Do you know how to visit a Japanese shrine and a temple?

Hatsumoude

Hello. I’m Mishi! Today, I will talk about how to visit a shrine and a temple. The way I will tell you is called formal worship. Formal worship is a general way to visit a shrine or a temple. Some shrines and temples have their original way to do so you might want to be careful. But if you understand the formal worship, you can use it at most places!

Let’s stop copying what to do from the people that are in front of you. lol, Let’s master together! (・∀・)人(・∀・)

 

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Before you visit a shrine or a temple

 

What to wear

Japanese shrines and temples are sacred places so you want to avoid wearing flashy clothing. The reason why is to show respect to god. You need to be humble to visit those places. If you go to those places in winter, especially, around the new year, make sure to wear a coat or something to warm you up because you will stand in line to make it to the place where you will pray. Around this season, there are many people who will go to a shrine or temple. Sometimes it would take a couple of hours!

In Japan, to wear your hat inside of a building is rude so when you reach the place to pray, you should take a hat off.

 

Time to visit a shrine or a temple

There is no rule for it. As long as the shrine or temple you will go to is open, you can visit there anytime.

 

Let’s visit a shrine and a temple!

 

This is how we are supposed to do at a shrine or temple. Take a look at them!

 

Shrine

  1. Before you get through Torii, you need to straighten your clothing
  2. Bow(little bow) one time in front of Torii
  3. Walk on the left side of the main path(The center of the main path is for god to walk. This is called Seichuu(正中). After you finish praying, walk on the right side of the main path. As you do this way, it is said that you can get your fortune to flow the right way.)
  4. Purify your hands and mouth(There is a place for ritual cleansing of hands and mouth with water at shrine)
  5. Bow(little bow) one time in front of an offertory box
  6. If you find a bell above an offertory box, ring a bell(There are some shrines that don’t have a bell.)
  7. Put money in an offertory box
  8. Bow(deep bow) twice → Clap hands twice → Bow(deep bow) one time

(6 and 7 can be switched to follow the order.)

(Those ways are formal worship. You can generally do those ways but you will see different ways too. It is up to the shrine that you visit.)

Temple

  1. Bow(little bow) one time in front of Sanmon
  2. Walk on the left side of the main path(The center of the main path is for god to walk. This is called Seichuu(正中). After you finish praying, walk on the right side of the main path. As you do this way, it is said that you can get your fortune to flow the right way.)
  3. Purify your hands and mouth(There is a place for ritual cleansing of hands and mouth with water at temple)
  4. If you find an incense burner, purify your body as you put smoke of incense on your body
  5. Bow(little bow) one time in front of an offertory box
  6. If you find a bell above an offertory box, ring a gong
  7. Put money in an offertory box
  8. Put hands together → Bow(little bow) one time

(5 and 6 can be switched to follow the order.)

(Those ways are formal worship. You can generally do those ways but you will see different ways too. It is up to the temple that you visit.)

 

Three ways to bow

 

Little bow(Yuu/揖)

Bow Yuu

You bow a little bit.

 

Half bow(Rei/礼)

Bow Rei

The angle of the bow is about 30-45 degrees.

Deep bow(Hai/拝)

 

Bow Hai
The angle of the bow is about 90 degrees.

 

How to purify your hands and mouth at a shrine and a temple

 

Temizuya

The place where you wash your hands and mouth is called 手水舎(Temizuya or Chouzuya).

Both of them are the same way. Let’s see it!

  1. Grab a ladle with your right hand and wash your left hand
  2. Switch your hand to grab a ladle with your left hand and wash your right hand
  3. Switch back to the hand that grabbed, with the ladle in your right hand, pour some water in your left hand
  4. Rinse your mouth
  5. Change the angle of ladle to vertical way and rinse the ladle with remaining water
  6. Dump the water and put a ladle where it was

(It would be great if you can do these in order without filling water up again!)

 

What are a temple gong and a shrine bell for?

 

Waniguchi and Suzu

Left: Shinto Bell and Right: Temple Gong

 

Temples have a gong and Shrines have a bell. Do you know that? If you take a look at them, you can get to see the difference. Temple gongs are called Waniguchi(鰐口) and Shrine bells are called Suzu(鈴). Both of them have the same meaning.

  1. It is a sign that I come and visit the god of that Temple or Shrine
  2. The sound of the gong or bell is an offering to the god of that Temple or Shrine
  3. It’s said that the sound of the gong or bell will get rid of the evil spirits

This custom started from later in the Edo period(1603 – 1868). Until this time, it is not for sure but it is said that shrine maidens used to use a bell for Kagura dance. Kagura dance is to perform for possession of gods.

A bell is also in Japanese mythology. You can get to see that a bell has an important role in Japanese history.

Temple gong started from the Heian period(794 – 1185). Waniguchi is from gagaku’s instrument(ancient court music). Waniguchi is made of two small gongs. This small gong is called Shouko(鉦鼓). Shouko is a percussion instrument nowadays.

 

Why don’t some shrine have a bell?

 

Temples usually have a gong and a Shrine usually has a bell. This is common knowledge but sometimes, some Shrines don’t have a bell. This question is easy to answer. The answer is syncretism. Shinto doesn’t have to have anything to make a systematization so actually, they don’t have to decorate anything. So, if you don’t see a bell at the shrine, the shrine keeps traditional way. However, sometimes they take a bell off for fixing or the Shrine that has many people go, take a bell off on purpose to avoid heavy traffic to pray.

