ANTH 101 Exploring Sociocultural Anthropology


Discuss the meaning and usage of the word “kami”.


Kami is the Shinto name for a deity.

In Shinto religion, kami refers to the spirits worshipped.

These could be natural elements or qualities that are inherited from someone who is dead or alive.

Traditional leader like the Emperor, who could become kami, or be made kami if they applied the virtues to kami throughout their lives.

Kami’s do not exist apart from the natural world. In fact, they are nature. This is the assumption of Shinto.

Kami could have positive, neutral, good, or evil characteristics (Sever).

According to the theory, behind every human being is a strong energy of belief and ideology that was created by the Yamato court in its practical plans for national confederation.

In Japanese, kami can be translated as “word in place of god” or “supernatural spirits”.

Shinto’s natives identified the following characteristics:

The kami can think with two minds.

They are both good for good and bad for evil.

If they are respected and treated well, they can be loving and lovable. But, if they’re not treated properly, they can be devastating.

Kami are all-pervasive and invisible to humans.

They can be found at many sacred sites of nature (Ono or Woodard).

They travel and may visit other sacred places.

There are many kinds of kami.

The kojiki (ancient and contemporary chronicle of japan) classifies 300 kami. Each kami has its own function, like the kami or wind, and the kami on roads.

Different kami perform different functions. Humans have the obligation to fulfill kami’s worship, and kami must perform functions to improve the human condition ().

Shinto natives also celebrate festivals, ceremonies and other celebrations for their kami.

The first Niinamesai festival, which was to present newly harvested rice and blessings to kami.

Shinto shrine is another way to purify oneself before presenting them to kami. (Pye at 1.1).

This involves washing your hands and gargling.

This was to purify the soul and body of the person before they went to kami.

The following are notable kami:

Amaterasu refers to the goddess of the sun and of the universe.

Amaterasu, the goddess of sun and universe, is named after a word that means “shinning on heaven”.

Amaterasu, her full name, is Amaterasu?mikami, which literally means “the great august goddess kami who shines under the light heaven.”

The shrine is home to Yata No Kagami, Amaterasu’s favourite mirror. It is used as the imperial regalia of Japan.

Shikinen Sengu, which is a celebration to honor Amaterasu has been celebrated for 20 years.

They offer the goddess new clothes and food every day. This tradition has been practiced since 690 years (Breen, Teeuwen; 129-167).

Susanoo is the brother amaterasu’s storm god of summer, himself named amaterasu.

Takehaya Susanoo no Mikito and Kumano Ketsumiko no kami are two of his other names.

His spouse’s name was kushinadahime.

There was an aggressive rivalry between Susanoo, his sister amaterasu (Breen & Teeuwen), it is believed.

Izanagi is the Japanese mythological first god.

In kojiki, the meaning of his name (Izanagino Mikoto) is “h-who-invites”.

His spouse’s name was Izanami.

Izanagi gave birth amaterasu by cleaning his left eyes, Tsukuyomi washing his right eye, Susanoo washing his nose from pollutants of Yomi (underworld).

Izanami no-Mikoto is Izanagi-no–Mikoto’s spouse.

Her name is kojiki for’she’ who invites’.

She is the goddess both of creation and death.

Kojiki holds that Izanagi was, before her death, transferred for soul to an animal (Holland) and a human being(Florence).

Tsukuyomiyomi, no-Mikoto is Shinto’s moon god.

He was the second son of three noble kids, who was born by washing Izanagi’s right side.

He was reunited with his sister amaterasu and lived in heaven.

Japanese mythology explains why there was a separation of day from night. Tsukuyomi killed Uke Mochi (goddess for food), after he felt disgusted with the way she prepared food. He killed her, which caused amaterasu to get furious and vow to never see him again.

After that, she moved to the other side (Bo, 012).

This is one of the Japanese myths that says day and night don’t ever meet each other.

Hachiman, also known as the supreme protector of japan and the tutelary god for warriors, is also called Hachiman.

His name means “god of eight banners”.

While he is considered the god of war, his messenger and animal are doves.

His eight heavenly banners symbolised the birth of Ojin, the divine Emperor.

Inspired by religion and foreign ideas, the origin of the concept kami was possible.

Confucianism (Christianity, Buddhism) and Christianity (both from the West) were some of the influences that Japanese theologians faced.

With all these teachings, the ideology of kami was more diverse among Japanese (Rusu. 91-95).

With the country’s development, there are many religions that have arisen which has resulted in the juxtapositions of various gods.

Kami are identical to human existence. They also respond to prayers.

According to Shinto, Japan has around eight million millions of kami.

The belief is that all things contain kami but only the kami possess these qualities.

The two main mottoes of the kami are musubi, which is harmonizing power, and makoto, which is truthful will.

Motoori Norinaga (1730-1801), a Japanese scholar of religious religion, described kami in these lines:

“I am still not sure what the word kami means.

It is a general term that refers all divine beings of earth and heaven that are mentioned in the classics.

Particularly, the kami refers to the spirits who abide at and worship the shrines.

Kami was given the name of any thing that looked strikingly impressive and possessed the qualities of excellence and virtue.

Works Cited

“Female worship and its evolution —-A basic clue in Ancient Japanese History [J].

World Ethno-National Studies 4 (2011) 012.

Breen, John, Mark Teeuwen.

“The History of a Myth.”

Shinto: A New History: 129–167.

Breen, John, Mark Teeuwen.

Shinto in history: The ways of the kami.

God in the Machine. Perceptions and representations of Mechanical Kami.

University of Pittsburgh (2010).

Ono, Sokyo, William Woodard.

Shinto Shinto is the kami way.

Tuttle publishing, 2011.

“Shinto, primal faith and international identity.”

Marburg Journal of Religion 1.1 (2015).

Rusu. Renata Maria.

“Redefining the Deity Concept in Japanese Mythology From the Perspective Of Norse Goddesses and Gods”

“Japanese Mythology & Nationalism: Myths pertaining to genesis, Japanese identity, Familism”