is a form of Shinto offering made from a "sakaki"-tree branch decorated with shide strips of washi paper, silk, or cotton. At Japanese weddings, funerals, miyamairi and other ceremonies at Shinto shrines, "tamagushi" are ritually presented to "kami" 神 "spirit; god" by parishioners or kannushi priests.

Linguistic history

The Japanese word "tamagushi" is usually written with the "kanji" "tama" "jade; gem; jewel; precious; ball; bead" and "kushi" "string together; skewer; spit; stick", or sometimes written 玉ぐし with "hiragana" since the official Tōyō kanji do not include 串.

The earliest recorded transcription of "tamagushi" is 玉籤, using "kuji" "bamboo slip; (divination) lot; written oracle; raffle; lottery" instead of "kushi". The (ca. 720 CE) "Nihon Shoki" "Chronicles of Japan", which repeatedly mentions a 500-branched "masakaki" 真榊 "true "sakaki" tree (tr. Aston 1896:43, 47, 121), is the "locus classicus" for "tamagushi" 玉籤. This mytho-history records a legend that when the sun-goddess Amaterasu got angry with her brother Susano'o and closed the door on the "Rock-cave of Heaven", the gods decorated a giant "sakaki" tree in order to lure the sun out of the darkness.

Then all the Gods were grieved at this, and forthwith caused Ama no nuka-do no Kami, the ancestor of the Be ["clan; guild"] of mirror-makers, to make a mirror, Futo-dama, the ancestor of the Imibe [weavers' clan] , to make offerings, and Toyo-tama, the ancestor of the Be of jewel-makers, to make jewels. They also caused Yama-Tuschi [Mountain-god] to procure eighty precious combs of the five-hundred-branched true sakaki tree, and Nu-dzuchi [Moor-god] to procure eighty precious combs of the five-hundred-branched Suzuki grass. (tr. Aston 1896:47)
This "precious combs" translation derives from "tama" 玉 (tr. "Toyo-tama" and "jewels") and "kushi" "comb", which is a "Nihon Shoki" graphic variant of "kuji" 籤 in the goddess named Tamakushi Hime 玉櫛姫 (tr. "jewel-comb" Aston 1896:62).

The (ca. 645-760 CE) "Man'yōshū" "Myriad Leaves Collection" does not use the word "tamagushi" but one poem (tr. Pierson 1929-1938:199) describes making it with paper mulberry: "I tie pure white strands of mulberry to the branches of the sacred tree".

Some common "tamagushi" collocations include:
*"tamagushi o sasageru" 玉串を捧げる "offer a "tamagushi"
*"tamagushi hōnō" 玉串奉納 "dedicate/offer "tamagushi" [in front of a shrine altar] "
*"tamagushi-ryō" 玉串料 " [cash] offerings for "tamagushi" [presented at a shrine] " "Tamagushi" has an uncommon secondary meaning of "name for the "sakaki" tree". The (ca. 1439 CE) Shin Kokin Wakashū "New Collection of Ancient and Modern Poems" (tr. Carr 1995:8) contains the first occurrence, "Holding the ornamented "tamagushi" leaves".

The "sakaki" ("Cleyera japonica") is a flowering evergreen tree, which is considered sacred in Japanese mythology. In the present day, Shinto shrines often plant it as a "sakaiki" 境木 "boundary tree" to demarcate sanctified space. "Sakaki" is written with the "kanji" , which graphically combines "boku" or "ki" "tree; wood" and "shin" or "kami" "spirit; god", compare "shinboku" 神木 "sacred tree". Carr (1995:11) characterizes 榊 as "a doubly exceptional logograph"; it is an ideograph "character representing an idea" (which is an infrequent type of logograph "character representing a word", see Chinese character classification), and it is a "kokuji" 国字 "national character; Japanese-made character" (rather than a typical "kanji" 漢字 "Chinese character" loanword).


The etymology of "tamagushi", like many Japanese words, is uncertain. Despite consensus that "-gushi" 串 means "skewer; stick" (of "sakaki"), the original signification of "tama-" 玉 "jade; jewel; ball" remain obscure. The Kokugaku scholar Motoori Norinaga (1730-1801) suggested an etymon of "tamukegushi" 手向け串 "hand-offered stick/skewer". The Shinto theologian Hirata Atsutane (1776-1843) proposed "bejeweled stick/skewer", with "tama" 玉 referring to decorative "jewels" (cf. "tama" "jewel; pearl; bead"). The famous ethnologist Kunio Yanagita (1875-1962) hypothesized "spiritual stick/skewer", with "tama" 玉 meaning "tama" "spirit; soul" (believed to be shaped like a "tama" "ball; sphere; globe").

The Ehime lawsuit

"Tamagushi" was central to the "Ehime-ken Yasukuni jinjā tamagushi soshō" 愛媛県靖国神社玉串訴訟 "Ehime Prefecture's Yasukuni Shrine "tamagushi" lawsuit" over the constitutional separation of state and religion (see Nelson 1999 or Morimura 2003 for details).

