No matter where you go in Japan, you will probably have shrines on your bucket list. Shrines are a wonderful place to immerse yourself into Japanese traditions and customs. Just like any other country, you want to be respectful at a place of worship.
When it comes to Shinto shrines in Japan, many people think of torii, temizuya, and among other words but just knowing these names is not enough! How do you know how to get through a Torii?
Let’s look through some of the basics you need to know for shrine visits.
Passing the torii
Torii, or gate, is one of the main features of a Shinto shrine. The torii is the entrance to any shrine precincts.
1. Take your hat or cap off. If the weather isn’t cold, you can take your jacket off too.
2. The middle of the torii is for the gods, so you must walk on the side.
3. Bow slightly and put your left foot first
Purifying yourself at a temizuya or chozuya
After crossing the torii, you will see a water basin known as temizuya. This is where you cleanse your body and mind before coming face-to-face with the deity.
1. Pick the ladle available with your right hand and fill it with water.
2. Pour a little water onto your left hand, transfer your ladle into your left hand and pour some water onto the right hand.
3. If you are open to it, you are expected to rinse your mouth. Fill your left hand with water, rinse your mouth and spit it outside the basin. Make sure the ladle does not touch your mouth.
4. Finally, take a little water and move the ladle vertically, cleaning the handle before placing it on the basin again.
Path between torii and shrine
As with the torii, do not walk in the middle of the path but take the sides. Also pay attention to the direction of the crowds and walk in the same direction as others; this is especially important during festivals or events.
How to worship
Once you get to the main hall, you can pay your respects. Usually there will be a saisenbako and bell or gong. Side off center on either side of the saisenbako. Some shrines prohibit photos of the interiors of the main hall so please respect this.
Saisenbako (offertory box)
Although there is a saying between Japanese that a donation of 5 yen (go-en) is best as the word in Japanese means fate or relationship, you can actual put in any amount you wish from 1 yen to 10,000 yen.
Bell or gong
Ring the bell two or three times to inform the deity of your presence.
At the altar
There is a saying in Japanese: Ni-rei ni-hakusyu ichi-rei
Bow twice, clap your hands twice, pray and bow one more time.
The clap is to express your joy for this encounter with the deity.
(Exception: At Izumo Taisha in Shimane, you bow twice, clap four times and bow again)
Usually there is a counter or store selling omamori (lucky charms) as well as ema (votive tablets) to write your wishes. You can also pick an omikuji (fortune).
Leave the shrine precincts just as you entered by walking on the side.
Following all of these simple rules will be appreciated by the locals. Let’s worship with respect!!