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Domestic shrine, Japan, 1801-1900

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Inside this highly decorated Japanese shrine are 66 figures of both Shinto and Buddhist deities. It would have been placed in a wealthy family home or monastery. Such a shrine would have been known as a kamidana or “shelf of the gods”. The shrine would have been used in ceremonial rituals with offerings to the deities to ensure physical healing and protection as well as financial or personal success for all the family. When worshipping at the kamidana, family members would give simple prayers, offer food such as rice and place flowers on the shrine. It was considered necessary for those worshipping to first wash their hands.

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Glossary: Buddhism

A belief system or religion originally from India and based on the teachings of Siddharta Guatama, known as ‘The Buddha’, who died about 400 BCE. It requires ethical and unselfish behaviour.

Glossary: Shintoism

The native religion of Japan. It involves the worship of spirits representing a place, a natural object or process, or the spirits of ancestors.

Glossary: shrine

Originally a container, usually made of precious materials, used especially for a relic and often a cult image. Today it has come to mean a holy or sacred place that is visited by believers.