“Enshrine the Glorious Kamidana”
Enshrine the Glorious Kamidana
Kamidana or in Japanese language it is called “god-shelf”, in the Shintō religion of Japan, a miniature shrine, the centre of daily worship in a household or a shop. The kamidana usually consists of a small cupboard or shelf on which are displayed articles of veneration and daily offerings. At the centre of the shrine stands the taima, an inscribed board from the main Shintō shrine at Ise, which represents a universal kami or somehow called a deity, or sacred power. On either side are various paper amulets or o-fuda associated with local tutelary gods or uji-gami, and ancestral spirits. The kamidana may also include a shimenawa, a sacred rope of twisted rice straw traditionally used to demarcate a sacred area. Offerings of water, sake it is a rice beer, food, and green twigs are placed daily at the front of the shrine, and prayers are offered for blessings on the household. Often Japanese households that maintain a kamidana also have a Buddhist family altar, or butsudan, as well.
History of the Kamidana: The Kamidana exists to house the Ofuda (yearly symbol of OKami). Having the Kamidana/Oyashiro in your home, office or dojo generates a truly wonderful fresh feeling. Everyone can go outside in the morning, bow and clap and give thanks to Taiyo (Sun/solar progenitor) Shinto teaches us that we receive our lives from Amaterasu OmiKami (Primal Amatsu Kami) and it Sarutahiko-no-OKami who teches us how to live (Primal Kunitsu Kami) When we can sincerely thank the Sun for giving/sustaining our lives we are experiencing Shinto thinking/feeling.
Amaterasu-OmiKami was enshrined at the Grand Shrine of Ise in Mie prefecture. She was given sacred treasures by her father "Izanagi-no-Mikoto". These treasures where to be enshrined as Kami. The present Kamidana has a deep relationship to the Grand Shrine of Ise. The Grand Shrine of Ise or "Jingu" is in Ise city in Mie. Jingu is composed of a large number of small shrines, centered around "Kotaijingu" and "Toyouke-Daijingu"...it is the largest and most revered of all Shinto shrines in Japan. Kotaijingu (Naiku) enshrines Amaterasu-OmiKami, head of all heavenly (amatsu) Kami and deity of the sun. In the divine age (Kamiyo) when the heavenly grandson Ninigi-no-Mikoto descended from the Great Plain of Heaven he brought with him the great gift of rice agriculture, the gift of Amaterasu-OmiKami. Toyouke-Daijingu (Geku) enshrines Toyouke-no-OKami. The deity of food as the source of life and patron Kami of those occupations responsible for providing food, clothing and dwellings. The purpose of the "O-Ise-mairi"or pilgrimage to Ise is to express gratitude for these blessings and to approach the shrine of the "solar progenitor" or parent to our solar system upon whom we depend for our lives. In the Edo period "Ise-Kou" or fraternal groups formed in every part of Japan. When a pilgramage was made to Jingu the amulet or "Oharai-taima" was taken home. These Oharai-taima were also distributed throughout Japan by the Ise-Kou or "Onshi "system. The "Daijingu-dana" or special house shrine was set up to enshrine the amulets of the Grand Shrine of Ise. This practise was the origin of today’s House shrine or "Kamidana".
Kamidana are household altars dedicated to enshrine Shintō gods. A Kamidana is for storing Ofuda, a place to cherish Ofuda received from Jinja. They are found in a clean and highly elevated location in a home or DoJo facing the sun to the South, or facing East to the rising sun. The Ofuda are arranged with the god you worship on the bottom, the god of the area you live in the middle, Amaterasu Omikami on top. The door of the Oyashiro is opened. The Ofuda are quietly stacked inside for storage. The Oyashiro is the house of the gods. The Sakaki is decorated with Shide on the left and on the right sides of the Oyashiro. Sake is lace on the left and right sides of the gate, rice in the center, salt on the right side, and water on the left side, all containers are made from white porcelain. Vase and drinking water are removed from the Kamidana every night and replaced with fresh water every morning. Alcohol, rice, and salt are replaced on the first and fifth of every month. The relaced items are dedicated to the east, west, south, north and center of the Dogo grounds. In the days old, walking and riding horses were the primary means of transportation, so it was not possible to travel to Jinja as easily as it is now. Therefore, a culture was created to worship god at the Dogo and at home.
