Q and A

What is Shinto?

A: The word “Shinto” is comprised of two pictographs: Shin or Kami meaning the divine, that that inspires awe and mystery and To or Do/ Michi, the way/ method/ path. * Shinto emerged and developed spontaneously as an expression of the deep intuitive connection with Divine Nature enjoyed by human beings in ancient Japan. Shinto as natural spirituality is based on this harmonious primal relationship with the “infinite restless movement of Great Nature,” rather than on the written or revealed teachings of human beings. Realizing that each single component within Nature possesses Divine Spirit giving us joy and benefit, we renew our close ties to Mother Nature and pray for renewal and refreshed life. As Shinto has the continuous history from prehistoric times to the present and into the future, visiting the Shinto Shrine can help reconnect us to our intuitive roots while helping us to meet the challenges of the present and the future cultivating our human spirituality.

Shinto is simple, bright and sincere and is the practice of the philosophy of proceeding in harmony with and gratitude to Divine Nature. Basic of Shinto is to feel gratitude for the gifts of life. Our human lives, received from Great Nature and our ancestors are essentially good – obscuring energies exist but through the purifying (harae), straightening (naobi), and invigorating (kiyome) action of Shinto we can prevent misfortune or move towards solution if misfortune has already occurred.

What is a Jinja?

A: The Jinja (神社) or shrine is a structure whose main purpose is to house/enshrine a Shinto kami, and is usually characterized by the presence of a honden (本殿) where the kami is enshrined. Jinja or Shrine is an enriched environment where Divine Nature’s Life Giving Forces are commemorated like parents. The Shrine is a place where all things in Nature gather together and their hearts and substance purified, refreshed and renewed. The Shinto Shrine is a place of Masturi (festival) where the Shinto Priest conducts Go-Kitoh (rituals) and prayers for individuals, families and groups to dispel misfortune and open the path for Divine Blessings and expressing appreciation to Great Nature.

Who can visit the Shinto Shrine? How do I visit:
A: Usually the Jinja (Shrine) is open each day from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM please visit any time you wish. Please remember the Shrine Grounds are the Sacred Purified Place where Kamisama (Sacred Deities) are enshrined.

No Food and Drink (except for babies).
No pets (your pet can stay in your car).
Please enjoy sacred shrine grounds quietly.
Please make the Sanpai and personal prayer to enshrined Deities anytime.

If you would like to receive the individual Shinto Ceremony, it is best to make the appointment by phone or e-mail. If the Shinto Priest is there he can conduct the ceremony without appointment, but sometimes the staff is away from the Shrine.

To make Sanpai/formal shrine visit is the serious matter of giving gratitude to - and receiving Ki/Ukehi from Kami and Great Nature. Please settle and straighten your spirit and clothing. Business clothing is best but please avoid shorts, jeans, T-shirts or barefoot.

First please visit the Temizuya (hand water place) and rinse your hands and mouth to purify yourself inside and out. The clean water is to remove impurity and is a simplified version of the Misogi ShuHo (ritual purification in moving water).

Temizu Instruction

How to purify oneself before visiting the Shinto Shrine:
1) Use the Hishaku (wooden dipper) to pour water on your left hand (please step slightly back from basin so water does not go back inside).
2) Then pour water on your right hand.
3) Pour water into your left palm and rinse your mouth (please do not spit back in to basin).
4) Pour water one more time onto your left hand.
5) Please allow water to run back down the handle and place Hishaku back on the basin.

How to approach the Shrine Building:
Please bow slightly at the inner Torii (Shrine Gate) then proceed. The center line is reserved for Kami so please slightly avoid center line.
How to Sanpai (pray to Kami):
Ni Rei Ni Hakushu Ippai (2 bows, 2 claps, 1 bow)

Seishiki Sampai Instruction

How to visit the Shinto Shrine:
1) Move to Saisen Bako (offeratory box) and the Suzu (bell) rope. Straighten your mind/body/spirit and stand on center line. You may drop Saisen (monetary offering) into box.
2) Hold Suzu rope in both hands and swing the rope to ring the bell (please do not pull on the rope).
3) Look towards the Kagami (mirror) in front of the inner Shrine doors and then bow twice deeply.
4) Clap twice and pray while keeping your hands together in front of your heart.
5) Bow once again.

