Basic Terms of Shinto

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Hachiman[Glossary: hachiman][Glossary: ojin_tenno]

Generally refers to the deified Emperor Ôjin together with his mother Empress Jingû and his wife Himegami. They were first enshrined in the Usa Hachimangû in Oita Prefecture and later in many Hachiman shrines throughout Japan. Historically worshiped by the military class as a god of war, Hachiman is now the object of deep devotion for many people in Japan.

Haiden[Glossary: haiden]

Oratory or Hall of Worship. See Jinja.


In Shinto, the formal manner of paying worship to a deity. Advancing in front of the deity, one first bows deeply twice, then claps the hands twice, and then makes another deep bow. It is customary to offer a tamagushi when performing hairei.


[Hakama] Part of a Shinto priest's formal costume. The three colors worn today - purple with insignia, purple, and light blue - indicate rank.


Refers to the three deities Izanagi no mikoto, Izanami no mikoto, and Kukurihime no kami, the goddess who arbitrated between Izanagi and Izanami when they quarreled at Yomotsuhirasaka.

These three deities are enshrined in the Shirayamahime Shrine in Ishikawa Prefecture and in its branch shrines, (called Hakusan shrines), located throughout Japan. Devotion to the Shirayamahime Shrine originates in mountain worship. Hakusan is the most famous mountain in the Hokuriku region.


see Kashiwade

Harae[Glossary: harai,_harae][Glossary: nagoshi_no_harae]

Shinto purification ceremonies. Prayers are offered for the removal of all sin, pollution, and misfortune. The body and mind are purified and restored to a condition worthy of approaching the gods. The traditional pronunciation is harae, but today the word is usually pronounced harai. The origin of harae is described in the Kojiki myth of the god Izanagi no mikoto, who is said to have washed in order to remove pollution after visiting the land of the dead (yomi). Harae is performed at the beginning of all religious ceremonies and whenever a specific need arises. In ancient times, two types of harae, called yoshi-harae and ashi-harae (literally, purification of good and purification of evil), seem to have been performed, but the meaning of the two terms is not clear. The Ôharae is a major ceremony performed twice a year nationwide and also on other contingent occasions when deemed necessary. In Shinto, not only are the sins, pollutions, and misfortunes of the individual removed, but also evil and misfortune can be removed from a whole nation, life renewed, and the blessings of the gods brought down. The norito used at the Ôharae is called Ôbarae no kotoba. It was the duty of the Nakatomi clan to recite it, and so it is also called by the name Nakatomi no harae. Ôharae today is performed on the last days of June and December of each year.

Harae is one of the most important ceremonies in Shinto, and various forms have developed, such as nagoshi no harae (purification performed on the last day of the sixth month by the lunar calendar, and marking the middle of the year), and minohi no harae (purification performed on days of the snake in the third month of the lunar calendar). There is also a common practice of reciting alone or in unison, with slight changes, the Ôbarae no kotoba, which is regarded as a sacred liturgy. Shubatsu is a harae ceremony performed by priests before a ceremony or religious rite; the ceremony of temizu (purification of hands and mouth - also see misogi) is performed, the norito for harae is recited, and a wand called a haraigushi is waved.


A building provided in shrines to purify the body and minds of priests and participants before the performance of a religious ceremony. In some shrines there is no separate building, and a certain place is set aside for the purpose.


see Harae

Haraigushi[Glossary: sakaki]

[Haraigushi] A ritual implement used in harae. Linen or paper streamers are attached to a wooden stick, which is waved to the left, right, and left. Other implements used in harae include the ônusa, a branch of the sacred sakaki tree or other evergreen to which linen or paper streamers are attached, and the konusa, a smaller version used for self-purification by the individual.

Haru matsuri

Spring Festival. Spring and autumn are frequently chosen as seasons for religious festivals. Because life is sustained by agriculture, it is considered to be a matter of greatest importance to pray to the gods for an abundant harvest. Toshigoi no Matsuri is a famous festival held in the spring to pray for a good harvest.


see Saikigu


First fruits. On the occasion of thanksgiving to the deities for the autumn rice harvest, the best of the first rice shoots are removed and presented as an offering. Hatsuho has by extension come to mean any offering presented to a deity.


The first visit paid by a newborn child to its tutelary deity. The child is generally taken to the shrine by its mother or a female relative, on the 32nd day after the birth of a boy, and the 33rd day after the birth of a girl. This ceremony establishes the child as one of the shrine parishioners, and is the first of the ceremonies of initiation.

Hatsumode[Glossary: hatsumode]

Initial visit to a shrine at the first of the year to pray for happiness and divine protection during the coming year. Believed to be an ancient custom influenced by the medieval practice of ehômairi or visit to a shrine standing in an auspicious direction.


Hall of Offerings. See Jinja.

Heihaku[Glossary: heihaku][Glossary: heisoku]

[Heihaku] Paper or cloth strips attached to a stick and offered to a deity. Believed to have originally been a method of presenting offerings of cloth. Developments in the manufacture of paper and the influence of yin-yang philosophy led to variations in style. In some cases, heihaku have also been viewed as the shintai of a deity. See also hôbei.


