Shinto Shrines: Jingu, Gu, Dai-Jingu, Taisha, Jinja, Sha

Unlike Buddhism with Otera (お寺) temples, Shinto (神道) is the native religion of Japan that doesn’t have either scriptures or teachings or even any founders.

Instead, Shinto has a religious culture based on polytheism, seen in the Yaoyorozu no Kami (八百万の神: eight million gods) worshiping nature and natural phenomena.

The gods are identical to nature in the religion, where the specific procedure to communicate with them is known as Saishi (祭祀), which takes place in its shines.

In Japan, there are over 88,000 Shinto shrines, which broadly consist of six types; Jingu (神宮), Gu (宮), Dai-Jingu (大神宮), Taisha (大社), Jinja (神社), and Sha (社).

But how do they differ?

Types of Shinto Shrines 

Based on this Japanese site, the difference between those types is as follows.

Jingu (神宮)

Meiji Jingu (明治神宮)Meiji Jingu

Jingu (神宮) refers to the prestigious or historic Shinto shrine with the highest rank.

Jingu has a deep connection to the Imperial Family of Japan, enshrining ancestor gods of the family. 

Examples of the Jingu shrine include Ise Jingu (伊勢神宮) in Mie Prefecture and Meiji Jingu (明治神宮) in Tokyo.

Gu (宮)

Dazaifu Tenmangu (太宰府天満宮)Dazaifu Tenmangu

Gu (宮) refers to the Shinto shrine with a high status given its name because of some particular reason.

Gu enshrines deceased persons relating to the Emperor of Japan or the Imperial Family. 

Examples of the Gu shrine include Nikko Toshogu (日光東照宮) in Tochigi and Dazaifu Tenmangu (太宰府天満宮) in Fukuoka.

Dai-Jingu (大神宮)

Tokyo Daijingu (東京大神宮)Tokyo Dai-Jingu

Dai-Jingu (大神宮) refers to a branch shrine of Ise Jingu (伊勢神宮), Tokyo Daijingu (東京大神宮), located in Chiyoda-Ku, Tokyo.

Taisha (大社)

Izumo Taisha (出雲大社)Izumo Taisha

Taisha (大社) refers to the large Shinto shrine with high status, serving as a hub of religion in local areas of Japan. 

Examples of the Taisha shrine include Izumo Taisha (出雲大社) in Shimane and Kasuga Taisha (春日大社) in Nara.

Jinja (神社)

Jinja (神社) is the most common type of Shinto shrine.

Sha (社)

Sha (社), short for Jinja, is for small shrines.


Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. For the purpose of enriching your life, I would like to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures, and facts and trivia.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.