Travelling to Japan | When Visiting Shrines

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Japan is always great destination for travelling, sightseeing, nature as well as excellent Japanese food. Of course there will be some cultural differences in some countries, that’s common thing. Japan is same, there are a few religious taboos, social manners, firstly, this time I would like to introduce some manners when you visit shrines in Japan.


What to Do When You Are at Shinto Shrine

There is a slightly different style between Buddhism temples and Shinto Shrines in Japan. Before Meiji Restoration in 1868, Buddhism temple and Shinto shrines were used to share almost same way. The Meiji government aimed at strengthening the Shinto-country from the Buddhism that the Edo government had protected so far, and issued a decree to separate the Shinto and Buddhism to prohibit the mixed Shinto and Buddhism that has been widely done until then. However, there are small Shinto shrines inside the site of the temples even now if going to the district, so it is not completely separated.

Japanese Shintoism is basically animism, heroism as well as mythologies of ancient Japanese gods and goddess (* see more about Zen Buddhism and Shintoism) . There is no common rule or teaching in Shinto, but there are some strict decisions made by the gods of each Shinto, which will also differ depending on each region and its shrine system. However, the basic way to visit is the same, so let me introduce a bit.


1. Bow before pass the Torii Gate (Shinto Shrines)

Basically it is as to visit with God’s premises, that is exactly same as to visit other people’ s house, so when you pass the torii gate, it is fundamental to bow. The other side of the torii is the space of God. The shrine has already begun here.


2. Getting through the Gate

When you go down the torii and walk on the approach path, try to walk on the edge of the approach road. Since the approach path is considered to be the way God passes, leave the middle open for God, let the worshiper walk on the edge. As this is not well known among Japanese, many Japanese people walking in the middle, but basically they are supposed to walk on the edge.


3. Purify Your Mouth and Hands with Chozuya

Chozuya (also pronounced Temizuya) is an area within the precinct of a Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple at which worshippers wash their hands and mouths. There are a few manners here;

  1. One bow to the Chozuya.
  2. Take the ladle with your right hand and scoop the water. First cleanse your left hand with that water.
  3. Swap the ladle with your left hand and purify your right hand with the same action.
  4. Next to change mouth, change the ladle on the right again, pool the water in the palm on the left and include it in the mouth (do not put a mouth directly on the bowl of the ladle).
  5. Rinse mouth with no sound and cleanse, gently spit out.
  6. Clear the left hand again with the previous action.
  7. Finally hold the handle of the ladle with one hand, tilt the bowl portion upwards, rinse the handle with water of the ladle and rinse off. Return the ladle quietly to its original position and bow.


4. When Visiting the Main Shrine

Again, there is a manners. Basically most of  shrine is in the same way, so once you remember it you will be OK wherever you go ( but some of the local shrines have some different manners too).

  1.  Put money (10 ~ 100 Yen) into the saisen box. A remnant that provided rice wrapped in white paper as a ‘twist’. Since sacrificing something important is something you can not do with freedom, there is also a meaning to purify the mind of the heart by putting on offerings.
  2. Ring a bell. Purify by the sound of a bell, call God.Excitative by the sound of a bell to call God.
  3. Deeply bow twice. To express respect for God.
  4. First of all, palm is aligned with chest height, right hand is shifted slightly downward, two applauses. After that, keep your fingers tightly together and then making a wish.
  5. To shift the palm means that God and man are not yet united. It is said that Gods will unite by clapping hands to bring God together and then palm together to acquire the power of God with prayers. * Attention when doing your wish;  first of all let me know where you came from and what purpose you came, rather than asking for your own hope. And Let ‘s hope after thanking every day life.
  6. Finally bow once again.


5. Going back

As I come back, as I come, I walk around the entrance as well as avoiding the center, and after having briefly bowed inside, I will leave the torii.



Worshiping for Japanese

For Japanese people, religion is too much blending into everyday life and I think that it is before consciousness. That is why some Japanese says “I don’t have any religion” then he goes to Shrine for the new years pray….or goes to family temple for his family’s death ceremonies. However, it’s more likely Japanese government fault that they don’t teach very much at school. I also did not know much until I studied at my university as well.

When visiting sightseeing in Japan, perhaps there will be more pilgrimage to temples and shrines. Some foreigners who are sightseeing may not have any religious thoughts or others who have other religions, however, in Japan there is always a religious view such as Shinto and Buddhism, which also exists as a culture of Japan, so I would like you to respect each Japanese way of thinking as much as possible while respecting Japanese culture even you don’t believe in any religion. Even for my husband, he doesn’t believe any religions but he respected the way of God in Japan so he followed the manners in any shrines that means also he respected the people who worshiped there too.

Sadly, Japan is becoming more westernised. As a result, I read a report that the original religious idea of ​​Japan has gone away, and the Shinto, which was rooted in the community, is beginning to be abandoned and many shrines are being devastated. In Shinto shrines basically there are mostly oral traditions, so it seems that sometimes the shrine becomes the devastated when the shrine priest no longer works there.

Anyhow, I have found how to visit shrines Japan video here, hope it helps.



Related links:

Zen Buddhism and Shintoism 




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