Glossary: tsukinami_no_matsuri]

A festival celebrated on set days each month (for example, on the first and fifteenth) at a shrine to offer prayers and thanksgiving.


In ordinary usage, essentially the same meaning as the English "sin." In old Shinto, however, sickness, disaster, and error were also called tsumi, which thus formed a most comprehensive concept. In antiquity a distinction was made between amatsu-tsumi (heavenly sins) and kunitsu-tsumi (terrestrial sins). Amatsu-tsumi were those committed by the god Susanoo no mikoto in heaven, and included such destructive acts as harming agriculture. Kunitsu-tsumi included the inflicting of injury or death, immodest actions, killing of domestic animals, using magic, leprosy, the falling of lightning, and damage done by harmful birds. From this list, one notes that the occurence of evil was often understood as being caused by something beyond man's control; evil, including even moral and criminal offenses committed by men, was considered to be caused by evil spirits (magatsuhi no kami) which intruded from the land of Yomi. As a result, salvation from tsumi was considered possible by harae, namely, by purification, the removal of impediments, and the expulsion of the evil spirits. Harae, as the return to a normal condition, was repeated day and night as a premise to divine worship. There is no concept of original sin in Shinto. On the contrary, it is believed that all sin and pollution can be removed by harae. This does not mean, however, that there is no acceptance of responsibility for restitution for sin. The sinner is regarded, not as naturally sinful, but as having been a member of a world of good and happiness; it is believed that by reminding him of this fact, the first step is taken to conquer evil and to restore him to his position as child of the gods. While great historical differences separate the ideas of sin in the ancient and modern periods, the emphasis on harae is a constant religious attitude.


Propriety, a circumspect attitude of careful observance of precepts and rules, especially necessary when serving a deity or noble, or when attending to related matters. The attitude with which saikai and religious ceremonies should be performed. Yamazaki Ansai, the founder of Suiga Shintô, maintained that tsutsushimi was the basic principle of Shinto. The parallel found in the concept of reverence as the basic tenet of Neo-Confucianism provided a common ground for the syncretism of the two ways of thought.

Tsûzoku Shintô[Glossary: kokugaku]

Popular Shinto, a form of Shinto movement which spread among the populace in the eighteenth century, and involved practical religious and ethical education. At the same time kokugaku (National Learning) scholars were reviving an academic form of Shinto focused on the classics, popular Shinto teachers were performing teaching and proselytization activities among the common people, usually basing their teachings on Shinto mixed liberally with Buddhist and Confucian elements. This kind of popular Shinto can be seen, for example, in the movement called Shingaku. See also Kyôha Shintô.

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