Category Archives: Koshinto

“Dying Gods” of the Japanese Worldview

Okunomichi:  We have just come across an essay by  Yamaori Tetsuo, a distingished scholar of religious studies. Written originally in Japanese, its clear English translation evokes in the Western reader a better understanding of what it is to be Japanese. We offer a few paragraphs and suggest that the full essay be read at

Keywords: Environment, worldview, religion, mythology, Shinto, kami, society.

The Japanese World View: Three Keys to Understanding

by Yamaori Tetsuo

“Along with a sense of transience, the natural environment also fostered a comforting awareness of the cycle of the seasons and the rebirth that invariably follows death. Flowers bloomed in the spring, leaves turned color and fell in the autumn, freezing winds swept the trees bare in the winter. But invariably the old year gave way to the new, and spring arrived once again. The knowledge that sunny days inevitably followed cloudy ones gave people the strength to live from day to day. Armed with this awareness, they learned to face life with grace and patience, flexibility and fortitude, and to face impending death with quiet acceptance, returning to the earth to become one with nature again.”

“Shintō is translated “the way of the kami,” and the kami of Japan are very different in character from the divinities with which most Westerners are familiar. From prehistoric times countless kami were believed to dwell deep within nature, in the mountains, forests, and waters of the archipelago. These were not anthropomorphic beings with distinct personalities and physical attributes. The vast majority were nameless but potent spirits of the sort believed to inhabit places and objects of all kinds. For that reason, there was a tendency to refer to them collectively, as kami-gami, rather than in the singular.”

“In ancient Japan, however, the relationship between mythological and historical events was viewed quite differently. In the Japanese cosmology, human society was subject to the same laws and rhythms as the deities who helped found it. For this reason, the Japanese viewed the origins of their country in a very different light from the kind of historical view common in the West. …The perception that the kami died just as human beings enabled the Japanese to view myth and history as seamlessly linked and nurtured a distinctive view of the cosmos, of life and death, and of the human condition.”

“What is the relationship between dying gods and a political system predicated on pluralism? Both reflect a view of the cosmos, human life, and human society shaped by a keen awareness of the impermanent, ever-changing nature of the world in which we live.”



Ama no NubokoEditor’s Note: These renditions are from Koshinto Gyoho Nyumon by Omiya pp 132-139.

What is Amatsu Kanagi?

Amatsu means divine or holy. Kanagi means a thin timber. Some say that Amatsu Kanagi was used for purification ceremonies. They say that people removed evil through the ceremony by putting those timbers together to make something like a desk and then putting small timbers, collected from sinners as atonements, onto the Amatsu Kanagi.

There were many inferences about Amatsu Kanagi’s real identity, but no on had known about it until Oishigori Masumi revealed it. According to Oishigori, Amatsu Kanagi is the epitome of macrocosms, or one small microcosm. It also reflects acts of gods and goddesses so that it conceals the whole secret of the universe.

Thus, by operating Amatsu Kanagi that is combined in two or three dimensions based on the set of rules, you can not only understand Kojiki, A Record of Ancient Matters, and the genesis and true identity of the universe, but also witness the past, present, and future of the universe. For example, when Izanagi no mikoto and Izanami no mikoto generated the lands of Japan by stirring the sea with Amatsu Kanagi, the Amatsu Kanagi was shaped with one erect Amatsu Kanagi timber and four other timbers surrounding it along the side. In the course of looking at the combined amatsu Kanagi, you gradually come to understand the various intentions that the shape of Amatsu Kanagi shows. Furthermore, as your contemplative power increases through training, you will eventually feel the strong power of the whirl generated by Amatsu Kanagi and you will face the scene of the primorial universe.

What is Ama no Nuboko?

Incidentally, the origin of Amatsu Kanagi is traced back to Ama no Nuboko, which was bestowed on the kami Izanagi and Izanami from Amatsu Kami, a heavenly kami. Kojiki tells that Ama no Nuboko is a sacred treasure to generate the universe and is also an epitome of the universe. Shin no Mihashira, a sacred wooden column privately stored in the Grand Shrine of Ise in Mie prefecture, is said to have been modeled after Ama no Nuboko.

