Shinden (神田)

A Shinden (also referred as Kanda) is a rice field whose produce is used to pay for the costs of a Shinto shrine's Saishi (religious services). It is also called Mitoshiro, Omita (御神田), Onta, or Omita (大御田).


The origins of Shinden are not clearly known, but Shinden are believed to have already existed before 646. Even when the Ritsuryo system (a system of centralized government based on the ritsuryo codes) was established in the late seventh century and rice fields were integrated into Kubunden (rice fields allotted to people by the central government) under the Handen Shuju no ho Law (the law of rice field allotment system), Shinden and Jiden (rice fields owned by temples) were exempted from the law. This exemption was made based on the belief that Shinden and Jinden were not the property of Shrines and Temples, but of deities. Therefore, the buying and selling of Shinden and Jiden, which were considered the property of deities, was prohibited.

Under the Taiho Ritsuryo Code and Yoro Ritsuryo Code (code promulgated in the Yoro period) established in the eighth century, Shinden was stated in Jingiryo (the part of the code that dealt with all matters relating to Shinto) and Denryo (the law about providing rice fields). According to the laws, in order to cultivate Shinden, Jinko (the administrative households that was considered as belonging to deities) was stipulated and Soyocho system (a tax system, corvee) imposed on Jinko was supposed to be used for the purpose of building and managing shrines and to be exempted from Handen Shuju no ho Law. That is, in the laws Shinden was defined as Fuyusoden (tax-exempted rice field).

The concept to regard Shinden as Fuyusoden led to the increase of Shoen (privately owned manors) in the Heian period. Since Fuyu no ken (the right to tax exemption) was granted to Shinden even after the collapse of the Ritsuryo System from the eighth to ninth century, Tato (dominant farmers or lords cultivating new rice fields) who were then collecting rice fields around them tried to obtain Fuyu no ken Right by donating their rice fields to shrines or temples. Therefore many Shoen manors were contributed to dominant shrines or temples.

After that, from the 11th century through the 13th century with the establishment of the Shoen koryo sei (The System of Public Lands and Private Estates), Shinden was positioned as one of Joden (tax-exempted rice fields) of Shoen or Kokuga (local government office)
The tax imposed on Shinden was not regarded as the income of the Lord of the manor, but was used for shrines' religious services or festivals. This custom continued through history and even today many Shinto shrines have Shinden or Omita as the rice fields to offer Kugo (food for deities).

Place name and Family name

The description above explains the origin of the place name Shinden (also referred as Kanda) in Japan. As Shinden was spread throughout Japan, the place-name Shinden is seen everywhere in Japan. The famous places named after Shinden includes Kanda (Chiyoda Ward).

The family name Kanda also came from Shinden mentioned above.

[Original Japanese]