Most of us believe in a supreme deity, and for the Japanese, the Shinto is their religion of choice. To practice this religion, you need a god shelf they call a Kamidana. What does Kamidana mean? This is a form of a miniature shrine that you can use in your household or even in your business such as a shop.
A Kamidana consists of different parts. The shrine contains a Taima at the center which is a symbol of the sacred power also known as kami. Each side has paper amulets that are referred to as ofuda which represent ancestral spirits. It also comes with ropes that are called shimenawa which are considered sacred.
You can buy a modern or a traditional Kamidana online from different sites such as Amazon at various prices. This shrine allows you to worship from the comfort of your home as you place your offerings such us food, water, and green twigs and conduct prayers every day before you start your day. It as an outlet for you to seek blessings for your household from the shrine.
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Various kamidana for sale in a shop in Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan.[/caption]
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After finding out the definition of a Kamidana, it is essential to know its origin. Japanese are famous for the Kami worship. Kamidanas came into the limelight during the Heian period where Buddhists were entrusted with the rites for sorei which are the ancestral spirits. People from this religion started conducting rituals from their homes by enshrining ancestral tablets. Apart from the Kamidana, Buddhist families also used an altar they called the Butsudan in their worship. They used memorial tables in the altar to honor dead ancestors according to sect affiliation. People still light candles and burn incense in honor of family ancestors before this altar.
The spread of cults during the medieval period made a lot of locals install the Kamidana. Different locations refer to the Kamidana in various names such as kadogami-dana, ebisu-dana, and toshitoku-dana.
The types of Kamidana in the past differed in households. One, for instance, consisted of a recessed kind that included sliding doors and shelves. There was another type which was similar to a cupboard unit that has an upper shelf which had a door.
As this shrine spread, another type was also developed. It comprised of a plain board which was used to form a shelf. Cantilevered brackets were used to support the shelf from beneath. Sometimes, timber hangers were used to make it stable. In other households, people used separate shelves to enshrine Buddhists identities.
Craftsmen who constructed these types of shrine have specialized artisan skills. The purpose of using Kamidana was not only limited to worship alone. People believed that this could bring good fortune to a home or contribute to the success of your business.
Some houses held more than one Kamidana placing one in the sitting room and another in the kitchen to prevent fires. In other times, you would find a kamidana placed near a corner to improve its support. It was a common practice in households in rural areas which extended to urban places with time.
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Setting up a Kamidana
The placement of a Kamidana is that similar to a small shelf or a cupboard which contains displays of daily offerings. You should choose a good location to install your Kamidana. Get a place that is clean, quiet and bright. It should also be on a raised ground and not on an eye level to act as your place of worship.
You should not set it up near an entrance such as the window so that it does not accumulate dust easily. You should install it in an area where people do not walk under. A southern or eastern orientation as per the direction of the sun would be an ideal location.
Avoid fixing it next to the ceiling since this can bring challenges when it comes to hanging the sacred rope. Both dojos and homes must follow the rules of setting a Kamidana.
Different parts make up a kamidana. The ofuda is considered an essential element of this shrine. This is a form of wood charm that forms the central part of worship. It is believed to be the dwelling of the kami. A kamidana also contains worship items or spirit tools such as sakaki, kagari-b, kumo, and tori.
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An example of a kamidana. Decorations for it have to be bought separate.[/caption]
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Things to consider
Though there are different kamidanas for sale, you should consider some important aspects before buying one.
Kamidana sets come in different sizes when it comes to the compartments that accommodate the ofuda. You may find that some ofudas are bigger than others. This means that you have to get a Kamidana that fits the size of the ofuda you intend to buy. There are both large and small kamidanas. Measuring the dimensions will prevent you from getting the wrong fittings.
Different types of kamidanas come in various designs. The model you select comes down to preference though you should get one that is ideal for the kind of kami you use. You can get one for an inari kami or an ancestral kami.
3. Inclusion of accessories
Some kamidanas come as a complete set with accessories such as vases, omiya, sacred mirrors, candle holders and offering vessels. Others do not include these items. If you need specific items for your Kamidana, you may choose to buy one that does not come with accessories. Alternatively, you can buy one that is complete to save yourself more expenses and time of looking for accessories.
Different antique stores offer kamidanas at various prices. You need to choose an affordable Kamidana that is both high-quality and fits your needs. You should put some thought into it and research from different suppliers before investing in one. Do not choose the cheapest option you get before considering its value.
Check the quality of wood used in different pieces as you assess it against its cost. If you stay in Japan, you are lucky because you may not incur shipping costs. For those who reside outside Japan, you can buy your Kamidana online from reputable sites. Choose one that gives you a reasonable fee in shipping so that you don’t spend too much beyond your budget.
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The size and weight of your shrine also determine how portable it is. You may need one that is not too heavy to install on a raised area. Put this into consideration if you don’t have assistance to carry and install your kamidana.
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A decorated kamidana with a buddha posing as the center piece.[/caption]
After getting the right piece, it is important to assemble it according to the Japanese culture. Install it on a special day as per the Japanese tradition such as the taian day. The Japanese people believe that some days are lucky while others are unlucky. They believe in the system known as rokuyo.
If you want to know the best time to set up the Kamidana, follow the Japanese diaries and calendars. These indicate the specific days that symbolize luck. According to their calendar, unlucky days are known as butsumestu.
Installing a kamidana during such a day is not a blessing as per their traditions. Set up your shrine one of the taian days and place the Omiya on the shelf. You can now put offerings and light candles as you make prayers to your deity on this day.
How to approach the kamidana
As part of your daily routine, you should place offerings when you wake up and before going to bed. You should follow the right procedure when placing your offering on the tray to deliver to then shrine. Understanding the learning curve of worshipping is essential for any newcomer.
This includes washing your hands or showering before preparing the offering and presenting it to your kamidana. You can place your offerings on a tray using both of your hands as you approach it off the centerline so that you don’t interact with the Kami from a straight angle. Set your offerings accordingly then clap your hands twice and bow to pray. Your prayers should not only be self-centered but also be inclined towards the peace of the world at large.
A kamidana is known as a dwelling for the ofuda. The material used to build a kamidana is hinoki wood. Apart from placing it in a high area, it should always be clean since it is a sacred place.
To clean it, you should first remove all the objects that make up your kamidana and dust them off separately. Wipe the surfaces of the compartments using a mild soap and water. Use a damp towel to get rid of dust and dry it completely.
Replace offerings such as incense regularly and add screws on lose parts. Ensure that paper pieces do not come into contact with water. You can replace an ofuda annually but maintain the Kamidana for years.
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It is important for everyone to nurture a good relationship with God. A Kamidana can help you cultivate that and connect you to your deity every day. Our discussion has covered everything you need to know regarding a kamidana such as its origin, maintenance, usage, and set-up. Use the factors that we have outlined to help you choose the right kamidana according to your expectations. Remember, pray is the key to success!