Gods, deities (kami to hotoke)


The Deities of Japan and Haiku

The discussion started with a translation of

kami no kao ... literally: the face of God

猶みたし 花に明行 神の顔
nao mitashi hana ni ake yuku kami no kao

How I long to see
among dawn flowers,
the face of God.

Matsuo Basho
Tr. Lucien Stryk

Hitokotonushi 一言主 , the God of One Word

Shinto deities and hokku by
. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .

. shinbutsu 神仏 kami to hotoke .
shinbutsu shūgō 神仏習合 syncretism - shinbutsu bunri 神仏分離 separation


suzushisa ya kami to hotoke no tonaridooshi

this coolness !
Gods and Buddhas
side by side

mihotoke ni shirimuke oreba tsuki suzushi

to the honorable Buddha statue
I turn my backside and there is
the coolness of the moon

. Masaoka Shiki 正岡子規 .
Tr. Gabi Greve

In Japan, a variety of deities are known, usually peacefully side by side, starting with ancient animistic believes of "Gods of Mountains, Waterfalls, Rocks" and so on, leading to the concept of KAMI in Shintoism and later the influence of Buddhism with its manyfold HOTOKE.

Christianity came with the Portugese Missionaries, so we have
Deus sama デウスさま
Jesus, Iesu sama イエスさま
(the pronounciacion GODDO ゴッド is seldom used when talking about God.)

God of Christianity キリスト教の神
Lord of Heaven, ten nushi 天主
Father, Son and Holy Ghost
父(なる神)と子(なるキリスト)と聖霊;三位一体(the Trinity)

GOD in the dictionary

Was God the real creator?
Peter Conrad

To distinguish the Christian God, with a capital letter, from the other gods of other religions, we can use the capital G ! In German, we can distinguish between Gott and Gottheiten, deities.

But in the haiku above, would the last line be poetically translated as:
the face of the deity ??
Yet, just reading "face of God", would not a good Christian imagine the old man with a beard? This is a problem of translations, having been disucssed ... HERE ! ...

To complicate matters, many Buddhist deities have their Japanese counterpart, or vice versa.

Even now, many traditional homes have a special shelf for the kami (kamidana 神棚) and an alcove for Buddhist souls of the ancestors (butsudan 仏壇).
Weddings often take place at a Christian church, although the participants are not Christian believers at all, but they love the ceremony that goes with it.

Hotoke 仏,佛 does not only refer to a Buddhist deity, but also to the dead body of a person.
Dead body, deceased person, corpse (hotoke) Japan Death Poems, Death Haiku

This whole Saijiki is devoted to the many ceremonies and festivals around these various deities.



Amaterasu Oomikami (Omikami) 天照大神
and her Buddhist counterpart
Dainichi Nyorai 大日如来 The Great Sun, Center of the Universe

Bimbogami, Binboo Gami 貧乏神 God of Poverty

For the rice planting society of old, these two where most important:

God of Water, Mizu no Kamisama 水の神様, Suijin-sama 水神様

Deities of the Fields and Mountains. Ta no Kami 田の神, Yama no Kami 山の神

Waterfalls and Fudo Myo-o 不動滝 worshipped as the deity himself, a Buddhist Deity in an animistic setting, Fudo Myo-O is a borderline case, where the mountain asceticism has developed its own view of the divine.

Omodaru, Ayakashikone and Dairoku Tenma O 第六天魔王

Haniyasu 波邇夜須毘古神, the God of the Feces
Haniyasu and his female counterpart were produced from Izanami's feces.

God of the Great Water (Omizunu) 淤美豆奴命

The place of worship is called
Shrine, Shinto Shrine (jinja, miya, guu) Japan

In haiku, we even have to note a months where
the Gods are absent (kami no rusu).

The Road to Izumo, where the Deities meet.

Festivals for the Japanese Gods (matsuri)

Ritual Dances for the Japanese Gods, Kagura Dance 神楽

Introducing Shinto Deities
Mark Schumacher



getting older -
even the gods
need glasses

In the Buddhist pantheon, we distinguish between four great groups of deities:

Nyorai GroupTathagatas: Enlightened Beings

Bosatsu Group Bodhisattvas: The Compassionate Ones

Myo-o GroupWisdom Kings

Tenbu GroupDevas: Celestial Beings

Read more about ..... Japanese Buddhist Deities
Mark Schumacher

Mark as a great photo dictionary on these deities, so check it out.

I have referred to a few here on my own pages of Japanese deities, so please look at my index HERE !

