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for the commune of Niger see Tamaya, Niger

A tamaya (霊屋, literally tama "soul [of the dead]" + ya "house"; also called otamaya, mitamaya, or soreisha) is an altar used in Shinto-style ancestor worship, dedicated in the memory of deceased forebears. It generally has a mirror symbolizing the spirits of the deceased or a tablet bearing their names and is used not only to enshrine blood relatives, but also to honor respected non-family members.[1]

Since Buddhist funeral rites dominate in Japanese religious practice, tamaya are found less often in Japanese houses than their Buddhist counterpart, the butsudan. Their value are also below that of the more highly respected kamidana.[2]


The tamaya is placed in an inner chamber, on a shelf, the mitama-san-no-tana, attached to the wall about six feet high. It is placed lower than the kamidana.[1]

Rites are performed for the tamaya every tenth day up to the fiftieth, and thereafter on the one-hundredth day and one-year anniversary. The one-year ritual is followed by another which marks the spirit's joining of the ancestors at the family shrine.[3]


The first tamaya was built in 1599 in the Toyokuni Shrine in Kyoto for Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Screen paintings and its ruins suggest that it was modeled after the Kitano Tenman-gū. It was later destroyed by the Tokugawa.[4]

Later the tamaya was generally established for Japanese nobles, military heroes, and other people with high reputation. This practice spread in the Edo period. During the Kokugaku movement it became more common to erect tamaya in ordinary homes.[5] It formed a central part of the Shinto funeral rituals (神葬祭, shinsōsai).[3]


  1. ^ a b "Basic Terms of Shinto: T". Institute for Japanese Culture and Classics, Kokugakuin University. 1997. Retrieved 2007-08-09.
  2. ^ Hearn, Lafcadio (1904). Japan, an Attempt at Interpretation. New York: The Macmillan Company. pp. 42–45.
  3. ^ a b Motegi, Sadazumi (24 February 2007). "Shinsōsai (Shinto Funeral Rites)". The Encyclopedia of Shinto. Institute for Japanese Culture and Classics, Kokugakuin University. Retrieved 2007-08-09.
  4. ^ "reibyou 霊廟". Japanese Architecture and Art Net Users System. 2001. Retrieved 2007-08-09.
  5. ^ Okada, Yoshiyuki (2 June 2005). "Mitamaya". The Encyclopedia of Shinto. Institute for Japanese Culture and Classics, Kokugakuin University. Retrieved 2007-08-09.
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