Basic Terms of Shinto

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Ubusuna no kami[Glossary: ubusuna_no_kami]

The tutelary deity of one's birthplace. A newly born child is taken for a first visit to the shrine of this deity, who is believed to protect the person throughout life. People who move to other areas later still return to their native homes to participate in festivals for their ubusuna no kami and consider themselves an ubuko or parishioner of that deity.

Ujigami[Glossary: ujigami]

Ancient ancestral or tutelary deity of a clan or family. Since the middle ages, the ujigami has come to be viewed as the tutelary deity of a geographical area such as a village. In Japan, the history of migration by clans is a complex one, leading to variations in the meaning of ujigami, but ancestor worship continues to be a central characteristic of Shinto that contributes to community solidarity with a spirit close to that of blood kinship.

Ujiko[Glossary: ujiko]

A patron of a shrine living within traditional parish boundaries. While the term originally referred to any member of a clan claiming a common ancestral god or ujigami, the meaning of the word ujigami changed in time from a lineage to a more territorially related concept, and the term ujiko thus also came to refer to anyone who was born and lived in the area under the tutelage of the deity.

Ujiko kai[Glossary: ujiko_sodai]

An organization of ujiko for the purpose of shrine upkeep. Usually joined by all residents of the parish. Governed by election from the membership of a committee and an ujiko sôdai or group of parish representatives.

Umi no kami[Glossary: owatatsumi_no_kami][Glossary: ryujin][Glossary: watatsumi]

God of the sea. The deity ruling the ocean, in fact considered to be three deities called Watatsumi no Kami. In popular belief, the dragon-god (ryûjin) is thought of as god of the sea and is worshiped at a festival around June. Among groups with ocean-related occupations, many taboos are placed on words (see imikotoba) and actions while at sea in an effort to avoid angering the god of the sea.

Utsushiyo[Glossary: utsushiyo]

The actual world inhabited by living human beings. The manifest world in contrast to the hidden world (kakuriyo), heaven (Takama no Hara), the eternal land ((tokoyo,) and the land of the dead (Yomi). Although utsushiyo is considered to have been originally imperfect in comparison with takama no hara, it conforms to the will of Amaterasu Ômikami, and has been purified and consecrated for the worship of the gods. This reflects the basically optimistic Shinto world view.


A world also called iyamau in ancient Japanese. Iya means actions showing respect, etiquette or ceremonial behavior. Originally, iyamau meant to show respect by appropriate formal behavior, but today it means also to hold a mental attitude of respect. It is an attitude toward the gods, nobles, superiors, or superior personalities, and also a necessary attitude or state of mind when dealing on an equal basis with friends and relatives. As a result, the concept is closely related to the Shinto view of man (hito).

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