Shinto Symbols

Shinto Symbols

Name: Torri Gate

The word "torii" means “bird perch." Debate surrounds which Asian philosophy or religion first used torris. Some speculate that the veneration of birds in some Asian belief systems is responsible for their sacred use. Torris have been used in Japan for over a millennium. Their first mention in Japanese literature occurs in the 10th century A.D. The oldest still-existing torri in Japan dates back to the 12th century. It’s located at the Hachiman Shrine in the Tohoku region on Honshu Island.

Torris often act as gateways to Shinto shrines, where sacred religious objects and spiritual entities are believed to reside. Shrines are believed to house the spirits of the deceased. It’s believed that torris help prepare the visitor for such an interaction by signifying the sacredness of the location. A person may even encounter several torris constructed for one shrine. Torris have traditionally been made of wood or stone, but today they can be made from material like concrete and steel. Their exact shape, size, and color can vary depending on the sacredness of the shrine or when they were built. (See Shinto main page and Religion in Japan)

Name: Hamaya

In Shinto imagery, hamaya are arrows, which symbolically depict the struggle against evil and bad luck.

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Name: Ofuda

Ofuda are acquired at Shinto shrines and a displayed on a wall in a person's house for the purposes of protection. Written on paper, wood, cloth, or metal, the words refer to the name of the shrine or the name of the kami.

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Name: Daruma dolls

A daruma doll depicts the image of Bodhidharma, an Indian monk. Upon acquisition, the owner paints one eye of the face and makes a wish. When the wish comes true, the owner paints the other eye. Daruma dolls are found in Buddhism, but they are also found at Shinto shrines.

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