Amatsu Kanagi, the creator of the universe as well as a representation of the universe itself, is a spiriual and structural existence. In its spiritual aspect, it is called Mitamashiro while physically it is called Mihishiro. Amatsu Kanagi includes all representations of the soul and body of macrocosms. Thus, Kanagi is a symbol of Shikon, four souls, and Shitai, four bodies.

Shikon consists of Kushimitama, Aramitama, Nigimitama and Nurumitama. Kushimitama is an enigmatic soul. It is soul in the state of super consciousness, having divine power, and being able to create mystical events. Aramitama is a soul in a usual state of consciousness and is also called animalistic soul. Nigimitama is a soul in the state of half consciousness, called a vegetative soul. Nurumitama is a sleeping soul in the state of unconsciousness, called a mineral soul.

The Shikon and Shitai that reside in Amatsu Kanagi come from the universe and at the same time are organically linked to all things in the universe.

Shitai includes Seitai (something super physical such as radium, electricity, light and heat), Kitai (gas), Ekitai (liquid) and Kotai (solid).

Hence, when you fit Amatsu Kanagi timbers together in two or three dimensions based on the set of rules, you can find everything such as the genesis and the evolutionary process of the universe as well as all things in the universe.

By operating the sacred treasure, Amatsu Kanagi will allow you to relive the genesis of the universe made by the kami who created us.

As Oishigori Masumi forecasted, Western civilization has come to a dead end and is now being tossed about by the waves of big changes. Oishigori left us the secret of Amatsu Kanagi to break through this difficult time, and this would work as a bridge to go from the current material world across to the spiritual civilization.

See also:

The Kototama of MIZUHO NO TSUTAE by Yamaguchi Shido

Yamaguchi Shido chart

(L)  Kada’s Inari Koden Chart.     (R) Yamaguchi’s Futomani no Mitama Chart.

Editor’s Note: This is an English rendering from the Japanese book, Koshinto Gyoho Nyumon by Omiya Shirou, pp 100-107.

Yamaguchi Shido in the mid-19th century wrote a book that integrated the strange symbols found in two ancient scrolls into a metaphysical system of Kototama.

Yamaguchi Shido

In 1765 Yamaguchi Shido, the son of a wealthy farmer, was born in Awanokuni which is the modern-day Kamogawa-shi in Chiba prefecture. He was a child prodigy and learned Chinese literature at a young age. When he was 25 or 26, he moved to Edo to live with his uncle. He started the study of kokugaku, which is the study of ancient Japanese literature.

Futomani no Mitama/Kagotama Chart

The Yamaguchi family had handed down over the generations an ancient scroll that contained a mysterious chart known as Futomani no Mitama, also called Kagotama. Yamaguchi wanted to unwrap the secret of this chart. After three decades of studying, he came to understand that Futomani no Mitama told the secret about ancient kototama, the power of sound. But he did not quite understand the kototama.

Inari Koden/Mizuhi no Ontsutae Chart

The Inari Koden or Mizuhi no Ontsutae chart was handed down in the prominent Kada family. The Kada family, together with the Hata, of Kyoto were hereditary priests of the Inari shrine in Yamashiro no kuni, the present Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine in Kyoto. The noted kokugaku scholar, Kada no Azumaro (1669-1736) possessed this chart at one time. Azumaro has a lovely shrine at Fushimi Inari which I visited in 2012. Azumaro passed the chart to his adopted child, Tamiko, who in turn passed it to Kada no Noriyuki.

Kada shrine

Yamaguchi Shido studied classical Japanese literature under Kada no Noriyuki. Later he taught nobles at the Imperial Court in Kyoto. During these studies, Yamaguchi was given the Inari Koden chart. [Inari Koden probably means the ancient document of Inari.] The secret symbols written in the chart enabled him to solve his question of the ages about the Futomani no Mitama chart.

Mizuho no Tsutae by Yamaguchi Shido, an integration of the two documents

By receiving the Inari Koden, Shido became more confident about his study. In the year Bunsei 1, 1818, he returned to Edo and spent five years in developing a solid base for his study. In the year Tempo 1, 1841, he was invited to the house of Fukui Shigetsugu, his brother-in-law, at Kameyama in Kyoto. There he began writing his work entitled Mizuho no Tsutae which became his life-time achievement.

