Department of Divinities
SuccessorMinistry of Divinities, Great Teaching Institute, Missionary Office

The Department of Divinities (神祇官, jingi-kan), also known as the Department of Shinto Affairs, Department of Rites, Department of Worship, as well as Council of Divinities, was a Japanese Imperial bureaucracy established in the 8th century, as part of the ritsuryō reforms. It was first consolidated under Taihō Code which established the Department of Divinities (神祇官, jingi-kan) and Daijō-kan, the Council of State (太政官, daijō-kan).[1][2] However, the department and Daijō-kan made its first appearance in the Asuka Kiyomihara Code.[3]

While Daijō-kan handled secular administrative affairs of the country, Jingi-kan oversaw almost all matters related to Shintō, particularly of kami worship.[1][2] In other words, the general function of jingi-kan includes to oversee kami-related affairs at court, provincial shrines, performance rites for the celestial and terrestrial deities (天神地祇, tenjin chigi), as well as coordinating the provinces' ritual practices with those in the capital based on a code called jingi-ryō (神祇令), which roughly translates to "Code of Celestial and Terrestrial Deities" or "Code of Heavenly and Earthly Gods".[3][1]

While the department existed for almost a century, there are periods of time in Japanese ancient and medieval history where jingi-kan was effectively inexistent, parallel to the evolution of the ritsuryō system and Shinto, such as when the establishment of jingi-kan was burned down during Ōnin War (1467-1477). Then, during the Meiji period, jingi-kan was briefly reinstated in 1868 and then dissolved in 1871, succeeded by Ministry of Divinities (神祇省, jingi-shō) and Ministry of Religion (教部省, kyōbushō).[3][1]


The term jingi-kan is composed of the Chinese character kan (), "council" or "department," and jingi (神祇), which is an abbreviated form of tenjin chigi (天神地祇), "celestial and terrestrial deities." The term tenjin (天神), also known as amatsukami which translates to "celestial deities" or "heavenly gods" encompasses all kami gods in Shinto that resides in Takamagahara or "High Plains of Heaven," from whom the Japanese imperial line supposedly descended.[1] The term chigi (地祇), also known as kunitsukami, translates to "terrestrial deities" or "earthly gods" and encompasses all kami gods in Shinto that resides in or have appeared on the earth.[1] Colloquially, the term jingi can also be used to refer to the rituals performed to the heavenly and earthly gods.[1]

Therefore, there are several ways to translate the term jingi-kan in English:

  1. "Department of Divinities" or "Council of Divinities," where the term jingi is used to refer to both heavenly and earthly gods. This is the most common translation used in English.
  2. "Department of Rites" or "Council of Rites," where the term jingi refers not to the heavenly and earthly gods but to the rites performed for these gods.
  3. "Department of Shinto Affairs" or "Council of Shinto Affairs," where "Shinto Affairs" refer to the general function of jingi-kan, that is to oversee all matters related to Shintō.

Ritsuryō Jingi-kan

This Shinto administrative hierarchy was an intentional mirror of its Chinese counterpart, the Ministry of Rites (禮部).[4] The Jingi-kan was charged with oversight of Shinto clergy and rituals for the whole country.


The Jingikan was staffed by four levels of managers, as seen below:[3]

Title in Japanese Romanization Title in English Additional Details
従四位下 - 神祇伯 jingi-haku Director, junior fourth rank lower grade Japanese bureaucratic title: 大常伯(たいじょうはく, daijōhaku), 大常卿(たいじょうけい, daijō-kei)、大卜令(たいぼくれい, daibokurei)、祠部尚書(しほうしょうしょ, shihōshōsho
従五位下 - 神祇大副

正六位上 - 神祇少副

jingi-daifuku,jingi-shōfuku Senior vice-director, junior fifth rank lower grade

Junior vice-director (shōfuku), senior sixth rank upper grade

Japanese bureaucratic title: 大常小卿 (だいじょうしょうきょう, daijōshōkyō), 祠部員外郎 (しぶいんがいろう, shibuingairō)
従六位上 - 神祇大祐

従六位下 - 神祇少祐

jingi-daijō,jingi-shōjo Senior assistant, junior sixth rank upper grade

Junior assistant, junior sixth rank lower grade

Japanese bureaucratic title: 大常丞 (たいじょうじょう, taijōjō), 大卜丞 (たいぼくじょう, taibokujō)
正八位下 - 神祇大史

従八位上 - 神祇少史

jingi-daisakan,jingi-shōsakan Senior secretary, senior eighth rank lower grade

Junior secretary, junior eight rank upper grade

Japanese bureaucratic title: 大常録事 (たいじょうろくじ, taijōrokuji), 大卜令史 (たいぼくれいし, taibokureishi), 祠部主事 (しぶしゅじ, shibushuji)、祠部令史 (しぶれいし, shibureishi), 大常主簿 (たいじょうしゅぼ, taijōshubo)
伴部 (神部,卜部,使部,直丁) tomobe (kanbe, urabe, shibu, jikichō) Religious functionaries Tomobe are staffs that serve under these officials. Tomobe is composed of thirty kanbe and twenty urabe, thirty shibu (servants), and two jikichō (laborers).