The idea of kami is a concept of the Shinto religion, which is indigenous to Japan and is unique in that it is an exclusively Japanese religion. While kami is usually translated as “god” or “deity,” it actually has a broader meaning within Shinto. When one feels a sense of awe or exuberance when experiencing nature or almost anything such as literature or music, Shinto calls the power that comes from this feeling in people tama, mi, or mono. The presence itself is referred to as kami. Often natural places will have this powerful presence, in which case it is marked with a tori gate or a shrine.
The popular translation of kami most likely comes from its associations with a traditional practice that was more relevant to prehistoric Japan of appeasing the forces of nature. These forces of typhoons, earthquakes, and volcanoes are most certainly awe-inspiring and have enough power of their own to become personified. Similarly, other especially beautiful or awe-inspiring natural occurrences or locations inspire personification, which looks quite similar to the worship of a deity.
The worship of a deity and kami look similar in this context, but not quite so with a kamidana. There seems to be a lack of an awe-inspiring landscape in relation to the kamidana since it is placed in the home. However, if one remembers that kami sometimes refers to only the presence of that feeling of awe, the purpose of the kamidana makes more sense. The purpose of the kamidana is not always straightforward even to Japanese people themselves, but overall the purpose seems to be that they are inviting this presence of the kami into their home in hopes for good omens. (Tanaka, 2015)
When should I enshrine the Kamidana?
The following topics under this Subtitle will discuss the different events when should enshrine the Kamidana. But first let us tackle how to set up the kamidana.
First, purify the site. Before setting up the Kamidana you must clean (purify) your home. Choose a site that is pure, light, quiet and high. Also it should be where the family gathers, convenient for making food offerings to Kami, convenient for daily prayers, on the North or West wall (so Kamidana-san's doors open to the South or East) If there is a floor above the Kamidana it is best to write the word "Kumo" (sky) on a peice of paper and place it above the Kamidana so people upstairs will not be walking over the Kamidana. Please place the Kamidana just above head height on each side of the Kamidana please place evergreen banches in the special vase (sakaki tate). A special straw rope (shimenawa) with paper shapes (shide) should be above the Kamidana.
- New Year
New Year – Shogatsu or Oshogatsu: There are many traditional customs associated with celebrating the Japanese New Year Shōgatsu including preparations that must be completed by 28th December (or bad luck will befall you), New Year’s Eve 31st December Omisoka and continues right up until 15th January. The New Year is similar to Christmas in the Western World where families come together giving gifts to children and eating traditional Japanese food.
Preparing to welcome the new gods: Japanese people prepare to welcome the gods (Kami) by cleaning their homes Osoji and decorating their Kamidana (alter to the gods) and place a Kado matsu pine decoration by the front entrance to the home. The Kamidana is decorated with fresh sakaki leaves and a new shimenawa rope to indicate the sacred space where the kami may approach.
New Year Offering – Kagami Mochi: An essential offering is left for the Kami which is a Kagami Mochi made with a small round rice cake placed on top of a larger round rice cake. The Kagami Mochi, “mirror mochi”, is given its round shape and name after the bronze mirror that is one of the Three Sacred Treasures, and it can be placed on Kamidana, or in another sacred space at the heart of the home such the tokonoma alcove. Mochi rice cakes are a traditional food made from polished white rice, and also considered a symbol of a good harvest. (Accent, 2016)
- New construction / moving / opening
To ask for prosperity, one must enshrine to the god Inari by offering sacredness at the Kamidana. Food offerings to Kami are called "Shinsen". Generally shinsen consists of rice (kome), rice wine (sake/O-miki), water (Omizu), and salt (Oshio). These should be changed daily. After you remove the food offering you may eat them (naorae). Shinsen dishes are special and can be obtained from a shrine. Inari is the Shinto god of industry, prosperity, finance, and agriculture. With over 40,000 shrines, or one-third of the total number of shrines in Japan, devoted to Inari, it’s safe to say that this kami is one of the most important and respected of all the Shinto deities. It’s believed that Inari was fond of foxes and used them as messengers. As a result, it’s common to see fox statues around shrines devoted to Inari-okami. The Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto is dedicated to this god.
