What is the Symbol of Shintoism?


Shintoism is an indigenous religion of Japan that focuses on the worship of deities known as kami. It has a rich history and a unique set of beliefs and practices. One of the key aspects of Shintoism is the use of symbols to represent various concepts and ideas. In this article, we will explore the symbol of Shintoism and its significance within the religion.

The Torii Gate

The most well-known symbol of Shintoism is the Torii gate. These gates can be found at the entrance of Shinto shrines and mark the transition from the mundane world to the sacred space of the shrine. The Torii gate consists of two vertical pillars and a horizontal lintel on top. It is often painted in vibrant red color, which is considered sacred in the Shinto tradition.

The Torii gate represents the boundary between the spiritual and physical realms. It serves as a portal for the kami to enter the shrine and for worshippers to connect with the divine. Passing under the Torii gate is seen as a purification ritual and a way to show respect to the kami.

Kami Symbols

Another important aspect of Shinto symbolism is the representation of kami, the deities worshipped in Shintoism. Kami can be found in various forms, including natural elements such as mountains, rivers, and trees, as well as ancestral spirits and mythological beings.

A popular symbol used to represent kami is the Shimenawa, a sacred rope made of rice straw. It is often hung around trees or rocks that are considered to be inhabited by kami. The Shimenawa marks the presence of the divine and serves as a boundary between the sacred and the profane.

Another symbol associated with kami is the Shide, which are zigzag-shaped paper streamers. These streamers are often attached to Shimenawa or other sacred objects and are believed to ward off evil spirits. The zigzag shape represents lightning, a natural phenomenon associated with divine power in Shintoism.

Shintoism Explained


Imperial Regalia

In addition to symbols associated with kami, Shintoism also has symbols related to the Japanese imperial family. These symbols are known as the Imperial Regalia and consist of three items: the Sacred Mirror, the Sacred Sword, and the Sacred Jewel.

The Sacred Mirror, also known as Yata no Kagami, represents wisdom and truth. It is said to be kept at the Ise Grand Shrine, one of the most important Shinto shrines in Japan. The Sacred Sword, also known as Kusanagi no Tsurugi, symbolizes valor and is considered a symbol of the emperor’s authority. The Sacred Jewel, also known as Yasakani no Magatama, represents benevolence and is associated with fertility and prosperity.

Animal Symbols

Animals also play a significant role in Shinto symbolism. Some animals are believed to be messengers of the kami or possess divine qualities. These animals are often depicted in Shinto artwork and are considered sacred.

One such animal is the fox, known as Kitsune in Japanese. The fox is believed to possess intelligence and magical abilities. It is often depicted as a messenger of the kami Inari, the deity of rice, agriculture, and prosperity. Inari shrines often have statues of foxes guarding the entrance.

Another animal associated with Shintoism is the deer. Deer are considered sacred in Shinto and are protected in many Shinto shrines and parks. They are seen as messengers of the kami and are believed to bring good luck and fortune.


The symbol of Shintoism encompasses a wide range of elements, from the iconic Torii gate to the various symbols associated with kami, imperial regalia, and animals. These symbols serve to represent the spiritual and divine aspects of Shintoism and are deeply ingrained in the religious practices and beliefs of its followers.

By understanding the symbolism of Shintoism, we gain a deeper insight into the religion’s worldview and its connection to nature, ancestors, and the divine. These symbols are not mere decorations but hold significant meaning and play a crucial role in the religious rituals and traditions of Shintoism.

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