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What is Kami, or Shinto Deity? 神につき日本語で説明

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Introduction

There are many Shinto shrines, Matsuri, ceremonies and rituals. We can’t under stand them without the knowledge of Kami, or Shinto Deity. In this post, I’ll show you what it is. 合掌

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Shinrei Behind nature and natural phenomena

Our ancestors highly respected nature and natural phenomena because it provided necessities with them. On the other hand, they also feared them because they sometimes devastated them with their enormous power.

And they found Shinrei (神霊) , or the existence of Kami, or Shito Deities, behind them.

Shinrei is something like spirit. They believed it stays in Yorishiro, an object Shinrei descends to.

Typical Yorishio usually is a huge rock. In many cases, it is located in Kinsokuchi, the forbidden place. And priests with permission hold ceremonies there.

In addition to it, a mountain itself is sometimes considered as Kami. This kind of mountain is called Kamunabi/ Kannabi (神奈備).

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The Kanji indicates what Kami is

Now let us examine the Kanji for Kami. I’m sure it will be a great help to understand the way ancient people feel.

Kanji means “Letter of the Han (dynasty)” and was imported from China to Japan around the 1st century. Ancient people took advantage of a sound (pronunciation) or a meaning of a Kanji in order to adopt it to their language.

Kami is written as “神” which divided into two parts. “ネ” and “申.” “ネ” is abbreviated “示.” “示” stands for a table for offerings and “申” stands for thunder.

This indicates ancient people found thunder a typical natural phenomenon to be respected and feared.

Kamigamo shrine shows us a good example. It enshrines Kamowake Ikazuchi no Ohkami (賀茂別大神). Ikazuchi() is a thunder.

地主神社の恋占いの石

Take a look at the rock. It is tightened with rope with gold zigzag shaped pieces. They are Shide (紙垂) and stand for thunder. Shide indicates sacredness.

紙垂

Two Shide are symmetrical, they became Gohei (御幣), a kind of Yorishiro where Kami stays.

In Gion Matsuri, the Kami of Yasaka shrine visit Otabisho in Mikoshi. In 2022 and 2022,  they visited there on the Himorogi (神籬) the horse had on his back.

たけちよ
たけちよ

Yorishiro is an object where Kami stays. Himorogi is a type of Yorishiro and Gohei is a type of Himorogi.

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Shinto Shrine under Influence of Buddhism

In old days, people don’t have any shrine and held ceremonies and ritual in the middle of nature. In the 6th century, Buddhism was imported from China. Under the influence of Buddhist temple, people started to build a shrine for them.

In the early days, shrine is a place to worship Iwakura or mountains but it gradually had Goshintai inside of it.

Goshintai (御神体) is a Yorishiro in a main hall of Shinto shrine. It is so sacred we can’t see it usually.

久世駒形稚児とご神体

Kuaze Komagata Chigo of Gion Matsuri is an exception. He has the Goshintai of Ayato Kuninaka shrine on his chest. He is treated as Kami with it.

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Nigimitama and Aramitama 和魂と荒魂の和合

There are four kinds of Mitama(御霊), the spirit of Kami: Nigimitama, Aramitama, Sakimitama, and Kushimitama.

  • Nigimitama 和魂=Tender spirit
  • Aramitama 荒魂=Fierce spirit
  • Sakimitama 幸魂=Sprit bring us benefits
  • Kushimitama 奇魂=Sprit bring us benefit weird things

In Matsuri in Japan, Nigimitama and Aramitama of a Kami are often put together in order to make her/him reincarnated. For example, in Gion Matsuri, the Nigimitama of Susanoh no Mikoto meets the Aramitama of him (Kuze Komagata Chigo) and the reincarnation is completed.

シカさん
シカさん

Mikage Matsuri plays the same role in Aoi Matsuri.

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Next post

Japanese mythology and emperor.

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