This kamidana, or Shinto shrine, consists of three pieces: (a) the shrine itself, (b) the door piece, and (c) a plaque. It was originally in kitchen of The Japanese House. The kamidana is a small, wooden structure with two front doors that open out. Inside the shrine, there is a plaque with Japanese calligraphy painted in black ink, referring to a dragon god. This indicates that the kamidana was probably a fire safety piece, as the dragon is believed to be the water spirit, who will put out fires that may occur in the kitchen. Offerings to the kami (spirit) would be placed on the outside ledge of the shrine. The piece is joined together with nails and joinery. There are a few metal decorative pieces.
A kamidana (literally “god-shelf”) is a miniature Shinto altar for the home. It is meant to house a Shinto kami (deity), and also contains a variety of ceremonial objects, such as the shintai, which allows the kami to hold a physical form. The kami housed within the kamidana is typically a local deity of personal significance to the household. Worshipping at a kamidana includes offering prayers, food, and/or flowers.
In the Shinto religion, which is indigenous to Japan, divinity is manifested within nature itself. Mountains, rivers, and trees, for example, were thought to be the holy residences of the kami. Shinto, meaning "Way of the Gods," can be understood as a collection of practices, attitudes, and institutions that express the Japanese people's relationship with their land and with the life cycles of the earth and humans. Shinto emerged gradually in ancient times; it is distinctive in that it has no founder, no sacred books, no teachers, no saints, and no well-defined pantheon. Nor has it developed a moral order or a hierarchical priesthood, and it does not offer salvation after death. Shinto is sometimes seen more as a way of life rather than a religion by the Japanese due to its long historical and cultural significance. Shinto coexists with Buddhism, with many of the kami understood to be bodhisattvas as well, and vice-versa.