Japan's Shrines and Deities 日本の神社と神々
There are now over 250 shrines described on this website. Maintaining it is an ongoing labour of love—there is virtually no external copy and paste—and takes a considerable amount of time. I would very much appreciate it if you would show your appreciation by buying my book "Sacred Tokyo, 40 Shinto Shrines". Details can be found by clicking the image at the top right hand corner of this page.
How many shrines in Japan?
at least 174,000
Number of shrines in database: 70,340
Number of shrines on webpage: 253
How many Kami in Japan?
proverbially eight million
but as they can be everywhere
and in everything
the number is incalculable
November 19: Kasuga Taisha 春日大社
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since December 1998, this is the head shrine of the 3,000 or so Kasuga Jinja scattered around the country. It is one of the 22 Shrines and is one of the 37 shrines listed in the Engi-Shiki for Sonokami district in Yamato Province. It traces its origins to 768, when Empress Shotoku, the 45th ruler of the country, ordered Fujiwara-no-Nagate to oversee the construction of a shrine to honour four Kami, Takemikazuchi, Futsunushi, Amenokoyane, and Hime-Gami. The site chosen was in the foothills of the sacred Mt. Mikasa, which is now known as Mt. Kasuga.The shrine is closely related to the Fujiwara Clan.
November 5: Goryo Jinja 御霊神社
This shrine was founded in 800 on the instructions of the then reigning 50th emperor, Kanmu, to enshrine Princess Inoue, the spouse of the 49th emperor, Konin. The daughter of the 45th emperor, Shomu, she is formally worshipped as Empress Kogo. She and Emperor Konin were married on the latter’s ascent to the throne in 770 and in the following year their son, Osabe, became crown prince. Soon after this however, in 772, it was alleged that she had put a curse on her spouse and she and her son were deposed and incarcerated in what is now Gojo-shi in Nara-ken. On April 27, 775 they were both put to death.
September 11: Suehiro Jinja 末広神社
Another small shrine in the midst of Tokyo's Nihonbashi business district.
It is one of the Nihonbashi Shichi Fukujin (Nihonbashi Seven Lucky Gods) shrines, and houses Bishamonten. It was the tutelary jinja for Tokyo's orignal Yoshiwara red-light district.
August 31: Koami Jinja 小網神社
A small, very popular shrine in the midst of Tokyo’s Nihonbashi business district. It is one of the Nihonbashi Shichi Fukujin (Nihonbashi Seven Lucky Gods) shrines, and houses Benzaiten. Traces its origins to a hermitage founded around the turn of the 10th century, but emerged in something like its present form in 466 when it was instrumental in fending off an epidemic which was sweeping the area. Probably its main attraction is its small Tokyo Money Washing Benten Well. The popular belief is that if you wash your coins in this well and replace them in your purse or pocket prosperity will ensue.
August 9: Shintotaikyo Icho Hachiman-Gu 神道大教銀杏八幡宮
In 1713 the Echizen Matsudaira family of Fukui Province donated some land inside the then Tokiwabashi gate of Edo Castle to build a shrine to house the tutelary deity of the family’s Edo residence. It is said that the shrine was moved to a new location on September 27, 1775 and it took its name from the existence in the new site of a 300-400 year old gingko, “icho” tree.
July 30: Hyogo-ken Himeji Gokoku Jinja 兵庫縣姫路護國神社
Also located in the grounds of Himeji Castle, this shrine is dedicated to the 56,998 people from the southwest of Hyogo Prefecture who gave their lives for their country from the Boshin War of 1868 onwards. It is one of the 52 Gokoku Jinja loosely affiliated to Yasukuni Jinja.
July 25: Himeji Jinja 姫路神社
Himeji Jinja is situated in Himeyama Park inside Himeji Castle, the largest castle in Japan and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The shrine protects the castle against the inauspicious elements said to emanate from the northeast direction (“kimon”鬼門).
The shrine’s main kami is a human being (“jinbutsu-kami”) by the name of Sakai Masachika. The Sakai clan ruled Himeji Province for 120 years until the abolition of the feudal domains and the latter's replacement with prefectures in 1871. This caused the clan to move to the newly established capital of Tokyo.
July 16: Tsushima Jinja 津島神社
This one very much just for the record. I visited it because it was close to Hirata Jinja.
There is very little information available on this shrine: even the notice board in the shrine grounds deals with the main Tsushima Jinja in Tsushima-shi in Aichi-ken.
July 10: Hirata Jinja 平田神社
The enshrined Kami is a human being ("jinbutsu-kami"), Hirata Atsutane. (1776-1843). He was one of the four leading figures of the Edo Period National Learning School. The shrine was founded In November 1869 when an adopted son of Atsutane, Hirata Kanetane, built a small shrine to honour him in the family residence in Kyoto. In August 1875, the family moved to what is now Sumida-ku in Tokyo and took the Atsutane Jinja with them. In November 1881, a gift from Emperor Meiji saw the shrine move to what is now Kasuga in Bunkyo-ku. This was burnt down in WWII, and in 1959 it was rebuilt in its current location. The main shrine building was reconstructed in June 1987.
