Architecture and Sacred Spaces in Shinto
Learning about Shinto through Architecture
Shinto - "the way of the kami" - is deeply rooted in pre-historic Japanese religious and agricultural practices. The term kami can refer to Japanese mythological deities, but also can mean divinity manifested in natural objects, places, animals, and even human beings. Shinto rituals and celebrations stress harmony between deities, man, and nature -- a key feature of Japanese religious life and art to the present time. This page uses the architecture of Shinto shrines as a window into Shinto practices and worldview. Materials presented here were developed by teachers in a year-long ORIAS program, Teaching Comparative Religion Through Art and Architecture.
This page is divided into seven illustrated sections:
Harmony with Nature: Shinto Sites
First Structures: Early Shrine Architecture
The Geography of Sacred Space: Shrine Complexes
Influence of Buddhism: Syncretism in Architecture
Organization of Sacred Space: The Ritual Landscape
Ise Shrine: The Holiest Shrine
Harmony with Nature
The Geography of Sacred Space
Influence of Buddhism
Organization of Sacred Space
Image Credits & Bibliography
Header: Jun Seita DP0Q0641 via photopin (license)
View of falls with shimenawa: inefekt69 Nachi Falls - Wakayama, Japan via photopin (license)
View of falls with building: Laruse Junior Seiganto-Ji Pagoda via photopin (license)
Imperial Ise shrine: Bernhard Sheid Ise, Old and New via flickr
Nachi Shrine Complex: David Z. Nachi Taisha via flickr
Ainu Museum building: Saldesalsal Purotokotan Ainu Museum via flickr
Plan of Shinto Shrine: wikiwikiyarou Plan of Shinto Shrine [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Drawings of Izumo Shrine Complex: Robert Treat Paine and Alexander Soper, The Art and Architecture of Japan. Yale University Press, 1981. P. 283.
Eight-post torii at Asakusa Buddhist Temple: Nelo Hotsuma Asakusa via flickr
Heian Shrine in Kyoto: Zhang Wenjie Heian Shrine via flickr
Ishidorii at Toshogu: Images George Rex Ishidorii/Nikko via flickr
Torii in Lake Biwa at Shirahige Shrine: inefekt69 Takashima, Japan via photopin (license)
Torii pathway at Fushimi Inari-taisha Shinto Shrine: Dariusz Jemielniak ("Pundit") [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Meiji Shrine torii and sando: Yasuyuki Hirata The Grand Shrine Gate of Meiji Jingu via flickr
Purification at Meiji Shrine: FujiChallenger Meiji Jingu Chozuya via flickr
Purification at Kiyomizu: Donna Kasprowicz
Chozuya at Yahiko Shrine: jpellgen (@1179_jp) Yohiko Shrine: Chozuya via flickr
Honden at Izumo Shrine: u-dou jap2016 nov 08 izumo (57) via photopin (license)
Haiden at Izumo Shrine: Miya.m - Miya.m's photo, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
Mochi offering at Maiji Shrine: Gautsch Mochi, detail via flickr
Ema and Omikuji at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu: Gilles Vogt Temple shinto à Kamakura via flickr
Music Hall and Music Platform: ORIAS archives
Wooden model of Ise Shrine: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra Sanctuaire shintoïste Ise Jingu (exposition Fukami, Paris) via flickr
Kodenchi at Ise Shrine: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra Le futur site du sanctuaire intérieur d'Ise (Japon) via flickr
2013 View of Geku at Ise: Ye-Zu Ancien et nouveau via flickr
2018 View of Geku at Ise: nobu3withfoxy 外宮 Geku/Ise Jingu via flickr
Earhart, H. Byron. Japanese Religion: Unity and Diversity. Third Edition. California: Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1982.
Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Tokyo: Kodansha Ltd. 1993.
Nelson, John. 2000. Enduring Identities: the Guise of Shinto in Contemporary Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.
Paine, Robert Treat and Alexander Soper. The Art and Architecture of Japan. Yale University Press, 1981.
William, Alex. Japanese Architecture. New York: G. Braziller, 1968.