After that, his study of Kototama became so popular among court nobles in Kyoto that he gave many lectures to them. In the year Tempo five he finished writing seven volumes of Mizuho no Tsutae. Two years later, he was invited to see Kishu Tokugawa (one of the top three Tokugawa-related families) and went to Kishu in Wakayama. There he offered his books, Kamikazeiki and his series of Mizuho no Tsutae to Kishu Tokugawa.

Kototama of Yamaguchi Shido

According to Yamaguchi, all things in the universe consist of water and fire. These are also referred to as the sound of “i” and the sound of “ki.” Earth and people are all made up of these water and fire elements. The universe can be very much affected by the kototama that is created from water and fire. Shido thought “iki,” breathing, also consisted of water “i” and fire “ki.” Breathing was absolutely imperative to carry the words with kototama in them. For him, iki means to live, ikiru.

Yamaguchi found that the Inari Koden had much to do with Futomani no Mitama. He carefully compared them to each other. He revealed that the creation written in Kojiki actually told about the generation of goju-on, the fifty Japanese kana characters/syllables.

Yamaguchi saw that the Futomani no Mitama was made upof the five elements: the dot, the circle, the horizontal line, the vertical line, and the square.

He realized that the Inari Koden, through its twelve forms explained each of the five symbols in the Futomani no Mitama chart. This helped him work out the hidden meaning of Futomani no Mitama.

Yamaguchi noted the goju-on, the fifty voices of the kana syllables, as principal sounds and he made them into figures that represented the true identity of the universe.

The Japanese 50-kana syllables are a system showing the power of sound that controls the universe.

You can control the universe if you have a deep understanding of each sound. The belief of kototama that koto, something that is said, will become koto, something that happens, is a metaphysical system in the innermost recesses of traditional beliefs.

KOBAYASHI: Koshinto Nyumon Part 1

Kobayashi Biigen is an interesting author. We will post some of his writings. Guji Kobayashi KobayashiCoverpassed away a few years ago.

Kobayashi Bigen, Koshinto Nyumon, 1998

Chapter 7 Kannagara naru Omichi he:  Energy Lines pp244-249

The Author: Kobayashi Sensei was guji for 37 years. Born in Taipei in 1927, served on battleship. Attended Shinto school at Atsuta Jinja 12 years; guji at Kumano Motomiya; Omiya Jinja 11 years; Ishikiri Tsurugiya Jinja 13 years. He also spent some time in Europe but unfortunately for us, he hasn’t published in the English language. He was exceptionally knowledgeable in broad areas of sacred wisdom and philosophy, and we are trying hard to translate his works. Here is a part of the last chapter in this book. He is writing about energy lines connecting sacred places in Japan. They have something to do with how principles in the universe are reflected as patterns on earth.

Fig26 Fig27Fig28On pages 245ff Kobayashi shows what he terms energy lines in Figures 26 – 31. He begins with an area centered on Awaji Shima, the legendary birthplace of Japan. See Fig. 26.

Fig. 26 shows a triangular alignment ABC, distance 160 km between apexes.

A  Chigamine (mountain) Hyogo

B  Tamakiyama, Nara

C  Tsurugiyama, Shikoku

On those mountain tops are himorogi/iwakura from 15,000 yearso ago.

Fig. 27 is a larger region and shows a circle passing through points A, B, and D, where

D  Izanagi Jingu, Awaji no Ichinomiya

Then the circle also passes through

E  Ise no Naiku

F  Ibukiyama

G  Oue Yama, Motoise Naiku

Fig. 28 is an even larger region. A star-shape is formed by connecting jinja. The lines of the star are DE, EG, GH, HF,FD. Points on the star are G F E H D, where

H  Kumano Motomiya Taisha

If we extend GF to the east, we get a straight line to

J   Fuji Yama

Extending to the west, our line goes to

K  Izumo Taisha

Additional alignments are shown in Figs. 29 – 31 of his book, not shown here, with points L M N.

L  Kushimoto Ushiyo-misaki, Wakayama

M  Kaizu

N  Suwa Taisha

O  Nikko Futa-areyama Jinja (Toshogu)

He mentions some names which I have not succeeded in tracking down: Nakanishi Akira, professor, who studied himorogi, iwakura; Yamada Hirokuni, shocho/manager Stock Data Systems, studied triangular alignments of shrines. Also Yamashita Hiromichi, “Haruka naru daichi Mu kara no Yogen” published by Tama Shuppan.

