Religion Past and Present

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(255 words)

[German Version]

is a Japanese term for anything that inspires awe on account of its exceptional properties. This may refer to deities, spirits, humans, animals, plants, or landscapes. The origins of the word, which is written with the Chinese character shen (“spirit, god, genius, soul, nerves,” etc.), are unclear. According to a popular etymology, kami is related to “above,” “high,” “towering” (kami). Some postulate a connection with kakurimi (“that which is hidden”), kakuri mitama (“hidden spirit”), kagami (“mirror”), akami (“luminous appearance”), kashikomi (“awe”) etc. T…

Cite this page
Kleine, Christoph, “Kami”, in: Religion Past and Present. Consulted online on 26 September 2020 <>
First published online: 2011
First print edition: ISBN: 9789004146662, 2006-2013

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