 

What is the meaning of an offertory box?

 

Saisenbako

An offertory box is called Saisen Bako(賽銭箱) in Japanese. Japanese people used to offer their rice to thank gods for letting them have a good harvest. This is called Sanmai(散米). They also used to offer gold and silver too.

When the system of currency spread all over in Japan, they started to offer their money instead of rice, gold, and silver.

Since Muromachi period(1336 – 1573), it is said that people started to offer their money.

According to “The Diary of Kaigen-souzuki(快元僧都記)” written by a Buddhist monk in the Muromachi period, an offertory box was set at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine in 1540.

It is also said that the sound the money makes wards off evil spirits.

Now, aren’t you starting to wonder how you have to give??

Let’s go to next section!

 

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How much do you have to throw in an offertory box?

 

Five Yen

Many five Yen

 

This question is something that everybody is curious about. At first, let me say this! It doesn’t matter how much you give in a box. Most important thing is to have gratitude to gods. That’s it! I think you shouldn’t think hard about it. There are many people who give different amounts. Most popular amount is five Yen. Five Yen is five cent in American currency. Five Yen is called Go En(五円) in Japanese. This pronunciation is as same as Goen(御縁) in Japanese. 御縁 means good chance or luck with fate or relationship. That is why many Japanese people throw five Yen to an offertory box.

On the other hand, you might want to dodge to give Ten Yen. The reason why is pronunciation again. Ten can also be pronounced as Tou. Tou En = Touen means your good chance or luck with fate or relationship will be far away. This is the reason why they usually don’t spend ten Yen.

(Yen is En in Japanese.)

However, let me give you examples of how much money you want to offer!

  • Two five Yen  = ten Yen. Ten can be pronounced as Jyu(十).  Jyu can also mean 重(Jyu). This Kanji “重” means “pile up” or “put on top of each other”. So, two five Yen means to put good chance or luck on top of each other.
  • Eight five Yen = forty Yen. The Kanji of eight is 八. See this Kanji “八”. It looks like it widens toward the end. Eight five Yen means that your good chance or luck grow more and more.
  • Etc

There are many ways of how much money you can offer! But if you offer much money that doesn’t mean that you will have better fortune. That is what I want to let you know!!

 

Is five Yen good luck or bad luck?

 

The reason why they say is because Japanese five Yen has a hole so some people say that good chance or luck will fall into the hole.

But ━━(゚Д゚;)━━━….. on the other hand, some Japanese people say the opposite side of it.

A hole on five Yen is good because you can get to see the prospective view when you peep into the hole. Fifty Yen has also a hole. As I search this, it seems like many Japanese people believe that a hole in the Japanese yen is a good way, comparing to the people who say a hole on Yen is bad.

 

After all, how much money do we have to give?

 

Once again, this is up to you. It can be one Yen! It can be million Yen! You can consider what I said above but it doesn’t matter really. As long as you have a gratitude to gods to visit! (=´∀`)人(´∀`=)

 

How do they use our offering money?

 

Do you wonder this question? Then, I will answer this question for you.

There are various ways to use our offering money. Here are some ways.

  1. For maintaining their temple or shrine
  2. For employee’s salary
  3. For buying the offering stuff to gods
  4. For making fortune goods like Omamori(lucky charm and so on)
  5. For advertising their temple or shrine like posters, website and more
  6. For donation
  7. Etc

It seems like many Shrines or Temples struggle financially except for the famous Temples or Shrines. That is sad to hear! I hope they can get to keep their traditions for us forever!

 

There are many ways to pray at a shrine

 

I wrote this way above.

Bow(deep bow) twice → Clap hands twice → Bow(deep bow) one time

This way is called 二拝二拍手一拝(Ni Hai Ni Hakusyu Ichi Hai(Ippai)).

But there is another way to do.

Bow(half bow) twice → Clap hands twice → Bow(half bow) one time

This way is called 二礼二拍手一礼(Ni Rei Ni Hakusyu Ichi Rei).

Those are the most common ways to pray. Most Japanese people recognize them as the same way. You can do whichever you want to do.

But sometimes, you will see the different ways. For example, Ise Jinguu. The way to pray at this Shrine is

Bow(deep bow) eight times → Clap hands twice → Bow(deep bow) one time

This way is called 八拝二拍手一拝(Hachi Haku(Happaku) Ni Hakusyu Ichi Rei).

The way to pray is various sometimes. We need to be careful of the rule!

 

When to pray for your wish

 

Prayer at a Japanese Shrine

The timing is after you clap your hands twice and right before you make the last bow. You can pray for whatever you want to pray! However, you need to say thank you to god at first. Because this is a rule to pray at a Shrine or a Temple. Many people think that they can ask a favor only but that is not right. This place is to say thank you for your happiness to god. And after that, if you want to ask a favor, you can do that. So, say thank you and ask a favor is the polite way.

I hope your wish will come true! (o*・ω<)o.+:。゚.+:・

 

Summery

 

How was it? Could you learn how to visit a Shrine or a Temple? I wrote like the rule is strict but when it comes to Shinto Shrine, the rules are loose. That is because Shinto used to not have a systematization. I don’t think you are really worried about it! But if you know the manner, you will not be embarrassed. There is nothing wrong to know those ways.

 

 

Good luck to visit at a shrine or a temple!

Feel the Japanese culture!

βγё②φ(0∀0*ο

 

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