chapter  XI
20 Pages

Gods and Goddesses

The investigation of the nature of the divine beings worshipped at the shrines furnishes another important approach to the activities of State Shinto. The actual number of deities which the national system honours does not by any means rise to that vast total ordinarily believed to exist. Tradition commonly refers to eight hundred myriads of \ami (yao-yorozu no fami), sometimes to eighty myriads. There is at least one reference to eight hundred myriads of thousands of myriads of deities. In all these cases the idea seeking expression is manifestly that of a vast and indefinite host of superhuman beings. If we include all the local, and frequently unnamed, spirits known to the general folklore, then of course the number does become immense and unknown. A recent study limits the \ami that are actually worshipped in the recognized shrines of State Shinto to the number of two hundred and fourteen. This does not include the spirits of the great national sanctuary on Kudan Hill in Tokyo. Nor does it include the spirits of the successive generations of Emperors enshrined in the Imperial Court. The number of rulers actually worshipped in the state shrines to which the general public has access is, however, surprisingly small.