Shinto Shrine

A Shinto shrine (神社 jinja, archaic: shinsha, meaning: “place of the god(s)” is a structure whose main purpose is to house (“enshrine”) one or more Shinto (神道 Shintō) kami. Its most important building is used for the safekeeping of sacred objects, and not for worship. Although only one word (“shrine”) is used in English, in Japanese Shinto shrines may carry any one of many different, non-equivalent names like gongen, -gū, jinja, jingū, mori, myōjin, -sha, taisha, ubusuna or yashiro.

Structurally, a Shinto shrine is usually characterized by the presence of a honden or sanctuary, where the kami is enshrined. The honden may however be completely absent, as for example when the shrine stands on a sacred mountain to which it is dedicated, and which is worshiped directly. The honden may be missing also when there are nearby altar-like structures called himorogi or objects believed capable of attracting spirits called yorishiro that can serve as a direct bond to a kami. There may be a haiden (拝殿 hall of worship) and other structures as well (see below). However, a shrine’s most important building is used for the safekeeping of sacred objects rather than for worship.

Miniature shrines (hokora) can occasionally be found on roadsides. Large shrines sometimes have on their precincts miniature shrines (sessha (摂社) or massha (末社).The portable shrines (mikoshi) which are carried on poles during festivals (matsuri) enshrine kami and are therefore true shrines.

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