Shiniki (神域)

Shiniki is precincts of a shrine or a place where gods dwell (yorishiro).

Or deriving from it, the term Shiniki is also used in referring to an important place.


In Koshinto (the ancient Shinto), himorogi (a temporarily erected sacred space or "altar" used as a locus of worship) and iwakura (dwelling place of a god, usually in reference to a large rock) are yorishiro of gods. At the same time 'rogi '(籬) from himorogi (神籬) meaning 'a fence' and iwakura, also called iwa-saka (saka means a border) both signify borders of Shiniki. Furthermore, 'Chinju-no-Mori' (Sacred Shrine Forest), other forests, mountains, seas, rivers, rocks and trees as himorogi or iwakura represent the boundary zone and they also function as Kekkai (barrier) between Tokoyo that is to say Shiniki (the kingdom of gods or the ideal world) and Utsushiyo (the actual world). Quite a few places are Kinsokuchi (tabooed land). As for Okino-shima Island, not only the shrine and the forest but also the whole island is Shiniki, furthermore Kinsokuchi. It is also said that since ancient times, Doso-shin (traveler's guardian deity), Koshin-to Tower (stone tower from Taoism), Hokora (small shrine) or stone Buddhist images such as Jizo (guardian deity of children) placed at the crossroads leading to villages in suburbs functioned as barriers to Shiniki.

Also in Jinja Shinto (Shrine Shinto, all the rites and other activities performed by a local community or a kin community are performed mainly in a building called Jinja or Shrine) the barriers are used to define Shiniki, for example, designed steps, doors, bars, Torii (Shrine gates) or Shimenawa (sacred rice-straw ropes) are provided to signify the border. Although it is little known to the general public, basically Sando (the approach to Shinto shrine) is an approach for gods who descend and live in shrines. Since the center of Sando is Shiniki and tabooed, visitors must walk along the side of Sando.

In Koshinto and Shinto, Kekkai can be considered to be a representation of taboo in a certain space. Kekkai (結界) also functions to connect (結) two worlds (界) that are a sacred area (Tokoyo) and a profane area (Ustushiyo).

The importance of Shiniki in Shinto

What kind of characteristic does Shiniki have in Shinto ?
It is the most essential area to enshrine and serve deities. Shiniki is necessary as the land where Shinen (shrine garden) is made or jingi (the sacred treasures) are enshrined. Shiniki is also required when Chozusha (purification trough) is provided. Making Shin-en is to please the enshrined deities with trees, mosses, flowers and fruits.

Present status of Shiniki

Today Shiniki can be regarded just as an event site. In our daily life, Shiniki is considered as a place for stalls. It is sometimes used for human activities rather than serving the deities.

In fact, entertainment, such as Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra concert in Heian-jingu Shrine, are occasionally held due to its open space.

Shiniki tends to be used for such entertainment since it was originally established as open space for Shinto rituals.

Contemporary usage of the term

Today Shin-iki mainly signifies an important place.
For example, it is used such as 'Mt.Everest is Shiniki for mountain climbers,' 'Hollywood is Shiniki for cineast.'
These often indicate a starting point or a finishing goal to the person in question.

It is used not only as a place but also as an important part.
It is applied to emphasize objects, for example, 'a mortar is Shiniki of driving power mechanics,' 'Riemann's hypothesis is Shiniki of mathematics.'
Its usage is similar to that of "Mecca."

[Original Japanese]