object of worship in Shinto and other indigenous religions of Japan. The term kami is often translated as "god," "lord," or "deity"; but it also includes other forces of nature, both good and evil, which, because of their superiority or divinity, become objects of reverence and respect. The sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami and other creator spirits, illustrious ancestors, and both animate and inanimate things, such as plants, rocks, birds, beasts, and fish, may all be treated as kami. In early Shinto, the heavenly kami (amatsukami) were considered more noble than the earthly kami (kunitsukami), but in modern Shinto this distinction is no longer made. Kami are manifested in, or take residence in, a symbolic object such as a mirror (see shintai), in which form they are usually worshiped in Shinto shrines. Shinto myths speak of the "800 myriads of kami" to express the infinite number of potential kami, and new ones continue to be recognized.
Learn more about kami with a free trial on Britannica.com.