- Marriage / Childbirth
It is essential to make offering prayers at a kamidana. A fter "kensen" food offering, please face the Kamidana and enshrined diety, give gratitude for the gifts of life and pledge to do your utmost. Then bow twice, clap twice and bow once again. Particularly to Benzaiten is a Shinto kami borrowed from Buddhist belief and one of the Seven Lucky Gods of Japan. She is based on the Hindu goddess Saraswati. Benzaiten is the goddess of things that flow, including music, water, knowledge, and emotion—especially love. As a result, her shrines become popular places for couples to visit, and her three Enoshima shrines are filled with couples ringing the love bells for good luck or hanging pink ema (wishing plaques) together.
- Apotropaic magic
Based on the definition from the Wikipedia the free encyclopaedia the Apotropaic magic is a type of magic intended to turn away harm or evil influences, as in deflecting misfortune or averting the evil eye. Apotropaic observances may also be practiced out of vague superstition or out of tradition, as in good luck charms perhaps some token on a charm bracelet, amulets, or gestures such as crossed fingers or knocking on wood. The Greeks made offerings to the "averting gods" chthonic deities and heroes who grant safety and deflect evil. Necessary worship at the Kamidana and calling for Hachiman may overcome the down on one's luck or ill-fated. Hachiman is the ancient Shinto god or kami of war, divination, and culture. He is famously credited with sending the kamikaze or 'divine wind' which twice dispersed the invading fleets of Mongol ruler Kublai Khan in the 13th century CE and which earned Hachiman the title of protector of Japan. In the typical crossover seen in Shinto and Buddhism in ancient Japan, Hachiman is also considered a bodhisattva and protector of temples. The god was and continues to be worshipped at thousands of shrines of both faiths around the country, including the Todaiji in Nara and Hachiman shrine in Kamakura. (Cartwright, 2017)
- As the guardian deity of the home
Yashiki-gami are kami that protect a dwelling or the land on which one is situated, and are enshrined to the rear of the residence, on land attached to the site, or in a nearby mountain forest. They are referred to by different names that vary by region. These kami are deeply connected to the house but different to those enshrined in shrines within the home and are generally not enshrined inside the house itself. The belief of enshrining yashiki-gami is present throughout Japan with the exception of Jodo Shinshu or the True Pure Land Sect of Buddhism areas.
Yashiki-gami are worshipped twice during the year; spring in the 2nd month (lunisolar calendar), and autumn during the 10th or 11th month (lunisolar calendar). Although there are places in which worship is only conducted once in autumn. In places where Inari is enshrined, the main time of worship is the Inari festival on the first day of the horse in the 2nd month.
The reason for worshipping in spring and autumn is thought to be due to the belief that agriculture gods descend the mountains to the paddy fields at the beginning of the rice growing season in spring and return to the mountains in autumn, and, as has been described above, yashiki-gami are believed to be closely related to agriculture gods. Having a Kamidana at home is much beneficial to conduct the worship.
What kind of Kamidana is good?
Considering that kamidana are meant to be placed in the home, homeowners could have their own say in how they were arranged. They customized and arranged their kamidana to their personal worship. In choosing which type or kind of Kamidana is good, one the most important thing to regard first is the size of the Kamidana that will be perfect fit to the planned elevated location. You must check the dimensions (width x depth x height) of the area. Kamidana sets come in different sizes when it comes to the compartments that accommodate the ofuda. You may find that some ofudas are bigger than others. This means that you have to get a Kamidana that fits the size of the ofuda you intend to buy. There are both large and small kamidanas. Measuring the dimensions will prevent you from getting the wrong fittings. The size and weight of your shrine also determine how portable it is. You may need one that is not too heavy to install on a raised area. Put this into consideration if you don’t have assistance to carry and install your kamidana. There are varieties of designs to choose from particularly the types are roughly classified according to the number of doors (one company, three companies, etc.) and the shape of the roof. Basically, three types of bills are enshrined on the Kamidana, and one bill is enshrined for each door. Different types of kamidanas come in various designs. The model you select comes down to preference though you should get one that is ideal for the kind of kami you use. You can get one for an inari kami or an ancestral kami. Some kamidanas come as a complete set with accessories such as vases, omiya, sacred mirrors, candle holders and offering vessels. Others do not include these items. If you need specific items for your Kamidana, you may choose to buy one that does not come with accessories. Alternatively, you can buy one that is complete to save yourself more expenses and time of looking for accessories.