On p. 243, he states that we have the power to connect to energies. The ancient Japanese prevented earthquakes by praying. Their oinori saved Japan from sinking like the Mu continent. Here is a similar map we found on the Internet.


This image is from

KOBAYASHI: Archaic Shinto and Chinkon


Among the religious practices of Archaic Shinto, there are several exercises which have produced such wonderful divine practices [as described in the preceding paragraphs]. These religious practices went along the Silk Road, and those continuing into the directions of India and Tibet developed into the teaching called “yoga.” Yoga places more emphasis on breathing techniques than on speaking, and through manipulating the flow of the breath or the automatic nerves, the seven chakras are opened, but its source was based on such traditions as Archaic Shinto’s method of chinkon.

Kobayashi Bigen, 1998, 227f, quoted in Chinkon Kishin: Mediated Spirit Possession in Japanese New Religions, by Birgit Staemmler on p 130.

Iwato Futa-ishi no Kaidoku

Futa-ishi photo Futa-ishiDrawingText

So bo yu hi ra ka re tsu ru

Kami saru ke/ga to wo hori

Kore ni utsu kumaru

Honoakari no miyo ni

Ame no iwato e komori masu tokini

Asobino soba naye he watari

Takahime no oya tsukayari wa

Sume oya yukari no futa tsukurite

Ame no iwato he nogareki

Chi okori unaru wo

Amino iwaya tono gomori

Sukue iwa morite

Iki nagara e tari

Iharewo hakeri

The Stone Cover of the Cave

In Honoakari’s time we were hiding in the iwato from an earthquake near Aso.

We escaped the earthquake. There was mad shaking and scary noise.

The lord hid there too.

The sacred stone protected, and we survived.

I am telling you how this came about.


This brief, or beginning, glossary is intended to assist the reader in getting started in the study of esoteric Koshinto. Koshinto or old Shinto is the link to the religion we call Shinto today. Our aim, however, is to uncover and understand the origins of the religion when it was still a spiritual practice.


The earliest shrines were the himorogi and iwasaka. Himorogi represent the Sacred Tree of Life. Himorogi  神 籬 , ひもろぎ refers to a tree (or grove of trees) that captures the sun’s energy.  A verable himorogi tree is marked with a shimenawa, straw rope indicating a sacred object. “Hi” of course is the sun, “gi/ki” is tree.

Kami were present in the sacred enclosures called iwasaka  岩 境 , いわさか, the interior of a boundary (“saka”) of stones, “iwa.”  Iwasaka stone groupings are the prototype of the Shinto shrine, and they became the inspiration of the Japanese landscape garden which Westerners call the Zen garden.

I must caution the reader not to place undue emphasis on the kanji for the different terms. Remember, the spoken words were written in ancient scripts before the introduction of Chinese characters, so that the same ancient word can be written in different kanji.

Further, ancient language was kototama, having powerful energies.

Moreover, the same word could have many meanings, many layers of meanings. Take “hi” for example. It is the word for sun, day, and fire. “Hi” is also one as in hitotsu, and in the Hi Fu Mi kototama, the sacred sounds of the numbers one through ten, hundred, thousand, myriad, and so on.

KOTOTAMA   ことたま   言 霊

Kototama is an esoteric system of Japanese semantics. Perhaps I should say “the” rather than “an.”  This word-soul doctrine has adepts who claim that it lays hold of all-compelling truth of the universe.

The sounds of kototama are often written in kana, i.e., katakana or hiragana, the syllabic alphabet. The kanji above are “word” “spirit.”  The power of the word, 言 こと, can result in manifestation of the thing or deed,  事 こと.

Sometimes the spelling is given as “kotodama.” Westerners are familiar with the spelling, kototama, through the books of Western students of the aikido master, Morihei Ueshiba. See, for example, W. Gleason, Aikido and Words of Power: The Sacred Sounds of Kototama.

“Tama” can be spirit/soul,  霊  たま, or jewel,  玉  たま.  霊  is also read  れい, “rei,” spirit.