In its early days, jingi-kan has four main functions:[1]

  1. Carries out annual rites written in jingiryō as well as overall coordination of shrine rites
  2. Provides ritualists who assist the sovereign and his court in the performance of palace ceremonies
  3. When misfortune struck or to determine the cause of ominous events, it performs divination to determine the identity of the responsible Kami.
  4. Conducts the distribution of tribute offerings (heihaku) to shrines for four annual rituals: Kinen-sai (Toshigoi no Matsuri), the spring and autumn Tsukinamisai, and Niinamesai.

Annual Rites

Jingi-kan must carry out thirteen rites written in jingiryō. The rites are laid out in articles 2 through 9, as well as article 18. Those rituals are:

Ritual Title Chronology Ritual Details/Purpose
Toshigoi no Matsuri or Kinen-sai early spring prayers for a good harvest
Hanashizume no Matsuri end of the 3rd month prayers for freedom from illness
Kamu miso no Matsuri middle of the 4th month offerings os summer vestments at Ise
Saigusa no Matsuri 4th month the festival of the Isakawa Shrine in Yamato, a subshrine of the Miwa Shrine
Õmi no Matsuri 4th day of the 4th month the festival of the Hirose Shrine, for the Kami of rain
Kaze no Kami no Matsuri 4th day of the 4th month the festival of the Tatsuta Shrine, for the Kami of wind
Tsukinami no Matsuri or Tsukinamisai 11th day of the 6th month prayers for a good harvest
Michiae no Matsuri last day of the 6th month performed at a crossroads outside the capital, to prevent evil spirits from entering
Hoshi shizume no Matsuri after Michiae no Matsuri on the last day of the 6th month prayers to prevent fires at the palace
Great Purtification (Ōharai) half of the year purifies the emperor and the people of the transgressions and defilements of the first half of the year
Ōmi no Matsuri 4th day of the 7th month
Kaze no Kami no Matsuri 4th day of the 7th month
Kamu miso no Matsuri autumn repetition
Tsukinami no Matsuri autumn repetition
Michiae no Matsuri winter repetition
Hoshi shizume no Matsuri winter repititon
Kanname-sai 9th and 10th months special offerings at the Ise Shrines of the wine and food made from the new rice crop
Ainame-sai 11th month
Niiname-sai 11th month
Great Purtification (Ōharai) last day of the 12 month purifies the emperor and the people of the transgressions and defilements of the second half of the year

Jingi-kan in Medieval Japan

From the 10th century to the 15th, the Shirakawa-hakuō family held this position continuously.

In feudal Japan, the Jingi-kan became the final surviving building of the Heian Palace. During the Jōkyū War in 1221, most of the palace was evacuated and fell into disrepair; the Jingi-kan alone remained in operation. A 1624 memoir by a Jingi-haku reports that the Jingi-kan was still being used as late as 1585 and was demolished during renovations. In 1626, a temporary building was constructed to perform additional ceremonies.[5]

Meiji Jingi-kan

On the thirteenth day of the third month of 1868, Emperor Meiji announced that the new Meiji government would restore direct imperial rule (王政復古, ōsei fukko) and unity of rites and government (祭政一致, saisei itchi). The department was reinstated in 1868 at the beginning of the Meiji period as a provisional step to achieve saisei itchi.[1][2]

After 1871

In 1870, the Meiji administration attempted to create a new national religion under the term "Great Teaching" (大教, taikyō), primarily to keep Christianity from accumulating popularity and influence on the Japanese society and to reeducate the population about the significance of the imperial rule.[3] The attempt lasted from 1870 to 1884.[1] Consequentially, in addition to overseeing Shintō affairs, jingi-kan also had the role to oversee propaganda.

Then, jingi-kan was demoted to jingi-shō (神祇省), Ministry of Divinities, that lasted from 1871 to 1872, as part of the saisei itchi campaign, bringing jingi-kan to an end.[1]

The goals of the Great Teaching campaign was deemed too ambiguous or too general to be able to be formed into practice, making it difficult for jingi-shō to provide a theoretical and spiritual content to be spread among the public.[3] In addition to that, jingi-shō also lacked staffs to oversee their two major functions, Shintō affairs and propaganda.[3] Because of these two reasons, jingi-shō was abandoned and dissolved, and the Meiji administration established Ministry of Religion (教部省, kyōbushō), also known as Ministry of Doctrine.[2][1]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Shinto: A History. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. 2016-12-01. ISBN 978-0-19-062171-1.
  2. ^ a b c d Pye, Michael (1994). Macmillan Dictionary of Religion. doi:10.1057/9780230379411. ISBN 978-1-349-38861-5.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Encyclopedia of Shinto詳細". 國學院大學デジタルミュージアム (in Japanese). Archived from the original on 2021-10-21. Retrieved 2022-12-03.
  4. ^ Breen, John and Mark Teeuwen (2000) Shinto in History: Ways of the Kami, p. 47., p. 47, at Google Books
  5. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, Richard Arthur Brabazon (1956). Kyoto: the Old Capital of Japan, 794-1869. Kyoto: Ponsonby Memorial Society. p. 50.