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Glossary of terms related to Japanese religion

  • Amaterasu Ōmikami
    Supreme Shintō goddess of the Sun, and legendary ancestor of the Japanese Imperial family.

  • Bōsan
    See "o-bosan"

  • Dashi
    Festival car used in "matsuri".

  • Happi
    Traditional garment worn in "matsuri".

  • Inari
    Shintō goddess of rice and fertility, usually associated with foxes.

  • Jōdō-shinshu
    "True Pure Land". Second most popular sect of Japanese Buddhism with about 12 million followers.

  • Jōdō-shū
    "Pure Land". Most popular sect of Japanese Buddhism with about 30 million followers.

  • Jushoku
    Title given to resident minister of Buddhist temples.

  • Kami
    Kami is the Japanese word referring to gods, deities or higher powers.

  • Kannon
    Buddhist/Hindu goddess of Mercy (Sanskrit : Avalokiteshvara).

  • Kannushi
    Head priest of a Shintō shrine.

  • Matsuri
    Japanese festival (associated with a Shinto shrine)

  • Miko
    Shrine maiden
  • Mikoshi
    Portable shrine used in festivals.

  • O-bōsan
    Buddhist priest or monk.

  • Obaku
    Branch of Zen Buddhism.

  • Oni
    Demon, ogre or evil spirit. Oni often feature in children stories, such as Momotaro.

  • Rinzai
    Branch of Zen Buddhism.

  • Sadō
    Tea ceremony, which originated in Zen Buddhism

  • Sanshu no Jingi
    The three Imperial Regalia in State Shintoism : the mirror, the sword and the jewels.

  • Satori
    Buddhist enlightenment

  • Shichigosan
    Traditional Japanese custom to bring children aged 7, 5 and 3 to the Shintō shrine on 15 November. Usually girls of 7 and 3 and boys of 5 and 3 are taken by their parents to pray for their good health and future blessings. The children normally wear colouful kimono for the occasion.

  • Shingon
    Japanese Esoteric Buddhism. The third most popular sect of Buddhism in Japan, with about 10 million followers.

  • Shintoism
    "Way of the Gods". Japan's indigenous religion. It is a form of animism and comprises most of the Japanese traditions.

  • Shukubo
    Temple lodging

  • Sōtō
    Branch of Zen Buddhism.

  • Tendai
    Lotus Sutra sect of Buddhism from China.

  • Torii
    Entrance gate to a Shintō shrine.

  • Yamabushi
    Ascetic mountain priest, practitioners of the Shugendō sect of Buddhism.


Gion Matsuri
Taiko drummers weating happi clothes at the Gion Matsuri in Kyoto

Torii gate at the Fushimi Inari Grand Shrine, Kyoto
Torii gate at the Fushimi Inari Grand Shrine, Kyoto

Mikoshi carried around the streets of Tokyo during the Fukagawa Matsuri
Mikoshi carried around the streets of Tokyo during the Fukagawa Matsuri

Oni depicted at the Nebuta Matsuri in Aomori
Oni depicted at the Nebuta Matsuri in Aomori

Shingon Buddhist monks at Mount Koya in Wakayama prefecture
Shingon Buddhist monks at Mount Kōya in Wakayama prefecture

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