Japanese Patterns of Design
Fushimi Inari Grand Shrine Torii Gates

13 Types of Shinto Shrines: Different Deities, Beliefs and Blessings

Suwa Shrine Torii Gate in Nishi-Waseda, Tokyo, Japan
Torii Gate of Suwa Shrine in Nishi-Waseda, Tokyo, Japan

We have 13 types of Shinto shrines in Japan. Each has different belief and deities. With a deeper understanding of many types of Shinto Shrine gives you different experience and blessings.

Shinto Beliefs: 5 Core Values of Japanese Indigenous Religion

What each Shrine Means/ Types of Shinto Shrines

We have more than 80,000 Shinto Shrines in Japan which means you hit the shrine every corner you go. Even not every Japanese understand the differences among many types of Shinto shrines.

Shinto shrines are the embodiment of Japanese worship for the deities of nature. Once you get to know types of Shinto shrines in Japan, it gives you a better understanding of Japanese culture. 

1. Inari Shrines (稲荷社)

Repeated red torii gates at Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto
Repeated red torii gates at Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto, Japan

The Grand Head Shrine: Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto
The Enshrined Deity: Uka-no-Mitama-no-Kami (宇迦之御魂神)
The Blessings: It is the god of grain and one of the gods of agriculture. Also, it’s famous as a god of prosperity due to its bountiful image.

The name ‘Uka’ means grain or food.

People worship Inari Shrines for the deity of rice, grains (harvest, agriculture, thriving business, encouragement of new industry).

You can find these shrines in the stores and shopping districts, on the rooftop of companies and on premises of factories.

The term “Inari” can be brake down to ‘Ine’ and ‘Nari’ which means producing rice. The fact that one single grain of rice can yield thousands of them related to thriving business and encouragement of new industry. Hence people worship it as the deity of that domain.

They feature fox guardians which stand out and tell us they are one of Inari shrines. Why fox? It’s because foxes prey on mice which eat away grains and their fur color and the shape of the tails look like the ear of rice. Those facts made foxes related to the divine messengers or guardians.

Inari shrines are most common types of Shinto shrines and we have approximately 30,000 shrines all over Japan.

2. Hachiman Shrines (八幡社)

Usa Jingu Shrine, Oita, Japan : November 12, 2019. It is the head shrine of thousands of shrines across Japan that are dedicated to Hachiman, the god of archery and war.
Usa Jingu Shrine, Oita, Japan

The Grand Head Shrine: Usa Jingu in Oita Prefecture
The Enshrined Deity: Hachiman (Deified Emperor Oujin) as the Deity of Agriculture and the Sea. Also, Empress Jingu is Enshrined as well.

The Iwashimizu Hachimangu was constructed as a guardian deity of Heian-Kyo (present-day Kyoto).

In the Kamakura period (1185-1333), Minamoto no Yoritomo constructed Tsuruoka Hachimangu as the deity of military and protection. Since then, the worship of the deity of Hachiman spread all over Japan.

This types of Shinto shrines exist a lot, approximately we have 14,800 Hachiman Shrines all over Japan.

3. Shinmei Shrines (神明社)

Ise Jingu Shrine where you see the signboard says do not enter on the left
Ise Jingu Shrine

The Grand Head Shrine: Ise Jingu (Jinku) in Mie Prefecture
The Enshrined Deity: Amaterasu
The Blessings: Its benefits are not specific, but universal, and it is also known as the god of national peace and prosperity.

It has its alternate name ‘Oise-san’. Also known as Kotai shrine or Tenso shrine.

It refers to the worship of Ise Jingu. Since it enshrines Amaterasu, the sun goddess, the worship widespread with the agricultural rituals.

There are about 5,400 Shinmei Shrines all over Japan.

4. Tenjin or Tenmangu (天神社・天満宮)

Kitano Tenmangu Shrine in Kyoto, Japan
Kitano Tenmangu Shrine in Kyoto, Japan

Tenjin or Tenmangu is the abbreviation of Tenman Dai-Jizai Tenjin.