Although Article 20 of the Constitution of Japan prohibits the state establishment of religion and Article 89 forbids expenditure of public money "for the use, benefit, or maintenance of any religious institution", the Ehime Governor officially paid for "tamagushi-ryō" 玉串料 "tamagushi" offerings" presented at several Shinto shrines. In 1982, a group of prefectural residents sued his office for having misappropriated ¥ 166,000 (approximately US $735) in public funds. On March 17, 1989, the Matsuyama District Court ruled the "tamagushi" offerings were unconstitutional and ordered the defendants to repay the prefecture. On May 12, 1992, the Takamatsu High Court overturned the Matsuyama decision, reasoning that the Shinto offerings were constitutionally allowed within the realm of "social protocol". On April 2, 1997, the Supreme Court of Japan overturned that decision and made a made a landmark ruling that "tamagushi" offerings were unconstitutional.

The question of what constitutes support of State Shinto remains controversial. For instance, the reformist politician Ichirō Ozawa disagrees with the court ruling.

There are some instances where the values specified in the constitution are not in accord with the Japanese traditional culture. The Shinto rite of worshipping one's ancestors is very different from the idea of religion in the West. The 'Tamagushirō Decision' of the Supreme Court against Ehime Prefecture, which declared that making donations to purchase "tamagushi" was against the Constitution based on the religious freedom of Article 20, would not strike the Japanese (who believe in many gods) as anti-constitutional. Perhaps it would be better to impose restrictions on religious freedom only in order to suppress the development of state-sponsored religious fascism. (2001:169)


*Aston, William George, tr. 1896. [http://www.sacred-texts.com/shi/nihon0.htm "Nihongi: Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to A.D. 697"] . Kegan Paul. 1972 Tuttle reprint.
*Carr, Michael. 1995. "Sacred Twig and Tree: "Tamagushi" and "Sakaki" in Japanese-English Dictionaries", "The Review of Liberal Arts" 小樽商科大学人文研究 89:1-36.
*Morimura Susumu. 2003. [http://hermes-ir.lib.hit-u.ac.jp/rs/bitstream/10086/8142/1/HJlaw0310000230.pdf "Freedom of Religion and the Separation of State and Religion: A Japanese Case Study"] , "Hitotsubashi Journal of Law and Politics", 31: 23-30.
*Nelson, John. 1999. "Shifting Paradigms of Religion and the State: Implications of the 1997 Supreme Court Decision for Social, Religious and Political Change," "Modern Asian Studies" 33:797-814
*Ozawa Ichirō. 2001. "A Proposal for Reforming the Japanese Constitution (1999)," in "Japan's Contested Constitution: Documents and Analysis", ed. by Glenn D. Hook and Gavan McCormack, 161-176, Routledge.
*Pierson, Jan L., tr. 1929-1938. "The Manyōshū". 5 vols. E.J. Brill.

External links

* [http://www2.kokugakuin.ac.jp/ijcc/wp/bts/bts_t.html#tamagushi Tamagushi] , Basic Terms of Shinto
*ja icon [http://www.sanretsu.jp/shoukou/shinnshiki.html 【早分かり葬儀参列】神式の場合] , How to offer "tamagushi" at a Shinto funeral
*ja icon [http://www.alpha-net.ne.jp/users2/sato1976/catalog/64-sintouoption.htm 神道オプション] , Shinto ceremonial implements and "tamagushi"

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Tamagushi —    A branch of sacred sakaki tree with zig zag strips (shide) of paper or cloth, or lengths of tree fibres (yu) attached. Tamagushi may be used as offerings, or as amulets. Tama may refer to the sakaki hung with jewels mentioned in the Nihongi… …   A Popular Dictionary of Shinto

  • Anexo:Glosario de sintoísmo — Esta es una lista incompleta, la cual podría no satisfacer ciertos estándares de completitud. Ud. puede ayudar aumentándola con incorporaciones de fuentes fiables. Este es el glosario del sintoísmo, incluyendo los principales términos que el… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Shinto — For other uses, see Shinto (disambiguation). Takachiho gawara. Here is a Sacred ground …   Wikipedia

  • Sakaki — This article is about the sakaki tree. For other uses, see Sakaki (disambiguation). Sakaki Sakaki, Cleyera japonica Scientific classification Kingdom …   Wikipedia

  • Mariage shinto — Mariage shintoïste au sanctuaire de Yasaka à Kyōto Le mariage shinto (神前結婚, shinzen kekkon …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Meiji Shrine — 明治神宮 Torii leading to the Meiji Shrine complex Information Type …   Wikipedia

  • Oyama Shrine (Ishikawa) — Oyama jinja Main gate Oyama jinja (尾山神社) is a …   Wikipedia

  • Itsukushima Shrine — Itsukushima Shinto Shrine * UNESCO World Heritage Site …   Wikipedia

  • Miko — For the European human name, see Miko (name). Miko (巫女?, literally shaman woman ) is a Japanese term that anciently meant a female shaman, spirit medium who conveyed oracles from kami ( spirits; gods ), and currently means a shrine maiden; virgin …   Wikipedia

  • Nikkō Tōshō-gū — 日光東照宮 Yōmeimon Information Type Tōshō g …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.