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What is the place to worship the Kamidana?
In most Japanese homes, it is placed on a shelf high on the wall. If this is impossible, consider placing it upon a lower shelf or table reserved especially for it. If you do not have a butsudana, consider placing the kamidana in the parlor. If you do, then another room might be more appropriate. But it is also advisable to consult your local priest. He can bless your house and advise you on obtaining and setting up a kamidana. The kamidana is typically placed high on a wall and contains a wide variety of items related to Shinto-style ceremonies, the most prominent of which is the shintai, an object meant to house a chosen kami, thus giving it a physical form to allow worship. Kamidana shintai are most commonly small circular mirrors, though they can also be magatama jewels, or some other object with largely symbolic value. The kami within the shintai is often the deity of the local shrine or one particular to the house owner's profession. A part of the kami (bunrei) was obtained specifically for that purpose from a shrine through a process called kanjō.
A household kamidana is typically set up in one's home to enshrine an ofuda, a type of charm. Both kamidana and ofuda can be obtained at any large Shinto shrine. Ofuda by themselves can be displayed on a counter or anywhere visible, provided that they are kept in their protective pouches. However, when an ofuda is enshrined in a kamidana there are several rules which must be followed to ensure proper installation. First, a kamidana cannot be set up on the ground or at eye level. It must be above an ordinary person's eye level. Second, a kamidana cannot be set up over an entrance, but must be built into a space which people will not walk under. Finally, when an ofuda is enshrined in a kamidana, after removing the pouch it is customary to leave an offering of water, liquor, or food in front of the kamidana, which should be renewed regularly. Water, for example, is stored in a small, droplet-shaped vessel called a mizutama. These rules apply both to one's household and to martial arts dojos. Ofuda are replaced before the end of each year. However, kamidana can be kept in one's house until they are no longer usable.
How to pay the Ofuda?
The Ofuda, in Japanese culture, are charms, wards, or scriptures that are said to bear good luck, and are usually sold in Shinto shrines or temples.
In a 'three-door' style (三社造, sansha-zukuri) altar, the Jingū Taima is placed in the middle, with the ofuda of one's local ujigami on its left (observer's right) and the ofuda of one's favourite shrine on its right (observer's left). Alternatively, in a 'one-door' style (一社造, issha-zukuri) kamidana, the three talismans are laid on top of one another, with the Jingū Taima on the front. One may own more shinsatsu; these are placed on either side of or behind the aforementioned three. Regular (preferably daily) worship before the shinsatsu or kamidana and offerings of rice, salt, water, and/or sake to the kami (with additional foodstuffs being offered on special occasions) are recommended. The manner of worship is similar to those performed in shrines: two bows, two claps, and a final bow, though a prayer (norito) - also preceded by two bows - may be recited before this.
A place for returning old talismans
Other ofuda are placed in other parts of the house. For instance, ofuda of patron deities of the hearth - Sanbō-Kōjin in Buddhism, Kamado-Mihashira-no-Kami (the 'Three Deities of the Hearth': Kagutsuchi, Okitsuhiko and Okitsuhime) in Shinto- are placed in the kitchen. In toilets, a talisman of the Buddhist wrathful deity Ucchuṣma (Ususama Myōō), who is believed to purify the unclean, may be installed. Protective gofu such as Tsuno Daishi (角大師, "Horned Great Master"), a depiction of the Tendai monk Ryōgen in the form of a yaksha or an oni are placed on doorways or entrances.
