One of the greatest features of Japan
One of the greatest features of Japan is the stunning shrines and the gorgeous temples. To respect the traditions of the Japanese people, our travel and event team spent 19 days in Japan familiarising themselves with all steps that should be followed. Firstly, to understand the difference between a shrine or temple enables you to take the correct actions.
Two primary religions are practiced in Japan. Shintoism which is practiced at a shrine, originated in Japan and has a set of Japanese spiritual beliefs. So many of these shrines have features and designs that are unique to Japan. For example, you’ll find Toriii archways at shrines which are usually painted red.
The second religion is Buddhism, which is practiced at a temple, and comes from India. Instead of finding Torii archways, you have pagoda, multi-tiered towers that are often associated with Asian architecture. A cemetery located next to a temple is also its indication.
Both religions date back thousands of years.
When Buddhism was introduced in the late 6th century, it became the Japanese state religion according to national policies. Since then Buddha was transformed into a Japanese deity, a new different form of god, and coexisted with the Shinto gods.
In addition, the way to worship is distinct from each other. But they have some in common. The most important and frequent manner is Ojigi anyway, which means “bow down".
Below is a simple guide if you visit a shrine. It’s easy and a great guide on dos and don’ts so you avoid offending the locals (and the Japanese Gods!)
Visiting a Shrine
2. At the purification fountain near the shrine’s entrance, take one of the ladles provided in your right hand, fill it with fresh water and rinse your left hand, change the ladle to your left hand and rinse the right.
3. Then transfer some water into your cupped left hand by holding the ladle in your right hand, rinse your mouth and spit the water beside the fountain. You are not supposed to transfer the water directly from the ladle into your mouth or swallow the water. Do not return any water from the ladle into the fountain. You will notice that quite a few visitors skip the mouth rinsing part of the purification ritual altogether.
5. Return the ladle face down to the chozu bowl after washing the handle of the ladle by pouring water back on itself.
6. Proceed towards the altar.
7. At the offering hall, throw a coin or notes into the offering box. Many Japanese people believe that using a 5-yen coin increases their chances of finding a significant other, since go-en is homophonous to the Japanese word meaning “relationship”. However, this is nothing more than an urban legend.
9. Clap your hands twice.
10. Bow deeply once more and pray for a few seconds.
11. If there is some type of bell or gong, use it before praying in order to get the kami’s attention.
Visiting a Temple
At some temples, visitors burn incense (osenko) in large incense burners. Purchase a bundle, light them, let them burn for a few seconds and then extinguish the flame by waving your hand rather than by blowing it out. Finally, put the incense into the incense burner and fan some smoke towards yourself as the smoke is believed to have healing power. For example, fan some smoke towards your shoulder if you have an injured shoulder.
So, leave your shoes on the shelves at the entrance or take them with you in plastic bags provided at some temples, wear nice socks and remove any hats you may be wearing.
Photography is usually permitted on the temple grounds but is often forbidden inside the buildings. Watch for signs.