Kami

Kami

As we saw from Norinaga’s definition, anything awe-inspiring can be a kami. For Kannagara, kami are going to be personal entities with supernatural power, and, in most cases, they will be spirits. This is partly because most kami are thought of this way in Shinto practice, and also because it works well for the game. Mount Fuji as a kami would not be easy to introduce into play, and it is hard to see how you could interact with it, other than by climbing it. Konohananosakuyabime, the spirit of Mount Fuji, is a different matter.

Personae can form relationships with kami, and that will be an important part of the game. Kami, like people, are all different, and have their own interests and quirks. A kami’s power is particularly potent in her areas of interest, but that does not mean that a kami has no power in other areas. A kami is not the kami “of” something, but is most often asked for help in the areas for which she is well known. For example, Tenjin is well known for granting success in examinations, so he is often petitioned for exactly that, but he is also associated with poetry. The Sumiyoshi kami are also associated with poetry, and with travel. The association can also be specific to a particular jinja; Benzaiten is generally associated with the arts, but there are particular jinja where she is also associated with wealth — not something typically associated with art.

This particularity is important. Even when a jinja enshrines one of the popular kami, the kami of that shrine is not entirely the same as the kami at other jinja. She is not completely different, either, and as Shinto is not given to abstruse theological speculations I don’t believe that the details have ever been worked out. In fact, a kami may be both the same kami and a completely different kami. Inari jinja all enshrine Inari, one of the most popular kami, but the named kami venerated as Inari varies from jinja to jinja. This is also true of Hachiman, who is typically a group of three kami: Hondawake, Okinagatarashihime, and Tamayorihime, but the third kami often changes, and the second one is not completely constant. In addition, a lot of jinja enshrine a purely local kami, often associated with a natural feature, rather than one of the famous kami. This gives us a lot of freedom to define the kami of a jinja for the game.

Even when the kami of a jinja is not a purely local kami, she takes a particular interest in that shrine and the surrounding area. That is why jinja have ujiko; they are the people who live in the area in which the kami is particularly interested. Sūkeisha do not live in that area, so while they might have a good personal relationship with the kami, the kami is not that concerned about where they live.

Kami are normally portrayed as having their own personality, and they are approachable. They are still, necessarily, awe-inspiring, but they are not perfect, all-powerful, or all-knowing. They have personal preferences, such as for kinds of mikë, and personal styles. Indeed, as I noted earlier, personae can become kami, and they do not lose their personality when that happens.

The rules for the personality of a kami will be the same as the rules for the personality of any other character, in order to keep the game as consistent as possible. Different rules are needed for the awe-inspiring, supernatural aspects of the kami, and those are the rules that will be most important early in the saga, when personae are first getting to know their local kami. They are, therefore, the rules I will look at first.

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