Japan’s Top 5 Most Important Shrines


Japan's Top Shrines

There are thousands of Shinto shrines throughout Japan, but if you ask a Japanese person what the most important one is, they’ll turn their head slightly askance and suck their breath in through their teeth. “I don’t know,” is what that gesture means. Shinto isn’t like Catholicism, where authority trickles down from the Vatican. In the Meiji era the Japanese government consolidated the religion into a short-lived theocracy with the emperor at its head called “State Shinto,” but prior to that it was an unknit collection of shrines honoring local deities. Japanese scholars usually refer to it as the indigenous religion of Japan.

There is no “head shrine,” but a few could be at the top of the pyramid. (Although it’s more of a pyramid with an uneven, flat top.) These either enshrine some of the highest deities, are historically prominent, or their god’s domain is critical to the nation. If you…

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