June 13: Hakusan Jinja 白山神社
Said to have been founded in 1490, but all records of its history were lost when its betto-ji was destroyed by fire in the Edo Period. It has two in-ground shrines, Mitsumine Jinja and Inari Jinja, and these house a fascinating collection of carvings, which alone make this shrine well worth a visit. The main shrine became known as a place for curing toothache. This came about when the younger brother of its founder was suffering a severe bout of toothache and was told in a dream by the Hakusan Kami to eat his meals using chopsticks made from the bush clover found in the grounds of the shrine: this he did and lo and behold he completely recovered from his toothache.
May 1: 11 Inari Shrines in Ginza 銀座にある11の稲荷神社
My database contains sixteen shrines located in Ginza in Chuo-ku in the heart of Tokyo. Of these sixteen, eleven are Inari Jinja meaning that there is one Inari Jinja for every 270 of Ginza’s resident population. I suspect that this is the lowest such number in Japan, and by extension in the world. Of course the number for daytime population—people working in shops and offices, sightseers, shoppers etc—is much higher. I haven’t been able to find a figure for Ginza’s daytime population but for Chuo-ku as a whole the daytime/resident population ratio is 3.84: applying this to Ginza the number of Inari Jinja per head of daytime population rises from 270 to 1,038, still a very low number. Five of the eleven are described on this page, I will be addimg more in due course.
April 6: Kitano Tenman Shrine 北野天満神社
This shrine was established in June 1180 by Taira Kiyomori when he moved the capital from Kyoto to what is now Kobe and established the Fukuhara-kyo, the seat of government. Kyoto’s Kitano Tenman-Gu was seen as protecting the Imperial Court against the inauspicious emanations from the northeast direction (鬼門) and its Kami, Sugawara Michizane, was enshrined through the kanjō process.
March 29: Watatsumi Shrine 海神者
This shrine’s formal name is Watatsumi Jinja but it is colloquially much better known as Umi Jinja. The shrine legend tells us that it was founded when Empress Jingū was returning from the Three Han (三韓, Korea) campaign. The first historical mention was in 806. It is one of the Three Major Shrines of Harima Province, and one of the nine shrines listed in the Akashi District of Harima Province in the Eng-Shiki.
March 19: Ono Terusaki Shrine 小野照崎神社
This shrine’s main Kami is a jinbutsu-kami, Ono Takamura, a calligrapher and poet who lived during the early Heian Period. It is said that the origin of the shrine was in 852 when local residents began to worship Ono.
At the rear of the shrine there is a Fujizuka. Built in 1782 and 6m. high it is open to the public on June 30 and July 1 to coincide with the official opening of Mt. Fuji. In 1979 it was designated an Important tangible folk cultural property.
March 5: Oyama Afuri Shrine 大山阿夫利神社
Said to have been founded in 97 BC. Located on Mt Oyama, 46.5km from Mt Fuji as the crow flies, and a centre of pilgrimage since Edo times. The shrine’s home page tells us that about 200,000 pilgrims, mostly from Edo, visited the Oyama site each year in the mid-eighteenth century; this at a time when Edo’s population was about one million. A much earlier pilgrim to the shrine, and certaiinly one of the most famous, was Minamoto Yoritomo, who is said to have started the custom of Osame-dachi (donating swords to the shrine.
February 20: Minatogawa Jinja 湊川神社
This shrine is all about samurai loyalty as exemplified by its Kami, Kusunoki Masashige. He was a loyal servant of Emperor Go-Daigo in the latter’s successful attempt to overthrow the Kamakura Shogunate. This happened in 1333 and a short period of imperial rule followed. In 1336, however, Ashikaga Takauji defeated the imperial forces, ushering in the Ashikaga Shogunate. In the same year Kusonogi sacrificed his life fighting in the Battle of Minatogawa on the instructions of Emperor Go Daigo. This battle was widely seen as a disastrous decision on the part of the emperor.
February 6: Ha Jinja 歯神社
Like Otabi-Sha, Ha Shrine is an auxiliary shrine of Tsunashiki Ten Shrine. It is a very small shrine, only about 7㎡ in area, and it may be true to say that its story is more interesting than the shrine itself. The “Ha” in its name means “tooth” so it may not be surprising that the shrine celebrates toothbrushes on its annual festival on June 4, which day has been designated Cavity Prevention Day by the Japan Dental Association. It has become something of a mecca for anyone connected with dental issues.
Layout design support : Akiko Morita レイアウトデザイン協力：森田 明子
Note: Throughout this site the colour violet is associated with kami/gods, red with shrines/jinja