KAMI   神  かみ

We shall in general keep the word “kami” untranslated, although it has the meaning of deity or spirit. Deeper meaning should become clearer from the context and the philosophical worldview from whence the term arose.

“Kami” has multiple meanings, at first glance unrelated; upon further thought they may be connected.

紙   かみ paper (used for writing sacred words, Fujisawa)

髪   かみ hair (having strong magnetic power of divinity, Fujisawa)

上   かみ upper, as in upper reaches of a river

Observe that:

“Ka” 火 か  fire – represents the verticality of time

“Mi”  水  みず water – represents the horizontality of space

Kami then represents the joining of fire and water, male and female, heaven and earth, time and space.

The verticality of time meets the horizontality of space in the NAKA-IMA, the Middle-Now, the Eternal Now.

The scholar Sakakura Atsuyoshi has suggested that kami comes from the verb “kumu,” to be hidden. The word “kami” originally meant “source” while the word “shimo” (usually writen with the kanji for “down”) meant “end.” Thus “source” and “spirit” share the same root, “kami.”

Kami is the “hidden mode of existence of spirit.” [Sonoda, 2006]

Kami are the productive pulsing power of Tai-ichi or Taikyoku (in Japanese), whose logo is the yin-yang symbol of curved dark region with white dot and a curved white region with dark dot. Alternatingly, the white dot in the dark enlarges into a large white region with a dark dot, while the large white region shrinks into a dot in a large dark region. Thus the polar opposites pulse and cycle endlessly.


The Japanese religion now called Shinto is perhaps more properly described as Kami no Michi, the Way of the Kami. Of course, in ancient days, the spiritual tradition of the people did not require a name; they all knew what it was. The term Shinto was introduced to distinguish that religion from the other major religion of Buddhism.

However, in these pages, we are interested in the esoteric tradition of this Way as a spiritual path to Great Truth and Wisdom.

Fujisawa [1959] sees the Way of Kami as “a dialectical synthesis of the diversifyingly expansive potency and the unifyingly contractive potency, which will polarize from Ultimate Reality being identical with Cosmic Vital Energy, l’elan vital.”

MICHI.  Further, Fujisawa points out that “michi” means sacred blood (みmi ちchi) that centrifugally springs from the heart of Kami and centripetally returns to it, perpectually circulating.

Mi, three, an auspicious number

Mi, body

Mi, fruit

Chi, blood

Chi, earth

Chi, deity

Here, we see indications of Kami no Michi as the Tree of Life.

The Japanese scholar of religion Sonoda Minoru has described Shinto as “the ritual means by which early Japanese transformed their natural surroundings into a cultural landscape infused with religious and historical meaning” (Sonoda 2000).


“Matsuri is the occasion when the hidden kami appear in the form of a mikoto…It is because the spirit of things are kami that rites are performed for them, and without rites, without matsuri, they cannot be kami. [Sonoda, 2006]


Jinja is a word translated as “shrine.” The places where matsuri are performed for the kami are the sanctuaries known as jinja or kami no yashiro, says Sonoda. Yashiro is a residence or a palace. The shrine buildings that we see today have evolved from himorogi and iwasaka.


Musubi is generative energy from the sun. Related words are umusu, begetting; musu, to fecundate/brew/steam; bi, Hi, the sun, fire, light, life, soul, deity. Musubi has forward exhaling motion and backward inhaling motion.

Musubi also means binding or connecting things for a new life, i.e., generative binding. Thus, through the harmonious collaboration of the Musubi Kami (see below) all things can generate, grow and ripen. Musubi in this sense is considered a cosmic principle.

Thirdly, musubi means completion or conclusion.


High Productive Kami. This kami is the forward movement. See also Koto Amatsu Kami.

Takagi no Kami is an alternate name, meaning high tree deity, growing life and the Tree of Life, the life cycle from seed to seed.

Characteristics: forward







Divine Productive Kami. This kami is the backward movement.

Characteristics: backward







HITO, man/person


Fujisawa, Chikao, 1958, Concrete Universality of the Japanese Way of Thinking, a new Interpretation of Shinto

—, 1959, Zen and Shinto

Sonoda, Minoru, 2006, Symbolism of Spiritual Life in Shinto Tradition, in Symbolic Languages in shinto Tradition, Shinto Kokusai Gakkai, Tokyo.