Waiting for the sun. A popular religious custom in which a company of believers assembles at a member's home on set days, such as the 15th of the first, fifth, and ninth months of the lunar calendar, to hold a religious ceremony, spend the night in fellowship, and worship the rising sun. See also tsukimachi.

Hi matsuri[Glossary: ko_shogatsu]

A festival centering around fire. Most, like the dondoyaki (a bonfire in which the New Year's gateway decorations are burned) of Little New Year's (koshôgatsu) or the o-hitaki (fire-burning) of the mid-winter festival (tôji), are held to pray for the restoration of the power of the sun. Some, such as the Hi Matsuri held at Yoshida-machi at the foot of Mount Fuji, or the Shôreisai held at Dewa Shrine in Yamagata Prefecture, possess the significance of divining the good or ill fortune of the coming year. The significance of fire in religious ceremonies is great. It is considered to be sacred, to have the power to destroy evil, and is used as a sign of the descent of a deity.

Himorogi[Glossary: himorogi][Glossary: shide][Glossary: sakaki]

[Himorogi] A type of shintai, believed to be the primitive form of the Shinto shrine. A plot of unpolluted land is chosen, and a sacred seat erected, surrounded by evergreens. Today it has been abbreviated to an area of a purified floor, where straw mats are spread out and eight-legged tables (hassokuan) are set up; in the center a branch of the sacred sakaki tree is set erected and (stringy fibers of a tree, about a foot in length) and shide (zig-zag strips of paper) are strung on it.

Hi no kami

God of fire. Fire itself is not worshiped in Japan, but various deities in charge of fire are worshiped. Hi no kami is identified with the deity Homusubi no kami, but fire-quelling deities such as kôjin are also popularly worshiped, largely centering on the hearth or stove. Whenever a cause for pollution occurs, the ashes of the hearth or stove are changed.


The fan held by aristocrats of the Heian period when formally dressed. Made by tying together thin stripes of hinoki (Japanese cypress) with thread. The number of strips of wood differed according to the person's rank. Held today by Shinto priests in formal costume. The hiôgi held by a priestess, called an akomeôgi, is brightly painted. [Hiogi] [Akomeogi]

Hirata Atsutane (1776-1843)[Glossary: hirata_atsutane][Glossary: motoori_norinaga][Glossary: kojiki-den]

A follower of Motoori Norinaga who put Norinaga's scholarship into actual practice and contributed to the revival of Shinto. He wrote with extensive knowledge not only about the Japanese classics but also studied and criticized Buddhism, Confucianism, and Christianity. Of all the scholars of the Fukko Shinto school, Hirata left the richest and most varied writings.


Human being. In ancient vocabulary, human beings are called aohitogusa (green-human-grass), a word of blessing comparing the human race to thriving green grass. Humans are also called ame no masuhito, which means "sacred human beings increasing infinitely." In other words, under the blessings of the gods, human beings are to prosper in happiness. These words illustrate the belief that one should feel happiness and gratitude for one's divine ancestors, sacred soul, sacred body, and sacred mission to cooperate in building the ideal world of the gods.

[Ho] The outer garment worn over sokutai, ikan, and saifuku. In ancient times, its color - purple, red, green, light blue, or yellow - indicated the wearer's court rank. Today the colors are black, red, and light blue.

Hôbei[Glossary: kampei_taisha]

The presentation of heihaku or offerings to be used by a deity. Heihaku literally means cloth, but as a general term also includes clothing, paper, jewels, weapons, and utensils. In the past, because offerings were presented by the imperial court and the local provincial governors, certain shrines were called kampeisha (shrines receiving offerings from the Bureau of Divinities [Jingikan]), or kokuheisha (shrine receiving offerings from the local government). Today offerings are customarily presented by the Jinja Honchô.

Hokora[Glossary: hokora]

An extremely small shrine. Originally, hokora meant beautiful storehouse and was used to refer to sacred storehouses and shrine buildings. Today, however, it usually refers to small wayside shrines.

Honden[Glossary: honden]

Inner Sanctuary or Main Shrine. See Jinja.

Hongû[Glossary: kumano_hongu_taisha]

Also called honsha. The central shrine housing a particular deity. Used as distinct from buildings such as bekkû, massha, and okumiya.

Honji-suijaku setsu[Glossary: honji-suijaku_setsu]

Theory of original reality and manifested traces. A theory of Shinto-Buddhist syncretism. (See shinbutsu shûgô.) Originally a Buddhist term used to explain the Buddha's nature as a metaphysical being (honji) and the historical figure Sakyamuni (suijaku). This theory was used in Japan to explain the relation between Shinto gods and Buddhas; the Buddhas were regarded as the honji, and the Shinto gods as their incarnations or suijaku. Theoretically, honji and suijaku are an indivisible unity and there is no question of valuing one more highly than the other; but in the early Nara period, the honji was regarded as more important than the suijaku. Gradually they both came to be regarded as one; but in the Kamakura period, Shintoists also proposed the opposite theory, that the Shinto gods were the honji and the Buddhas the suijaku. This theory was called han-honji-suijaku setsu or shinpon-butsuju setsu.


The shrine building dedicated to the principal deity of a shrine. See hongû.

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