Japanese spirituality lays great importance on purity and pristineness (tokowaka (常若, lit. "eternal youth"), especially of things related to the divine. It is for this reason that periodic (usually annual) replacement of ofuda and omamori are encouraged. It is customary to obtain new ofuda before the end of the year at the earliest or during the New Year season, though (as with omamori) one may purchase one at other times of the year as well. While ideally, old ofuda and omamori are to be returned to the shrine or temple where they were obtained as a form of thanksgiving, most Shinto shrines in practice accept talismans from other shrines. (Buddhist ofuda are however not accepted in many shrines and vice versa.) Old ofuda and omamori are burned in a ceremony known either as Sagichō (左義長) or Dondoyaki (どんど焼き, also Dontoyaki or Tondoyaki) held during the Little New Year (January 14th or 15th), the end of the Japanese New Year season.
How to offer Shinsen?
Shinsen is an offering to shrines and household Shinto altars in Japan. It is also called Mike or Minie. Shinsen includes the cooked type called Jukusen and the raw type called Seisen. To cook the Jukusen, in principle, only flames (secret fire (imibi)) produced by firestones or maigiri-shiki (style using gimlets (maigiri), ancient tools for making fire) is used. In shrines, offerings include rice, salt, water, vegetables, bonitos, dried bonito, seaweed, fruits, and seishu or refined sake. Although Shinsen is usually offered in a unglazed vessel called Kawarake (earthenware cup), an abalone shell may be used in some regions. It is, in principle, served twice a day--morning and evening--but how often it is served a day may vary from region to region. Naorai refers to Shinsen eaten in a feast after a ceremony. Eating the Naorai not only means getting closer to a god by eating what has been offered, but also proves that things unfit to eat have not been offered. Strictly speaking, however, the Shinsen offered on the altars is not necessarily served as a Naorai. In some regions, the Shinsen offered on the altars is thrown in Shintaizan (a mountain where the spirit of deity is traditionally believed to dwell) or buried underground even today. This indicates that there were different courtesies or stances toward Shinsen, which have been passed down to the present day.
There are also what we called. Special Shinsen The Shinsen offered in many shrines is Seisen (raw type) today but quite a rare style of Shinsen has been offered in some well- known and old shrines or other shrines that have carried on traditional Shinto rituals. Such a rare Shinsen is called Special Shinsen, for convenience, and Jukusen, a cooked type, is mainly offered.. (Because standard Shinsen is considered to be what is defined in the Rules for Ritual Procedures at Shrines, the traditional Shinsen has been seen as "Special," and called so. This is greatly influenced by the reform of the Rules for Ritual Procedures at Shrines as well as the change in meaning of shrines and Shinto after Meiji Restoration.
How to visit the Kamidana?
As part of your daily routine, you should place offerings when you wake up and before going to bed. You should follow the right procedure when placing your offering on the tray to deliver to then shrine. Understanding the learning curve of worshipping is essential for any newcomer.
This includes washing your hands or showering before preparing the offering and presenting it to your kamidana. You can place your offerings on a tray using both of your hands as you approach it off the centerline so that you don’t interact with the Kami from a straight angle. Set your offerings accordingly then clap your hands twice and bow to pray. Your prayers should not only be self-centered but also be inclined towards the peace of the world at large.
It is also important to have a proper maintenance of the Kamidana. A kamidana is known as a dwelling for the ofuda. The material used to build a kamidana is hinoki wood. Apart from placing it in a high area, it should always be clean since it is a sacred place. To clean it, you should first remove all the objects that make up your kamidana and dust them off separately. Wipe the surfaces of the compartments using a mild soap and water. Use a damp towel to get rid of dust and dry it completely. Replace offerings such as incense regularly and add screws on lose parts. Ensure that paper pieces do not come into contact with water. You can replace an ofuda annually but maintain the Kamidana for years. It is because it is important for everyone to nurture a good relationship with God. A Kamidana can help you cultivate that and connect you to your deity every day. Our discussion has covered everything you need to know regarding a kamidana such as its origin, maintenance, usage, and set-up. Use the factors that we have outlined to help you choose the right kamidana according to your expectations. Remember, pray is the key to success.