DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-G102-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved August 24, 2019, from

6. The shrine

Probably the best known symbol of Shintō is the torii or ‘bird perch’ entranceway to a shrine. This entranceway supposedly has its origins in the mythology, where we read that a perch was erected for a cock to crow and signal the commencement of entertainment organized by the other gods in order to lure Amaterasu out of a cave in which she had secluded herself.

Shintō shrines are of a great variety, constructed in many diverse locations. At the base of society, in the villages and towns, shrines are found primarily in natural settings removed from most human habitation. These shrines seem to merge with nature in the same way that the human realm merges with the natural and sacred realms (see §1).

Shrines are the homes of kami and the places where offerings are made and prayers recited. Although some shrines are quite elaborate, comprising many buildings and covering extensive areas, the shrine at its simplest has an inner sanctuary, where the symbol of the resident kami (or symbols, if the shrine houses more than one kami) is housed, and an outer area for offerings and prayers. All shrines also have an ablution basin (see §3) where worshippers perform external purification. Worshippers do not enter the shrine buildings; only priests are allowed in them.

Although it may be difficult to perceive it in those located in congested cities, the shrine is always designed to evoke a sense of mystical unity with the kami and indeed with the land of Japan itself, the home of the kami. Shintō, represented by the shrine, constitutes the very basis of Japanese civilization.

Citing this article:
Varley, Paul. The shrine. Shintō, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-G102-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2019 Routledge.

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