Kamidana - The Shinto shrine

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Kamidana (神棚 kami-dana, lit. "god's shelf") are miniature household altars provided to enshrine a kami  of Shinto. They are most commonly found in Japan, the home of the cult kami.

The shrine 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 intended to house a chosen kami, thus giving it a physical form to allow for worship.

The kami within the shintai is often the deity of the local shrine or a particular one for the homeowner's profession. A part of the kami was obtained specifically for this purpose from a shrine through a process called kanjō. Worship usually consists of offering simple prayers, food (eg rice, fruit, water) and flowers.

Before worshiping at the shrine, it is ritually important for family members to cleanse their hands. In Japanese homes, while maintaining a kamidana, a butsudan.

Keeping a Kamidana

A domestic kamidana is typically installed in your home to enshrine a ofuda, a kind of charm. Both the kamidana and the ofuda can be purchased at any major Shinto shrine. Ofuda by themselves can be displayed on a counter or anywhere visible as long as they are kept in their protective pouches.

Kamidana - Shinto shrine

However, when an ofuda is enshrined in a shrine, there are several rules that must be followed to ensure proper installation. First, a shrine cannot be placed on the ground or at eye level. It must be above the eye level of an average person. Second, it cannot be placed over an entryway, but must be built in a space that people will not walk under.

Finally, when an ofuda is consecrated, after removing the bag, it is customary to leave an offering of water, liquor or food in front of the shrine, which must be changed regularly. These rules apply to both the house and martial arts dojos. Ofuda are replaced before the end of each year. However, the shrine can be kept in the house until they are no longer usable.

What remains beyond the Kamidana

In the center of the sanctuary is the taima, an inscription from the Shintō shrine in Ise, which represents a universal kami. The shrine may also include a shimenawa, a sacred rope of twisted rice straw traditionally used to demarcate a sacred area.

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