Daibutsu and Hotoke ...
Big Buddha Statues and Stone Buddhas in Haiku

Through the many haiku of Issa, most of you will know

Amida Buddha 阿弥陀如来 Amitabha and the

Amida Prayer (Namu Amida Butsu 南無阿弥陀仏)

Enma Ten, Enma Oo (Emma): The King of Hell閻魔天、閻魔王 has also been the subject of haiku.

Fudo Myo-O, The Wisdom King Acala 不動明王

HOTEI and the seven gods of good luck 布袋と七福神

Jizo Bosatsu 地蔵菩薩
Discussion about the translation as "Saint Jizo" in the haiku of Issa.

The place of worship is called
Temple, Buddhist Temple (tera, -ji) Japan

Temple Eihei-Ji and Cold Zen 永平寺

Temple Mokubo-Ji (Umewaka Ki)

Introducing More Japanese Temples


Japan's Shinto-Buddhist religious medley
Read an essay by ERIC PRIDEAUX



Queen Mother of the West, seibo 西靈王母, 西王母
She resides in a grove with peaches which blossom only every thousand years. If you eat one, you will get eternal life.
Click HERE for some photos !

Tobosaku, the peach thief Tooboosaku
とうぼうさく 東方朔

He stole three peaches ! He is depicted as an old man, holding a peach in his hands. And he smiles in eternal life.
Click HERE for some photos !

Chokaro with the magic pumpkin, Chookaroo
ちょうかろう 張果老
When he belwe on his pumpkin, a horse came out to transport him to any place. He is always depicted with his pumpkin and the horse lurking out of it.
Click HERE for some photos !

The Holy Mountain Hermits, Sennin 仙人
Immortals who live in the mountains, ride the clouds and drink the dew. There are more than 500 known. There are also some female mountain hermits.

Hermits, Sennin 仙人
..... Three Hermits: plum, chrysanthemum and narcissus

Click HERE for some photos !



The arrangement of contents in the online Encyclopedia of Shinto (EOS) follows the general topical organization of the original Shintō jiten.
Extensive SEARCH function.
Research on Shinto and Japanese Culture.
Kokugakuin University

"Yaoyorozu no kami (八百万の神, eight-million deities)—in Japanese the number "eight-million" is often used to imply infinity.



Written by Jane Hirshfield in an essay, "The Myriad Leaves of Words," from her book, "Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry" (Paperback, HarperPerennial, 1998):

"It is impossible to understand Japanese poetry without knowing something of the Buddhist and Shinto culture from which it springs.

Shinto's ethos of omnipresent, indwelling spirits underlies every natural image. The 'kami', or gods, of Shinto belief inhabit not only the mountain passes of the actual countryside but also those of the poems-- each bent pine tree, seaweed-filled bay, even wind, is charged with an abiding and informing presence of its own.

Japan's earliest literary works, mythological accounts of the country's origins that link the imperial family to the age of the gods, are almost purely Shinto in feeling. But by the eighth century, Japanese poetry had become soaked through with a deeply Buddhist sensibility as well."
Commented by Larry Bole


God Hachiman 八幡

"Hirai is a Shinto priest who studied the history of religions at Chicago with Joachim Wach. One day he took us to see a famous temple at Ise. Someone in our group, an American philosopher, told him: I see the temples, I attend the ceremonials, the dances, I admire the costumes and the courtesy of the priests -- but I don't see any theology implied by Shintoism.

Hirai reflected a second and answered:
"We have no theology. We dance."

-- Mircea Eliade

Hachiman Cult in Japan
Ross Bender

. WKD : Hachiman Shrines and their festivals .


suzushisa ya kado no yosari wa butsu zaise

cool evening--
at my gate the age
of Buddha returns

Kobayashi Issa

Yosari is an old word that denotes evening time; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1707.
Butsu zaise refers to the period in which the historical Buddha was living on the earth. Issa feels as though this evening of perfect cool air has returned him to that ideal time. I rearranged the elements of the haiku somewhat in my translation. Following Issa more literally, we have:
"cool air--/ at the gate, too, an evening/ of Buddha in the world."

David Lanoue


神々と 逢える冬の 散歩道
kamigami to aeru fuyu no sanpomichi

winter walk -
the gods of Japan
at my side

© Gabi Greve, February 2006 Look at more here !


© by Geert Verbeke, October 2007


***** WKD Library: Buddhism and Shinto in Japan
Michael Hoffman, March 2010

***** Kojiki in Pictures - Shinto Manga 古事記 の漫画

***** Ceremonies and Festivals of Japan

***** . Amulets and Talismans from Japan . 

. Introducing Japanese Deities


. Japan - Shrines and Temples .



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