Hi there I'm looking to get into practicing Shinto as my main faith and I've seen some rather conflicting things about getting a Kamidana. As of right now I don't have one nor do I have any thing to go with it however I am soon getting one. I was just curious if you could perhaps clear up what and how exactly a Kamidana should be cared for and placement and all of that stuff. Also if creating my own Ofuda rather than purchasing one would upset the kami, In particular Inari Okami. Thank you!
A Kamidana is a household altar - it originated around the Edo era (1603–1867) when it was popular for ko/parishioners of the Ise faith( Amaterasu Omikami was a highly revered kami, but at the time Shinto was really made up of parishioners/Ko groups of each individual Kami’s faith - not the united Shrine Shinto we have today that places Amaterasu Omikami at the top)
They would make pilgrimages to Ise Jingu on foot from anywhere in Japan. Pilgrims would bring home an “Oharaitaima” (blessings tablet) the proto type of Ofuda -which carried the essence of Amaterasu Omikami. And also a Daijingudana (lit. Great Shrine shelf, but the name meant you had a small representative shrine of Ise Jingu), a proto type kamidana to enshrine this Oharaitaima.
People would also come home with devotional scrolls that had calligraphy of Amaterasu Omikami-sama or Toyouke Omikami-sama’s name to worship at if they could not afford the Oharai tama or Daijingudana.
So the origins of Kamidana begin there, and then carried over into modern times - after the Meiji Restoration we have the modern rules of Kamidana today for Shrine Shinto (Amaterasu in the front/center), certain way to place offerings, what offerings, etc.
However a Kamidana is not a necessary part of Shinto worship. Shinto has always been about communing at the local shrine of the local kami, or the kami closest to you, and praying/building the connection of the local kami and the great nature surrounding you, of daily life.
So while having a Kamidana is especially handy for the modern era (especially living far from shrines), it’s not an extremely important “you must have one to be considered Shinto” item. It just helps a lot with daily faith practice, especially being far from your home shrine or local Kami’s shrine (as in Edo period, they of course were far from Ise Jingu!)
And especially for being outside Japan, it is extremely far!!! And Kamidana are expensive items to buy, let alone import.
So really with all of this in mind, I say kamidana are extremely helpful to keep as a reminder for daily worship, but they are not so necessary to worship, especially for those in our situation, hard to afford and outside of Japan.
However it’s awesome that you can get one!
The rule for Kamidana of Shrine Shinto, is that the area must be cleaned physically and spiritually by cleaning of the room it is to be put in, and throwing salt in the five corners of the room. Place the Kamidana on a high place or shelf. If there is a room above the kamidana, put the kanji for 雲 (kumo, cloud) or 天 (ten, heavens) above on the ceiling. This can be written on a piece of small paper or they also have wood-carved versions. It must be facing the East (the rising sun) or to the South. (Based in ancient Lucky-Unlucky directions/Onmyoudou of the Heian era, they believed South and East were good directions)
Once you have completed this, then this is the general set up of Kamidana
or if you have a square tray, for offerings its this
That’s sake closest to Kamisama, Water in center, then salt on the left and rice to the right.
If you have a single-door Kamidana, Amaterasu Omikami-sama (Jingutaima) is in the front, then it’s the shrine of your faith (In your case Inari Okami-sama), and the gaurdian kami of the region
HOWEVER all this being said, since you worship Inari Okami-sama all this doesn’t really apply. Inari Shinko (faith) is actually a sect Shinto and does not adhere to these rules of kamidana.
Inari Okami-sama *must* according to Fushimi Inari Taisha, go in the center/front of your Kamidana, preferably Inari Okami-sama has their own kamidana. This is also emphasized by the traditional sizing of kamidana will not fit an ofuda from Fushimi Inari Taisha. Inari Okami ofuda usually only fit Kamidana for Inari Okami-sama. (Usually bought at Inari shrines or within a set)
Generally the standard size kamidana will tend to fit an Inari Okami ofuda, but please check. A lot of friends have brought one home to find it cannot fit inside.
(If you worship Inari Okami-sama and Amaterasu Omikami-sama, the order or style of worship you do - Inari Shinko or Shrine Shinto - is completely up to your feeling and thoughts. Though these are all the officially stated ways, a lot of native Japanese people don’t follow these rules at all, so don’t worry too much about it.)
As for making your own ofuda - I actually advise not to. It’s fine to write Inari Okami-sama’s name in calligraphy and have it within the kamidana as a reminder. But after learning the process behind creating an ofuda and how wrong it can go, it’s not good for people who haven’t been trained on ceremonies to do so. In the past I thought it was not too bad as a replacement for the time being, but now I realize if not done professionally it can either be OK or just invite the wrong energy. So I’d advise to simply just write the name and have it within the kamidana or displayed, but not try to bless it with the kami’s energy to act as a true Ofuda.
If you need an Inari Ofuda, I’m able to get one for you, but I’d have to give you details privately and I can’t on anon ! ;;