- The generic term for shrine. Literally 'kami-place', a reminder that kami are generally closely identified with the vicinity of the shrine, not seen as remote deities to be worshipped via any shrine (though see Yohai-jo). In shrine-names, jinja was traditionally used (i.e. before the Meiji restoration) for large regional shrines (Omiwa jinja, Atsuta-jinja, Nikko-futara-san jinja etc.) some of which are now renamed taisha, rather than for small tutelary village shrines which would normally be known as 'the ujigami of [place]'. Certain grand shrines with imperial associations are named jingu rather than jinja. Recognised shrines multiplied throughout the country during the 15th-16th centuries as the Yoshida priestly clan bestowed status upon folk deities and kami, granting shrines the right to use names such as daimyojin. The entire shrine system was transformed in the period 1868-1945; about half the existing shrines were forcibly 'merged' (jinja gappei), all shrines were centrally ranked and ujiko status was extended from elite male members of the shrine guilds (see Miyaza) to all members of the local community. There are according to different accounts 80,000-115,000 recognised shrines now remaining in Japan after the shrine mergers of 1900-29 which removed around 83,000 locally recognised shrines. Many jinja are branch shrines of a major shrine (Inari, Iwashimizu Hachiman etc.) and so belong to national or regional networks as well as, or in some cases instead of, being affiliated to the Jinja Honcho. Smaller shrines may not have a full-time priest and tend to be supported by neighbourhood collections or donations and managed by representatives from the local community (sodai-kai) while the largest shrines draw support from a wider constituency of pilgrims, visitors and worshippers and can employ a number of priests. Many local shrines these days are little-used except at festival times. Each shrine has its own particular characteristics and there is no 'typical' shrine but there are typical features, though they vary enormously in architectural style. Most shrines have up to three torii marking the approach to the shrine, a place for ritual cleansing (temizuya) and such ritual borders as a gateway, fence, small bridge and curving path guarding the heart of the shrine. Where shrine buildings exist these generally comprise honden, haiden and heiden; in larger shrines buildings for special purposes such as a gishikiden, norito-den and kagura-den may be found. There are also shrine offices (shamusho) and kiosks from which o-fuda, o-mamori, ema etc. are obtained in return for donations. Although jinja are ordinarily thought of in terms of their often attractive buildings, a 'kami-place' (himorogi, iwasaka, shinji) actually needs no adornment beyond perhaps a simple shimenawa or heihaku. Buildings were perhaps first needed when a sacred object such as a sword or mirror used as a shintai had to be protected. Within the precincts (keidai-chi) of a jinja (or jingu or taisha) may be found keidai-sha, minor shrines variously called bekku 'separate shrine', sessha 'additional shrine' and ' massha' 'branch shrine' or by other names including -jinja, -miya and -yashiro.
A Popular Dictionary of Shinto. Brian Bocking.