Representation of the kami in Shintπ worship. Every Shintπ shrine houses an object associated with the kami. These objects are extremely varied. In fishing villages, odd-shaped stones caught in fishermen’s nets are assumed to be the goshintai of the kami Ebisu and are enshrined either in the boat itself or in a small shrine on the shore. Objects associated with the kami—bows and stirrups, both associated with war for the kami Hachiman; writing brushes in Tenjin shrines; statues of Inari—may be enshrined too. Some go-shintai are actual statues of figures dressed in court robes or, in the case of Inari, the deity’s fox messenger. Goshintai are surrounded both metaphorically and actually with layers of secrecy.
They are ensconced in containers that are rarely opened (never, in the case of the imperial household regalia at Ise and some others), which are often wrapped in several layers of cloth and paper. Opening such a container, when it is done, is part of a lengthy ritual. The three most important go-shintai in Japan are the three items of the imperial regalia.
- Ashkenazi, Michael. 1993. Matsuri: The Festivals of a Japanese Town. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
- Aston, William George. 1905. Shinto: The Way of the Gods. London: Longmans, Green, and Co.
- Ono, Sokyo. 1962. Shinto: The Kami Way.
- Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle. Ross, Floyd Hiatt. 1965. Shinto: The Way of Japan. Boston: Beacon Press.
Handbook of Japanese Mythology written by Michael Ashkenazi – Copyright © 2003 by Michael Ashkenazi