If you have the appointment please enter the Shrine building. If not please enjoy the Juyosho (amulet window) to your right. If you have a question for Shrine staff please ring the buzzer at Juyosho window.
You can also see the Ema and Omikuji on Shrine Grounds.


This is the place to hang the Ema (plaque) to communicate your wish to Okami or make the promise or expression of gratitude. Please write your wish words on Ema and hang them here so Kami can read them. If you would like to place an Ema please see the Shrine staff.


Omikuji are fortune telling paper slips found at Shinto Shrines. Randomly drawn, they contain predictions ranging from 大吉 (Daikichi/great good luck) to 大凶 (Daikyo/great bad luck). By tying the piece of paper around a tree's branch, good fortune will come true or bad fortune can be averted. If you would like the Omikuji please see the Shrine staff.

I live far from the shrine and cannot visit, can you pray for me or can I receive Omamori

A: Yes, Tsubaki America Shrine staff regularly conducts rituals before the enshrined Tsubaki Okami on behalf of people who cannot visit in person. Please contact the shrine with your request. Also we can send Ofuda and Omamori to people who cannot visit in person.

Do you have any classes to learn about Shinto?

A: Yes, 3 times each year we offer the Shinto Seminars for those who would like to experience the shrine deeply and learn various practices they can continue at home.

What is the difference between a Temple and a Shrine?

A: Basically, the Temple is the place of Buddhism and the Shrine/Jinja is the Shinto sacred site. Shinto is the original natural spirituality of Japan. Since Buddhism could be introduced from the Asian Continent 1500 years ago Shinto and Buddhism have coexisted together.

What is Kami?

A: To best understand the concept of Kami it is important to put aside the preconception caused by the word, god, an English translation which is often used for the word Kami. Shinto thinking does not include faith in the concept of an absolute one god who is the creator of both nature and human beings. Ancient peoples thinking did not divide material and spiritual existence, but considered that the both were inseparable, seeing everything to be spiritual. In other word, they did not draw a border between a certain object and the work of that object. According to Shinto cosmology, the universe began with the appearance of Ame-no-Minaka-nushi-no-O-Kami. Next to appear were the Kamis of birth and growth. After the appearance of 15 Kami in 7 generations the Kamis Izanagi-no-Mikoto and Izanami-no-Mikoto emerged and created the solar system, the Earth, various Kami, the land of Japan and her nature as well as people. Shinto begins with the feeling of receiving life from the Sun, Kami and ancestors. Therefore, Shinto does not percieve substantial difference or discontinuation between Kami and man, Kami and Divine Nature, or nature and human beings. It can be said that Shinto is basically the faith in Kannagara /the continuous positive movement of the life-giving forces.”

Who is enshrined at Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America?

A: Gosaijin ( main enshrined Kami) of Tsubaki Grand Shrine in Mie Japan and it’s North American branch-shrine Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America are Sarutahiko-no-O-Kami, ancestor of all Earthly Kami, Kami of Guidance and activating motivation and  raising spirituality.  Kami of centering and groundedness  and of progressing positively in harmony with Divine Nature, Kami who presides over everything within the atmosphere of our Earth.  Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto, wife of SarutahikonoOkami, Kami of arts and entertainment, harmony, meditation, marriage and joy. As they are a wedded couple, Tsubaki Shrine is the place to pray for a happy home, family prosperity and safety.

Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America also enshrines: Amaterasu OmiKami (Kami of the Sun, the Highest Shinto Kami who is in charge of all living things and is the Kami presiding over everything that originates in the parent/child relationship), Ugamitama-no-O-Kami (Kami of foodstuffs and all things to support/ sustain human life/Oinarisama), America Kokudo Kunitama-no-Kami (protector of North American Continent) and Ame-no-Murakumo-Kukisamuhara-Ryu-O (Kami of Aiki-do and the circulation of KI between Heaven and Earth).

