Basic Terms of Shinto

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[Yabusame] Horseback archery, in which a rider draws and shoots blunt arrows as his horse races past three square wooden targets. Performed originally by warriors at shrines for the purpose of divining the outcome of the year's harvest. The Tsurugaoka Hachimangû yabusame festival in Kamakura is a famous example.

Yamaboko[Glossary: yamaboko]

see Dashi


Mountain shrine. In Shinto, when a mountain is considered an object of worship, a yamamiya may be established at the summit or on the side of the mountain, as at Sengen Jinja on Mt Fuji. In some cases, the yamamiya may be regarded as an "interior shrine" (okumiya) in contrast to a shrine located in a village (see satomiya) or lower on the mountain. Some scholars see the yamamiya associated originally with ancestor worship, and thus also with the dual complex of mountain god (yama no kami) and rice field god (ta no kami).

Yama no kami[Glossary: oyamatsumi_no_kami][Glossary: konohanasakuyahime_no_mikoto]

[Yama no kami] (1) A god of the mountains who is worshiped by hunters, charcoal-burners, and woodcutters. The deity enshrined is Ôyamatsumi no mikoto or Konohanasakuyahime. There are various traditions connected with the worship of this yama no kami, but the practice of offering an ocean fish called okoze is particularly widespread.

(2) A god of agriculture who comes down from the mountains to appear as the ta no kami or god of the rice fields during the growing season. This deity is worshiped in farming communities and is thought to differ from the yama no kami described in (1) above.


Dance of Yamato. Originated in the Yamato region around the present Nara Prefecture. Performed at court as early as the fourth century and at festivals such as the Daijôsai and chinkonsai. Also a part of the kagura repertoire. Various Yamato-mai songs were employed in the festivals at Ise no Jingû and at other major shrines.

Yamazaki Ansai (1618-1682)

Neo-Confucian scholar and founder of Suiga Shintô. Yamazaki venerated in particular the portion of the Nihon shoki describing the age of the gods and the norito called the Nakatomi no ôbarae no kotoba (see Ôbarae no kotoba). Yamazaki maintained that tsutsushimi (propriety) was the fundamental principle of Shinto morality. He was said to have over 6000 followers throughout the country.

Yashikigami[Glossary: yashikigami]

[Yashikigami] House deity, the worship of which is closely connected with ancestor worship. In some areas, a yashikigami may be found worshiped at each house in a village; in others, it is found in only one influential home in the community; this latter form is believed to be the earlier of the two. Frequent cases may be seen in which the yashikigami housed by an influential family has become the tutelary deity for an entire village.


A kind of norito. A formula of blessing for the continuity of the imperial reign. Classic yogoto include the Nakatomi no yogoto, which is pronounced on the day of the emperor's accession to the throne, and the yogoto pronounced by the kuni no miyatsuko of Izumo at the beginning of a new reign.


Worship from afar. If an object of worship is located far away and it is difficult to go there to worship directly, worship facilities called yôhaijo may be established separately in local areas.

Yomi[Glossary: yomi]

The land of the dead. The world where evil, unhappiness, destruction, and curses originate. Whereas Takama no Hara is the ideal world of the gods, Yomi is the nether world, inhabited by evil spirits called magatsuhi no kami.


Medium or symbol for the spirit of a dead person. See also Shintai.

Yoshida Kanetomo (1435-1511)

Founder of Yoshida Shintô. Yoshida explained the significance of Shinto according to theories handed down in his family for generations, emphasizing Shinto as the original source of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism.

Yoshida Shintô

One of the academic schools of Shinto. Also called Gempon Sôgen Shintô (Fundamental, Elemental Shinto), Yuiitsu Shintô (One-and-Only Shinto), and Urabe Shintô. The Yoshida family was in ancient times a family of diviners serving the court; they later served as priests at the Yoshida Jinja and Hirano Jinja in Kyoto. The Shinto traditions preserved by that family for generations were summarized and systematized by Yoshida Kanetomo in the fifteenth century. Yoshida Shintô expounds the unity of Shinto, Buddhism, and Confucianism, with Shinto as the basic factor. It recognizes the external existence of kami and also sees kami dwelling internally in the individual soul. It also emphasizes purity and cleanliness. From the late medieval period until the time of the Meiji Restoration, Yoshida Shintô teachings were propagated throughout the country, influencing appointments to the priesthood and decisions regarding religious ceremonies.


[Yudate] A ceremony in which priests and miko boil water in a large cauldron on a coarse straw mat inside shrine precincts and use bamboo leaves to sprinkle the hot water over themselves and worshipers. Believed to signify the casting off of impurities. Sometimes performed to facilitate the possession of a miko as a medium for the issue of oracles. The dramatic performance of this ceremony is called yudate kagura.

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