The Grand Head Shrine: Kitano Tenmangu
The Enshrined Deity: Sugawara-no-Michizane
The Blessings: Widely known as the god of learning, sincerity, and protection from bad luck.

Sugawara no Michizane was the exceptional scholar and politician of the Heian period (794-1185). He was stepping the ladder under Emperor Uda and Emperor Daigo. However, his political opponent tricked him into a demotion.

There’s the Onryo belief in Japan, the soul of one who dies indignantly could cause a lot of troubles and disaster to those who are alive. So people enshrine him to calm his spirit not to cause any disaster.

People began to call him ‘Tenjin-sama’ and expect the divine blessings from him on the field of study and exams.

Dazaifu Tenmangu is another famous Tenjin of all where you see the crowds of students each exam season.

There are about 10,300 Tenjin all over Japan.

5. Suwa Shrines (諏訪神社)

Suwa Taisha Shrine in Nagano, Japan
Suwa Taisha Shrine in Nagano, Japan

Suwa-jinja Shrine is a Shinto shrine that received the deity’s invocation (transferring the spirit of the deity to another location and enshrining it) from Suwa-taisha Shrine located on both sides of Lake Suwa in Nagano Prefecture.

The Grand Head Shrine: Suwa Taisha in Nagano Prefecture
The Enshrined Deity: Takeminakata-no-Kami, Yasakatome-no-Mikoto 
Blessings: Benefits include prayers for victory, prosperous business, and prosperity of offspring.

Famous as a god of strength and one of the three military gods of Japan.

Suwa faith is prominent in the belief in a dragon god who governs rain and wind, and as a guardian deity of agriculture directly related to water and wind. The belief in water has been transformed into a belief in a guardian deity of childbirth.

There are about 5,700 Suwa Shrines all over Japan.

6. Kumano Shrines (熊野神社)

kumano hongu taisha torii in wakayama prefecture
Kumano Hongu Taisha Torii Gate in the rice field, Wakayama, Japan

Kumano Gongen Shrine, which is transferred by Kumano Sanzan (Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Hayatama Taisha, and Kumano Nachi Taisha).

The Grand Head Shrine: Sanzan (Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Hayatama Taisha, and Kumano Nachi Taisha)
The Enshrined Deity: Izanami no Mikoto and others.
The Blessings: It is essentially a Buddhist Buddha, but its temporary form is a Shinto deity, a rare form of god.

There are about 4,776 Kumano Shrines all over Japan.

7. Kasuga Shrines (春日神社)

Kasuga Taisha Shrine in Nara, Japan,
Kasuga Taisha Shrine in Nara, Japan

Shrines transferred by Kasuga Taisha Shrine.

The Grand Head Shrine: Kasuga Taisha Shrine
The Enshrined Deities: Ameno Koyane no Mikoto, Takemikazuchi, Futsunushi no Kami, Hime no Kami

In 710, when the capital was moved to Heijo-kyo in Nara, Fujiwara no Fuhito moved the Fujiwara’s clan deity, Takemikazuchi, to Mikasayama in Kasuga and enshrined him, calling him Kasuga-no-kami.

Approximately 3,100 shrines exist nationwide.

8. Yasaka Shrines (八坂神社)

Yasaka Jinja in Kyoto, Japan
Yasaka Jinja in Kyoto, Japan

Yasaka Shrine is the name of a shrine dedicated to Susanono-no-mikoto and is located throughout Japan.

The Grand Head Shrine: Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto aka ‘Gion-san’
The Enshrined Deity: Susanoo-no-Mikoto

At the beginning of the Heian period (794-1185), the people of the time believed that the outbreak of plague and disease in the capital was caused by grudge spirits (people who had lost political power and were exiled or executed), and enshrined their spirits.

