Shrines are popular tourist spots in Japan. Japanese shrines welcome everyone, no matter your faith, so you can easily go to a shrine to pray.
Check out how to enjoy shrines as well as the etiquette you should know so you can enjoy these beautiful, historic buildings and Japanese culture even more deeply!
1) Bow before passing under the torii gate.
The gates at the entrance of shrines are called “torii”. They signify that the area beyond them is where the gods reside. You can think of it as the entranceway. First, you should bow to the torii before you cross it to let the gods know that you’re coming in.
2) Purify your mouth and hands at the temizuya before you pray.
Once you’ve crossed the torii, purify your hands and mouth at the temizuya before you pray. It looks like a little water fountain. To wash your hands is to purify your body, and when you wash your mouth, you purify your heart.
The steps are a little complicated, but please do your best to learn them so you can try them out when you’re at a shrine!
1. Use the ladle in your right hand to scoop water and pour it over your left.
2. Switch the ladle to your left hand and pour water over your right.
3. Pour water into your left hand and rinse out your mouth. (*Don’t put your mouth on the ladle!)
4. Rinse your left hand again.
5. Lift the ladle so the scoop is in the air so the remaining water flows over the ladle’s handle to purify the ladle itself.
6. Gently put the ladle back to its original position.
What do you think? Does it seem hard? It would be good to memorize these, but some shrines have helpful instructions with illustrations near the temizuya, so take a look around if you need the help!
(By the way, there are many temizuya that have the water flowing out of a dragon’s mouth or that have dragon carvings on them. This is because dragons are called the gods of water.)
3) Face the main shrine and gently toss your money offering into the offertory box.
We offer money to the gods to show our gratitude. It doesn’t matter how much you decide to give them. There are many people who offer 5 yen, because the word for 5 yen is “go-en”. This is the same as a respectful word for “bonds between people,” especially relationships, so people offer 5-yen as a punny wish for healthy relationships.
Please make sure not to throw the money violently into the box! Gently, politely tossing the money inside is considered good etiquette.
4) Ring the bell.
If you look up at the main shrine, you’ll see a big bell over your head. Grab the rope or cloth hanging from the bell and ring it loudly. This is done to call the gods. Also, the sounds of bells have the power to drive away evil, so the person ringing it will be purified as well.
5) Bow twice, clap twice, bow once.
It’s finally time to pray! Do your best to remember these steps. There are some shrines that have illustrated instructions, so keep an eye out if you need help.
1. Bow twice deeply.
2. Clap twice with your hands in front of your chest.
3. Keep your hands together and silently pray to the gods by offering them your gratitude and wishes.
4. Bow deeply once more.
6) When you leave the compound by way of the torii gate, turn around to face the main shrine and bow once.
This is how you thank the gods for letting you visit.
Also, shrines and temples are extremely spiritual places. Please be careful not to make too much noise and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere.
This is a Tokyo Otaku Mode original article.