Kunitama (国魂) is a type of kami or god who acts as a tutelary deity or guardian of a province of Japan or sometimes other areas in shinto.[1][2]: 102 

The term is sometimes treated as a specific deity itself especially with Hokkaidō Shrine,[2]: 394  and other colonial shrines,[3]: 53–54 [3]: 217  a or as an epithet in the case of Okunitama Shrine[4] or a part of a deity's name in the case of Yamato Okunitama, whose name is also sometimes interpreted as an epithet.[5][2]: 22 


In ancient times it was believed that every province had a kunitama.[1]

Yamato Okunitama is the Kunitama of Yamato Province. He is sometimes identified with Ōmononushi.[5][2]: 22 

As the Yamato court grew in power shrines were made in more and more places outside of the Yamato region.[2]: 22 

Musahi no Okunitama [simple; ja] of the Musashi Province was traditionally identified as Ōkuninushi.[4]

Hirata Atsutane said in his morning prayers that the deities to worship in Yamato Province were Ōmononushi, Okunitama, and Kotoshironushi.[2]: 343 

Motoori Norinaga discussed the concept.[1]

Those virtuous kami who care for the land are called kunitama or kunimitama.[1]

Outside of Japan

A generic "Kunitama" was among the Three Pioneer Kami (開拓三神, Kaitaku Sanjin) Ōkunitama [simple], Ōkuninushi, and Sukunahikona used in Japanese colonial shrines.[6]: 61 [3]: 53–54  They are all Kunitsukami or earthly kami representing the land.[3]: 53–54 

This started in the Matsumae Domain during haibutsu kishaku where many shrines in Hokkaido were forced to adopt such deities in that group. There was very little worship of such deities there at that time and as a result not much objection to it.[2]: 394  This came to be later used in many overseas shrines to justify colonialism.[3]: 53–54 

In Korea Kunitama and Amaterasu were enshrined together.[6]: 126  as a pair at all nationally ranked shrines.[6]: 139  The colonization of Korea marked the beginning of a shift frrom a meiji era "pioneer theology" to a universal theology and Amaterasu became more prominent and was generally paired with Kunitama.[6]: 217 

In Korea

Some people identified Dangun with Susanoo-no-Mikoto, the government not wanting to take a stand on this enshrined the generic Okunitama at Chōsen Jingu so believers could have their own interpretations.[3]: 54  Ogasawara Shozo [ja] was a strong advocate of these positions and his advocacy was associated with the enshrinement of Okunitama at both Chōsen Jingu, and Keijō Shrine.[3]: 56  He advocated enshrining of Dangun at Chōsen Shrine, and others argued that in Korea Kunitama was Dangun and should be called Chosen kunitama.[6]: 132 

In 1936 Keijō Shrine released a memo saying that Okunitama was in fact a generic title forr any Korean deity and not Dangun. The name was also changed to Kunitama-no-Okami as a parallel to Amaterasu Omikami[6]: 140 

An ethnic Korean group proposed to take over Okunitama worship after the war but was denied.[3]: 57 

State authorities at Chōsen Jingu however never allowed for Okunitama to be called "Chosen kunitama" and indigenous Dangun traditions were suppressed in favor of worshipping Amaterasu in the shrine.[3]: 54 

Other areas

In Manchukuo there were proposals to identify Kunitama with Nurhaci but they were not accepted.[6]: 161 

At Mōkyō Jinja Genghis Khan was venerated as Kunitama.[6]: 175 

In Brazil in a Japanese settlement a shrine named Bogure Jinja was created and worshipped Kunitama, identified with indigenous people of the area in a burial mound.[6]: 209 

List of Okunitama shrines

Shrine Deity Province
Owari Ōkunitama Shrine Ōkuninushi Owari Province
Izushi Shrine Izushiyamae-Ōkami (伊豆志八前大神) Tajima Province
Ōyamato Shrine[7] Yamato Okunitama Yamato Province
Yamato Okunitama Shrine [ja]
Ōkunitama Shrine Musahi no Okunitama [simple; ja] (Ōkuninushi)[4] Musashi Province
Hokkaidō Shrine Three Pioneer Kami (開拓三神, Kaitaku Sanjin) Hokkaido
Keijō Shrine Three Pioneer Kami (開拓三神), Amaterasu[a] Korea under Japanese rule
Chōsen Shrine Kunitama Okami and Amaterasu Okami[6]: 139 
Heijō Shrine
Ryūtōsan Shrine
Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America Amerika Kokudo Kunitama-no-Kami North America

See also


  1. ^ Transitionary between Three pioneer kami and Kunitama-Amaterasu dyad[3]: 56 


  1. ^ a b c d Nishioka, Kazuhiko. "Kunitama". Kokugakuin University Encyclopedia of Shinto.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Hardacre, Helen (2017). Shinto: A History. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-062171-1.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Kōji, Suga; 𳜳𨀉𠄈 (2010). "A Concept of "Overseas Shinto Shrines": A Pantheistic Attempt by Ogasawara Shōzō and Its Limitations". Japanese Journal of Religious Studies. 37 (1): 47–74. ISSN 0304-1042. JSTOR 27822899.
  4. ^ a b c Nelson, John (1994). "Land Calming and Claiming Rituals in Contemporary Japan". Journal of Ritual Studies. 8 (2): 19–40. ISSN 0890-1112. JSTOR 44398814.
  5. ^ a b Ellwood, Robert S. (1990). "The Sujin Religious Revolution". Japanese Journal of Religious Studies. 17 (2/3): 199–217. doi:10.18874/jjrs.17.2-3.1990.199-217. ISSN 0304-1042. JSTOR 30234018.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Shimizu, Karli; Rambelli, Fabio (2022-10-06). Overseas Shinto Shrines: Religion, Secularity and the Japanese Empire. London New York (N.Y.) Oxford: Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN 978-1-350-23498-7.
  7. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, R. A. B. (2016-05-11). "Oyamato Jinja". Studies In Shinto & Shrines (1st ed.). Routledge. ISBN 978-1-138-98322-9.