Basic Terms of Shinto

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Supreme priest. At ordinary shrines, the chief priest is called gûji. The daigûji is a special rank found at Ise no Jingû; its holder assists the saishu, participates in religious ceremonies, and supervises the administration of the shrine.

Daijôsai[Glossary: daijosai]

The first Niinamesai performed by a newly crowned Emperor, in which he offers the first fruits to Amaterasu Ômikami and other gods. By performing the Daijôsai, the emperor becomes an emperor in fact as well as in name.

Daikoku[Glossary: daikoku]

[Daikoku] The Indian deity Mahakala. Belief in this deity (united to the native deity Ôkuninushi no kami) became widespread in Japan in the middle ages, together with the belief in the deity Ebisu.

Originally associated with the god of the kitchen, Daikoku later came to be worshiped as the god of fortune. In western Japan, Daikoku is identified with the god of the ricefields (ta no kami) and worshiped as the god of agriculture.


see Jingikan

Dashi[Glossary: dashi]

[Dashi] Festival float. Also called yamaboko, hikiyama, mai-guruma, odori-guruma, yatai, etc. Built in various shapes such as a mountain, shrine, or boat. May be drawn by a vehicle or borne on the shoulders of a group of people. A pole (hoko) may be raised high in the center, and the float may be decorated with dolls and lanterns. Dashi are beautifully decorated and their procession is accompanied by festive music. Originally used to greet a deity at a ceremonial place in ancient times, dashi have been displayed extensively in festivals since the Edo period.


A musical performance originating in rice transplanting ceremonies (see ta-asobi). Sa-otome (rice planting maidens) sang songs as they planted young rice shoots. They were accompanied by the music of flutes, drums, and wooden blocks called sasara. Toward the middle of the Heian period, the residents of Kyoto also came to enjoy this performance, and it was incorporated into shrine festivals. Later, professional musicians called dengaku-hôshi appeared, and the entertainment flourished, but it was later superseded in popularity by sarugaku nô. Well-known performances of dengaku may be seen today at festivals at Asakusa Jinja in Tokyo and at Nachi Jinja in Wakayama Prefecture.


[Dosojin] Gods of roads and borders. Called sai no kami or dôrokujin in some areas, stone representations of these deities are often found at village borders, mountain passes, crossroads, and by bridges. As a deity of borders, the dôsojin is believed to protect not only villages from pestilent spirits coming from outside, but also travelers on the road, and others in "transitional" stages. For this reason, the dôsojin is at times also thought of as a god of children or of easy childbirth.

Dôzokushin[Glossary: dozoku]

The deity of a family group (dôzoku), unified in the consciousness of possessing a common paternal ancestry (a family group actually living together in the same village and having a real genealogical relation). The deity may be the ancestor of the family group or a deity introduced from elsewhere, but in either case the practice seems to be based on the worship of ancestral spirits. The honke or main household (from which the other households have usually branched off) is generally entrusted with the responsibility of carrying out the worship at the festival where the entire kinship group assembles. The assembly to pray for the prosperity of the group also strengthens its solidarity.

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