The Kamidana… what is it?
Let’s continue with our series about “Gifts from My Teacher“.
Literally translated from Japanese, Kamidana means god shelf or spirit shelf.
I am no expert in the Japanese culture, let’s start with that. But, I will share what I know about the Kamidana, the Shinto and the Japanese culture.
Generally speaking, Japan has a very different view of spiritual life than we do in the West. The Japanese culture is steeped in superstition and belief in supernatural forces. Like India, they recognize many gods or expressions of God.
As I understand the original Japanese religion, Shinto, Shintoism is simply the belief that everything has a spirit, nature or essence about it. For instance, a Spirit of the mountain(s); the Spirit of the sea; the Spirit of rice field and so on. As an extension of that, the Japanese people respect and honor the nature of those things by placing Shinto houses or shrines dedicated to that spirit throughout Japan both indoors and outdoors.
On the shelf sit various items. I was taught that most of those items represent elements that are necessary to support life itself: Fire via the candles, Salt, Water, Rice, Plant life etc… though one wonders whether Sake (rice wine) is necessary to sustain life, it is also traditionally included on the Kamidana.
Caveat Lector: We at the Shin Gan Dojo / Urban Defense Academy do not require anyone to show reverence to any deity, god or spirit whatsoever. Please don’t confuse our respect for the Japanese culture as Spiritual Worship. This blog is only an attempt to explain the items and their meaning as it relates to how the Japanese people view them. We are not an expert on this topic. We do, on the contrary bow to each other as a matter of good etiquette and respect, identical to offering one’s hand to shake.