Jinja (The shrine)
The term Jinja (a shrine) is originated in the word Yashiro which means the place for some type of building. In the ancient times, rites were performed outdoors. At that time, it was rather rare to have a house style building such as Izumo Taisha as a place for performing rites. In those days, a piece of unspoiled land was chosen and roped off in square and a stand of tree was erected as an object on which Kami was to be invited. This place including the tree was called Himorogi. When a piece of rock was chosen instead of a tree, the place was called Iwasaka. Rites were performed inside either Himorogi or Iwasaka.
However, when Buddhism was brought into Japan and worshipped by the Soga clan, they worshipped an image of Buddha placed in a building. It is considered that Shinto, being influenced by this style, started to enshrine the Kami spirit in a building and it became more popular as the time went. The ancient style of rituals can be seen now in Jichinsai, a rite performed before constructing a building to show people's reverence towards the Kami of a locality and to pray for safety during the process of construction.
Shinto was thus influenced by Buddhistic way of worship, yet, it has never used any image of Kami as the object of worship with a rare exception in the medieval time (1192-1603) during which shrines enshrined an image of Kami which resembled Buddha's image.
The building of Shinto shrines used to take up the style of a high-floor warehouse or that of a dwelling house, like the Grand Shrine of Ise, whose materials were mainly plain wood and thatch for the roof. But in a long history since then, many different styles were developed under the influence of Buddhism and Yin-Yang thought, and they started to use painted materials, and sculptures were added to buildings. Nowadays ferroconcrete is used as material for shrine buildings to prevent fire.
Presently the word Jinja is translated into an English word 'shrine'. It seems, however, there are delicate shades of meaning between the two. In English, a shrine is considered to be a building in which the ashes or personal belongings or an image of a dead is contained. It is similar to Byo in Chinese. Jinja, however, enshrines, in fact, only the spirit of Kami, and religious services are performed in the form of worshipping an object in which the spirit of Kami is believed to reside. It is generally located in natural environment, and its architectural style is to be simple so that it gives an impression of 'purity' of 'simplicity'. These point smake some differences between Jinja and a shrine.
The object of worshipping is, in most cases, a mirror or Heihaku, paper or cloth strips attached to a stand. Jinja has a shrine grove and a tree-lined path which leads to the main shrine building. Even those shrines that became to situate in urban areas in consequence of urbanization still maintain a grove and a path though on a smaller scale. Each shrine has its own status according to various reasons such as the hierarchical status of the enshrined Kami, or the historical background of a shrine, or relationship of Kami with a community or the state, or popularity of the enshrined Kami among people. This status of a shrine reflects in the architecture and the size of the precinct.