ANTH 101 Exploring Sociocultural Anthropology

Table of Contents


Discuss the meaning of “kami”


Kami is a Shinto term for a divine being.

Kami are basically spirits that are worshiped by the Shinto religion.

These elements can be either natural or inherited qualities from a deceased person.

Traditional leaders such as the Emperor could become kami or kami if their lives were lived in accordance with the virtues and guidance of kami.

Kami’s are part of nature, in fact they are nature itself. This theory is based on Shinto.

Kami can have positive, negative or good characteristics (Sever).

According to this theory, the Yamato court’s sensible plans for national confederation are hidden behind the human body.

Kami, in Japanese, is a term that replaces god or supernatural spirits.

Shinto natives defined the following five characteristics:

Two minds are what the kami have.

They can be good or bad, and they are both good and evil.

They can be loved if they are treated with respect. However, they can also be very destructive if they are treated badly.

Kami are invisible to the human world but are everywhere.

They are actually present at various sacred places in nature (Ono, Woodard).

They travel a lot and are believed to visit the places where they are worshipped.

There are many types of kami.

There are 300 types of kami. They can be classified in the kojiki or nihonshoki (ancient japanese chronicle) and each have their own functions, such as kami of wind and kamiof road.

Different kami have different tasks to perform. For example, it is human’s obligation to worship kami and for kami to perform functions that improve human existence ().

Native Shinto Shinto people also celebrate festivals and ceremonies.

The first Niiname-sai festival was to give newly harvested rice to kami to make them happy.

Shinto-shrine, another ritual for purifying oneself before they present themselves to kami (Pye 1.1).

This includes washing their hands, gargling, and other rituals.

This was done in order to cleanse their souls and bodies before they visited kami.

These are some of the most notable kami:

Amaterasu, the goddess of sun and universe, is Amaterasu.

Amaterasu’s name is derived form the word “amateur”, which literally means “shinning in Heaven”.

Amaterasu?mikami is her full name. It means “the great august God kami who shines the light heaven.” There is an Ise shrine in Ise, japan. This shrine is dedicated to Amaterasu.

As the imperial regalia for Japan, Amaterasu keeps Yata no Kagami, Amaterasu’s favorite mirror, at the shrine.

People celebrate Shikinen Sengu, a festival to honor Amaterasu, every 20 years.

Every day, new clothes and food are offered to the goddess. This practice has been followed for 690 years (Breen and Teeuwen 129-167).

Susanoo, the brother to amaterasu, is also the storm god of the summer.

Takehaya Susanoo no-Mikoto, Kumano Ketsumiko no Kami are his other names.

His wife’s name is kushinadahime.

According to some reports, there was once an aggressive rivalry between Susanoo (Breen) and sister amaterasu (“Teuwen”).

According to Japanese mythology, Izanagi was the first Japanese god.

His name (Izanagino-Mikoto in kojiki) means ‘h-who-invites’.

His wife’s name is Izanami.

Izanagi gave rise to amaterasu after cleaning his left eye, Tsukuyomi by wiping his right eye, and Susanoo (washing his nose) from the pollutants of Yomi.

Izanami-noMikoto is the Japanese god IzanaginoMikoto’s wife.

In kojiki, her name means’she who invites’.

She is both the goddess of creation and death.

Kojiki holds that Izanagi, before she dies, was able to transfer her soul to an animal or a person (Holland and Florence).

Tsukuyomiyomi no-Mikoto, the moon god of Shinto, is Tsukuyomi.

He was the second of three noble children, born by washing Izanagi’s right eye.

His sister, who became his wife amaterasu, lived in heaven.

Japanese mythology explains the story of the separation of night and day. Tsukuyomi killed Uke Mochi (goddess food), because he was disgusted at the way she prepared food. Amaterasu became furious and decided that he would never see him again.

She then went to the opposite side of the sky (Bo 012).

These are the Japanese myths that say day and night do not meet together.

Hachiman is the tutelary God of Warriors and is known as the divine protector of Japan.

His name means ‘god with eight banners’.

He is the god war, but his messenger is a dove and his animal is a dove.

The birth of the divine Emperor Ojin was symbolized by his eight heavenly banners.

Foreign ideas and religions influenced the creation of the concept of kami.

Confucianism and Christianity were all influences for the Japanese theologians.

All these teachings supported the idea of kami, which became more diverse among Japanese (Rusu 91-95).

With the growth of the country, many religions have emerged which has led to the juxtaposition of different ideas about gods.

Kami are similar to humans and respond to prayers.

According to Shinto tradition, there are approximately eight million million kami living in Japan.

According to Shinto, even though everything contains kami in it, only those who have the qualities of kami are called kami.

Two mottos are followed by the kami: musubi (harmonizing force) and makoto (“truthful will”).

Motoori Norinaga, a Japanese scholar of religion (1730-1801), described kami as follows:

“I don’t know what the word ‘kami” means.

It refers to all the divine beings of heaven or earth mentioned in the classics.

The kami, or spirits that dwell in the shrines and are worshipped there, are more specific.

Kami was a name for anything that seemed extraordinary, had the quality of excellence or virtue, and instilled a sense of wonder.

Works Cited

“Female Worship, its Evolution A Basic Clue In Ancient Japanese History [J].

World Ethno-National Studies 4 (2011), 012.

Breen, John and Mark Teeuwen

“The History of a Myth”

Shinto’s New History: 129-167

Breen, John and Mark Teeuwen.

Shinto in history: The Ways of the Kami.

God in the Machine: Perceptions of God and Portrayals Of Mechanical Kami in Japanese Anime.

University of Pittsburgh, 2010.

Ono, Sokyo and William Woodard.

Shinto The kami path.

Tuttle Publishing, 2011.

“Shinto: Primal religion and international identity.

Marburg Journal of Religion, 1.1 (2015).

Rusu, Renata Maria.

“Redefining Deity in Japanese Mythology: From the Perspective of Norse Gods & Goddesses”

“Japanese Mythology, Nationalism: Myths about genesis, Japanese identity and Familism”

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