Views Insider’s Guide to Shintō Shrines
“Shamusho”: The Shrine Office

Toya Manabu [Profile]

[2016.08.29] Read in: 日本語 | FRANÇAIS | ESPAÑOL | Русский |

When not engaging in religious rites, priests and shrine personnel may rest in the shamusho, or shrine office. Here visitors can also obtain talismans to protect their homes and selves with the blessing of the shrine’s kami.

The shamusho is a building inside the compound for the conduct of shrine business other than sacred rites and ceremonies. This is where the priests, priestesses, and other shrine personnel rest when they are not performing their sacred duties. It is also where shrines hold lectures and take requests for special prayers or rites. The shamusho has a public counter, where it sells a variety of tokens, amulets, and oracles, described below. Customarily, one speaks of “receiving” such items instead of “buying” them, since they are considered religious objects rather than commercial items.

Chief among the objects available at the shamusho are shinsatsu, amulets believed to contain something of the kami’s spiritual power. These are relatively large talismans that worshippers take home and place in their household shrines. (The shinsatsu distributed by Ise Shrine are called taima-fuda.) Mamori-fuda are basically miniature shinsatsu designed to be carried on one’s person. Hamaya—literally, “demon-breaking arrows”—are decorative arrows displayed conspicuously in the home to ward off misfortune. Ema are wooden votive plaques, some of which have a picture painted on one side. Worshippers write their prayers on the reverse and then submit them to the shrine to be offered up to the kami. An omikuji is a strip of paper with a fortune written on it. Each omikuji, drawn at random, provides a general prediction of good or bad luck and more specific forecasts regarding various aspects of one’s daily life.

Shinsatsu and mamori-fuda

Hamaya and ema

Okuni Shrine, Mori, Shizuoka Prefecture

Masumida Shrine, Ichinomiya, Aichi Prefecture

Nogi Shrine, Tokyo

(Banner photo: The shamusho at Nogi Shrine, Tokyo.)

▼Further reading
Your Virtual Guide to the Shintō Shrine (Series Top) Foreign Tourists Flock to the Gates of Fushimi Inari Shrine A Year in the Life of Ise Shrine (Photos)
Japan’s Religious Ambivalence: The Shaping and Dismantling of a National Polity The Japanese World View: Three Keys to Understanding “Kami”: The Evolution of Japan’s Native Gods


  • [2016.08.29]

Writer and Shintō priest. Born in Saitama Prefecture. Graduated from the Department of Shintō Studies at Kokugakuin University. Author of Shintō nyūmon (Introduction to Shintō), Fuji-san, 2200-nen no himitsu (Mount Fuji’s 2,200-year Secrets), and other works.

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  • “Shōzoku”: The Shintō VestmentsThe clothing worn by priests and priestesses at Shintō shrines is unlike anything you will see elsewhere in Japan. Here we describe the styles of traditional vestments that are part of the Shintō experience.
  • “Shintai, Shinboku”: The Divine Object or TreeAt the heart of the shrine, never viewed by visitors, is the shintai, the “divine body” of the kami. At some shrines this is an object, like a jewel or sword; at others, it is a natural feature like a mountain or shinboku, a divine tree.
  • “Honden”: The Main Sanctuary StructureThe structure called the honden is the heart of the Shintō facility, where its kami is enshrined. Observing the details of honden architecture can tell the visitor much about the nature of the shrine and its deity.
  • “Tamagaki”: Fence Around the Sacred SpaceA fence called the tamagaki encloses the shrine's innermost sanctum, setting it off from the outside world and marking a border between the sacred and the profane. Some shrines feature more than one tamagaki, which in its earliest form was a living hedge surrounded by a brushwood fence.
  • “Haiden”: The Hall of WorshipAt last we come to the haiden, where visitors pray or pay their respects to the kami, or gods of the shrine. Here worshippers put money into the donation box, ring the bell, and perform the prayer ritual described in this article.

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