Norito (祝詞) are liturgical texts or ritual incantations in Shinto, usually addressed to a given kami.[1][2][3]


The first written documentation of norito dates to 712 CE in the Kojiki and 720 CE in the Nihongi.[3]

The Engishiki, a compilation of laws and minute regulation presented by the court compiled in 927 CE, preserves twenty-seven representative forms of norito.[4][5]


There is no single accepted universally accepted theory to explain the meaning of the term.[6] One theory derives norito from noru (宣る, 'to declare'; cf. the verbs inoru 'to pray' and norou 'to curse'[6]) - combined with the suffix -to.[3] A variant term, notto, is derived from a combination of norito with koto, 'word'.[3]

There are various known ways of writing the word in kanji: aside from 祝詞 (currently the standard), 詔戸言, 詔刀言, and 諄辞 are also attested.[3]

One recent writer summed up the original meaning of norito as "a general term meaning magic by means of words."[7]

Form and contentEdit

The Shinto religion did not produce any writings, particularly those that inferred from myths and legends, that would have constituted a religious theology except for the norito.[8] These few prayers were primarily used in purification rituals and articulated gratitude towards the gods for the blessings of kami or to ask for climate change such as rain.[9]

Norito is a form of a rhythmic poem recited to facilitate the transmission of posterity.[9] The incantation would usually begin with praises for the supreme power of kami and concludes with an expression of respect and awe.[9] The Nakatomi no Harae Kunge or the Exposition of the Ritual of Purification describes norito within a process that implies the idea of human beings as children of the kami who lost their purity but returns to their divine origin by restoring it.[10]


Norito were (and still are) traditionally written in a variety of man'yōgana where particles and suffixes are written in a smaller script than the main body of the text.[11] This style of writing, used in imperial edicts (宣命 senmyō) preserved in the Shoku Nihongi and other texts dating from the 8th century (Nara period), is known as senmyōgaki.[12]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Philippi, Donald L. (1990). Norito: A Translation of the Ancient Japanese Ritual Prayers. Princeton University Press. p. vii. ISBN 0691014892.
  2. ^ "Norito". Encyclopedia Britannica.
  3. ^ a b c d e Motosawa, Masafumi. "Norito". Encyclopedia of Shinto. Kokugakuin University.
  4. ^ Philippi (1990). p. 1.
  5. ^ Kitagawa, Joseph Mitsuo (1987). On Understanding Japanese Religion. Princeton University Press. p. 67. ISBN 978-0691102290.
  6. ^ a b Philippi (1990). p. 2.
  7. ^ Shiraishi, Mitsukuni, cited in Philippi (1990). p. 2.
  8. ^ de Bary, William Theodore; Keene, Donald; Tanabe, George; Varley, Paul (2001). Sources of Japanese Tradition: From earliest times to 1600, Second Edition. New York: Columbia University Press. pp. 336. ISBN 0231121385.
  9. ^ a b c Okuyama, Yoshiko (2015). Japanese Mythology in Film: A Semiotic Approach to Reading Japanese Film and Anime. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. p. 87. ISBN 9780739190920.
  10. ^ Picken, Stuart D. B. (2004). Sourcebook in Shinto: Selected Documents. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 84–85. ISBN 0313264325.
  11. ^ Sinor, Denis, ed. (1969). American Oriental Society, Middle West Branch, Semi-Centennial Volume: A Collection of Original Essays. Indiana University Press. pp. 242–243.
  12. ^ Seeley, Christopher (1991). A History of Writing in Japan. Brill. pp. 54–55. ISBN 978-9004090811.