What is the big gate at the entrance to the shrine:

A: The Torii is the gateway to the sacred precincts of the Shinto Shrine. The torii represents the portal/ division between the everyday world and the sacred shrine realm..this symbol of the Shinto Shrine is in it’s origin a place for a bird to sit and sing at first sight of the sun.

What are the white zig zag paper shapes on shrine grounds?

A: The white paper spirals are shide.They are the magical shrine accessory marking specially purified areas. They are essentially origami helices and mean the spiral movement of energy.

What is Misogi?

A: Archetypically, Misogi is the practice of purifying oneself in free flowing water – river, waterfall or sea. The object of Misogi is to first purify mentally, physically and spiritually and to become responsive to and united with Great Nature. Owing to the finite nature of our human bodies we are susceptible to absorbing impurity. After continued contact with impurity our senses and connection to the life giving forces become dulled. To be more fully alive and in harmony with life,vitality from earth and inspiration from heaven and to come into harmony with our mission we can utilize the sacred technology of Misogi Shuho

What is an Omamori?

A: Omamori are "yearly protective amulets" imbued with Okamisama's Fuku (Good Luck, protective power, blessings). Each Omamori represents a different kind of protection.

Should I open the Omamori? What is inside?

A: Please do not open the Omamori- inside Omamori of Tsubaki Grand Shrine is Shinji (meaning is like Ofuda [sacred symbol of Okami]). Such things are more than sacred symbols...they are actual "magic words" imbued with power of Okami. It is best to respect the sacred nature of the amulet and not open..... inside the brocade pouch of Omamori of Tsubaki Okami Yashiro is a paper board stiffener to protect shape of Omamori ...
  inside the stiffener is a tightly wrapped strong paper envelope...on one side of the envelope is an image if the Hoko (spear) of SARUTAHIKONOOKAMI..on the Hoko is written:
CHIGI DAIHONGUU TSUBAKI NO MIYA = primal Earthly Kami Main Shrine Tsubaki Shrine
on the opposite side is written:
ICHI-NO-MIYA-CHIGI DAIHONGUU TSUBAKI NO MIYA OMAMORI = 1st Shrine, Primal Earthly Kami Main Shrine Tsubaki Shrine Great Protective Amulet

Inside this very tightly wrapped envelope of many layers is the heart of the Omamori...it is called Shinji (which is like Ofuda [yearly symbol of Okami inside the Kamidana or home shrine] it is also tightly wrapped and is similar size to Ofuda)...the center top of the Shinji reads:
left column reads:
right column reads:
lower section center reads:
there are 3 seal (hanko) images on the body of the Shinji...they convey protective power and include shrine name

What is the meaning of the round mirror I see in the shrine?

A:   Often a sacred mirror is housed inside the Inner Shrine as Goshintai (honorific Kami body- antennae for Okami). When a sacred mirror is outside the shrine doors it functions as Yorishiro or a place for Kami to alight during a ceremony and a place to direct your prayers. 

The mirror in Shinto is one of the Sanshu-no-Jingi --3 sacred Shinto treasures  1] sword (central treasure of Atsuta Jingu in Nagoya), 2] the jewel (in the Kashikodokoro in Imperial Compound in Tokyo) and 3] the mirror. Literally these treasure are known as MIKUSA-NO-TAKARA-MONO . the mirror meaning the Sun and ultimately  wavefront of the "ongoing moment of creation" the Nakaima (the middle of now)
The original mirror is the Yata-no-Kagami and is the central treasure of Ise Jinguu (the apex of Japans 80,000 Shinto Shrines) this mirror was made by  Ishi-kori-dome-no-mikoto (ancestor Kami to all mirror makers) and fastened to a sakaki tree as part of the effort to entice AmaterasuOmikami (the Kami of the Sun) from Ame-no-Iwa-To (heavenly cave dwelling)...later this Mirror was given by AmaterasuOmikami to her Grandson, Ninigi-no-Mikotowhen he was guided to Earth by SarutahikonoOkami.