The one of things to do in your Japan trip list, visiting Shrines and Temples I believe.
Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Itsukushima Shrine in Hiroshima, Dazaifu Tenmangu in Fukuoka, has been selected as the popular sightseeing spot among international and also Japanese travelers in Japan.
Buy the way, do you know why there are many shrines and temples in Japan?
Yes, of course it is related with religions.
But as Japanese tradition, visiting Shrines and Temples has been an essential custom for a long history in Japan.
Even these days, Japanese people visit Shrines and temples especially the end of Year and the New Year’ Day, to pray for their respects to Gods.
As well as visiting Cathedrals, churches, mosques, there are “visiting manners” to pray at shrines and temples.
There is nothing about being nervous to visit shrines and temples, and visiting manners are not really strict to follow if you use common sense, so I recommend learning polite steps to show your respect.
“Shinto” (神道) is the oldest particular native religion (indigenous religion) in Japanese culture. Japanese people have believed that everything whether organic matter or inorganic matter, has the spirit of a deity, (Shinkon).
Shinto Shrines has been built as the place to be enshrined the individual God, and the worship of shrines has been essential elements of the Japanese soul for Japanese long history.
What differences between Shrines and Temples
To explain this topic, we have to get over with a complicated long history of religion and politics in Japan.
Simply to say, temples are basically for Buddhism.
Shinto and Buddhism are different religions, but they have been repeating mixed and separated in the long history,
Today, except for religious people,
most Japanese people really don’t care about where to pray.
There is no published dress code, however, use common sense.
Shinto Shrines and Buddhist Temples are holy places where Gods are enshrined and worshipped.
Better avoid to wear no-shoulder tops, hats, too-short bottoms, flip-flops.
The Proper Manner
- Torii Gate
Torii Gate (鳥居)
First, bow slightly once before passing the “Torii Gate”.
Don’t use the center way when passing through under the “Torii Gate”.
“Torii Gate”( 鳥居 ) is believed the borderline (or a barrier) between the sanctuary and the other world.
Passing through the gate means you step in the sanctuary, and the center way under the gate is for Gods.
Therefore, worshippers should walk on the side of the path and also should step from the foot outside (close to the side of the path).
Fx, step from the right foot first when walking by the right pole. Step from the left foot first when walking by the left pole.
If you wear a hat, you should take off before passing the gate.
You will see the Japanese people don’t follow these manners, but this is a custom tradition that the ancestors have been doing for hundreds of years. It is advisable to do so as a show of respect.
The center pathway is for Gods, avoid walking in the center of “Sandō” (参道, visiting path) even after the gate.
“Temizuya” or “Chozuya” (手水舎)is the Water Purification Basin.
Before proceeding toward the shrines, you need to stop “Temizuya” to purify your hands & mouth.
Purification by pure water for entering the sanctuary is very essential.
This ritual for the purifying of the mind and body before proceeding to the main shrine, so it is recommended to follow the ritual as your respect to the custom.
- Take one of the ladles by your RIGHT hand, scoop water with it, and rinse the LEFT hand.
- Switch to the LEFT hand, so rinse your RIGHT hand.
- Switchback the ladle to the RIGHT hand, and scoop the water and pour the water to the LEFT palm, and rinse your mouth.
- Rinse the LEFT hand again.
- After all, hold the ladle vertically to rinse (purify) the handle.
- Put the ladle backlike a picture.
After purifying yourself, proceed to the main shrine walking in the side of the path.
The center of the“Sandō” (参道, visiting path) is for God’s,try to walk by sides of the path.
Before entering the main shrine, bow slightly to show the respect.
“Osaisen” (御賽銭) is making a money(coin) offering at Shinto shrine and Buddhist temples.
You can see an offertory box (御賽銭箱) in front of the main altar, and you will see the worshippers toss coins before the pray.
In a formal way, it is not proper to “throw” the coins, “gently toss” coins in the offertory box.
You don’t need many coins to offer, usually, the Japanese people use small changes such as 1 yen (1c), 5 yen (5c), 10 yen, 50 yen and 100 yen ($1).
How To Pray
You can ring a bell If there is a bell with a thick rope near an offertory box. Some shrines and temples don’t have a bell though. To ring a bell is believed to remove evil. At the Buddhist temples, The large copper bell outside of the main building is different. You are not allowed to ring a copper bell outside of the event.
• Bow Twice, Clap hands Twice, Bow Once
Three is a few different manners for the pray depends on Shrines, but this is the major manner nationwide called “Ni Rei Ni Hakushu, Ichi Rei” (二礼二拍手一礼).
It literally means “Bow twice, clap hands twice, and then bow once again”.
- Bow slightly as a show of the respect at the main shrine
- Step to the front to make a coin offering
- Ring a bell if it’s available
- Step back from the offertory box for other worshippers (if it’s busy)
- Bow deeply twice, clap hands twice and then bow deeply once again
It’s good chance to buy Ema, Omamori and Omikuji as following what Japanese do.
“Ema”(絵馬) is a wooden wishing plaque originally from the Shinto custom but today you can Ema at temples (which is Buddhism) in Japan.
Visitors hang up the board on the grounds of the shrine or temple after scribbling their hopes and wishes.
“Omikuji” ( おみくじ） is the fortune-telling little piece of paper written about the luck (and unhappiness) waiting for you in every aspect of life, including love, health, friendship, career, and education.
There are several types of “Omikuji” boxes around, you will see a hexagonally-shaped box or a red vending machine.
“Omikuji” ( おみくじ）costs 100 yen in most places.
If a shrine has a hexagonally-shaped box, pay for a “omikuji”, and shake a box and pick a stick popped out.
Get a small piece of paper from a drawer written the same number on your picked stick.
You can get the omikuji paper written in English (and some others) when you visit famous temples and shrines among international visitors.
Omikuji Classified fortune levels from Best to Worst
- DAi-KICHI(大吉) – great blessing
- CHU-KICHI(中吉) – middle blessing
- SHO-KICHI(小吉) – small blessing
- KICHI(吉) – blessing
- SUE-KICHI(末吉) – uncertain luck
- KYO (凶) – curse
- DAI-KYO (大凶) – great curse
Tie the fortune paper to a rope or a branch when you picked something “curse”, or keep the fortune paper in your wallet when you picked up something “blessing”.
The several reasons why a bad luck omikuji paper will be tied in the grounds…
- Receive blessing by connecting with God
- Leading bad fortunes to good to leave a sanctuary
- Tie a bad fortune up for not bringing out with you
“Omamori”(御守) is a Japanese amulet, charm, talisman, to protect someone from bad luck.
There are many kinds of “Omamori” depends on wishings such as well harmony of family connection, safety drive, good health, successful business, education and learning, romance and baby safe.
Now you have learned the manners to visit Shrine (and temples) in Japan.
The Japanese people include me, are willing to share our spirit & tradition with travelers and don’t mind if you make mistakes.
The most important thing is “paying your respects”.
Again, you will see many Japanese people don’t follow these manners because some just don’t know these or others are lazy to know.
Also, use common sense to take pictures.
Generally, inside the main shrine (aleter) is not allowed to take pictures.
Pay attention the sign in the shrine.
If you want to be polite to Gods, follow these steps!