Tama the Cat becomes a Deity


The story of Tama, the stray cat turned stationmaster at Kishi Station in Wakayama, has caught the attention of UK media for the incredible reaction towards her death at the age of 16. Tama was given a full funeral service, attended by by 3,000 well-wishers, and she to be enshrined under the title of “Tama Daimyojin” – “Illustrious Deity Tama.”

This episode not only reminds us of the importance of animism and nature-worship in Shinto, but also its role in rituals surrounding death. Most do not think of Shinto as being associated with death and funerals – that role usually goes to Buddhism in Japan – but it’s not true that Shinto has nothing to say about the afterlife. The fact is, a great number of kami in the Shinto tradition were formerly great noblemen, priests and other pillars of the community who attained godhood upon their deaths. So in fact, Shinto is very much rooted in a belief in the continuation of life after death. According to Shinto, all of us have the potential to become kami in the next life.



Filed under Shinto / Japanese Religion

2 responses to “Tama the Cat becomes a Deity

  1. EmilyAnn Frances

    You’re correct. One of the hitogami I found most interesting was Sugawara no Michizane (a.k.a Tenjin).

  2. EmilyAnn Frances

    Forgot to add this link to a bio: http://wiki.samurai-archives.com/index.php?title=Sugawara_no_Michizane

    Also, there is definitely hints of the afterlife in the Kojiki and Nihongi. Yomi seems to me a place of twilight, the first step of the journey.

    In some places in the scriptures there is mention made of Tokoyo, a land of abundance. I think there is even a sacred fruit, a citrus, grown on that island.

    And there is folk belief that the spirits of the ancestors eventually return to the collective from whence the family line came in the spiritual realm. This place co-exists right next to our reality. The mountains and countryside are places where the entrances to the ancestral realm are easier to access.

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