However, the anger did not abate, and the people demanded a stronger god or Buddha. The origin of the shrine is the worship of Susanoo-no-mikoto, who have defeated the Yamata-no-orochi, a serpent equated with all kinds of disasters in Japanese mythology, and saved Kushinadahime-no-mikoto, bringing good fortune to the land.

Hence, it is known as the god of calming calamities.

Approximately 2,900 shrines exist nationwide.

9. Shirayama or Hakusan Shrines (白山神社)

Shirayama Hime Shrine in Yamaguchi, Japan
Shirayama Hime Shrine in Yamaguchi, Japan

Hakusan Shrine enshrines the deity of Mount Fuji, Mount Tateyama, and Mount Hakusan, commonly known as the Three Sacred Mountains.

The Grand Head Shrine: Shirayama Hime Shrine in Shirayama City in Ishikawa Prefecture
The Enshrined Deity: Kukurihime-no-Kami, Izanagi, Izanami

Approximately 2,700 Shirayama Shrines exist. Especially in Gifu, Ishikawa, Niigata, and Shizuoka Prefectures.

10. Sumiyoshi Shrines (住吉神社)

Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine bridge in Osaka, Japan
Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine bridge in Osaka, Japan

Sumiyoshi Shrine enshrines the three Sumiyoshi deities.

The Grand Head Shrine: Sumiyoshi Taisha
The Enshrined Deity: Sokotsutsunoo-no-Mikoto, Nakatsusunoo-no-Mikoto, Uwatsutsunoo-no-Mikoto 

It is beneficial for warding off bad luck and preventing calamities. Additionally, people worship them as the god of safe navigation, agricultural protection and sumo wrestling.

Approximately 2,100 shrines exist all over Japan. 

11. Hiyoshi or Sanno Shrines (日吉神社・山王神社)

Hiyoshi Taisha Torii Gate in Shiga, Japan
Hiyoshi Taisha Torii Gate in Shiga, Japan

Hiyoshi Shrine and Sanno Shrine are shrines based on the Sanno faith, and were transferred by Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine.

The Grand Head Shrine: Hiyoshi Taisha
The Enshrined Deity: Oyamakui-no-Kami, Oomono-Nushi-no-Kami

Sanno refers to the divine spirit that protects the sacred mountain, in this case, Oyamakui, the deity of the landowner of Mt. Hiei.

With the relocation of the capital in Kyoto, people began to revere the shrine warding off evil and misfortune, as it was located in the demon’s gate of Kyoto.

Approximately 2,000 shrines exist all across Japan. 

12. Konpira Shrines (金比羅神社)

Konpiragu Shrine in Kagawa, Japan
Konpiragu Shrine in Kagawa, Japan

Konpira Shrine has the head shrine of the Konpiragu Shrine in Kotohira-cho, Kagawa Prefecture.

The Grand Head Shrine: Konpiragu Shrine
The Enshrined Deity: Omono-Nushi-no-Kami (大物主神)

The Konpira Shrine was originally dedicated to the deity Zotousan, where it is located.
Since Mt. Zotou has long been considered a navigational objective in the Seto Inland Sea, people began to worship deity of Mt. Zotou as the god of navigational safety. Also, farmers revered it as a god for rain.

Approximately 1,900 shrines exist all over Japan.

13. Ebisu Shrines (恵比寿神社)

Nishinomiya Ebisu Shrine in Hyogo, Japan
Nishinomiya Ebisu Shrine in Hyogo, Japan

Ebisujin was originally a god of the sea, and was born from the custom of calling unfamiliar objects that washed ashore ‘Ebisu’ and enshrining them as a gift from the gods to the sea.

The Grand Head Shrine: Nishinomiya Jinja
The Enshrined Deity: Hiruko (the child of Izanagi and Izanami), Ebisu or Kotoshironushi-no-Mikoto (the child of Okuninushi-no-Mikoto)

It has become a god of good catches and, by extension, of prosperous business.

Approximately 1,500 shrines exists all over Japan.

Hiroko Matsuyama

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