【Travel Q&A】Step-By-Step Guide to Praying Etiquette at Japanese Shrines & Temples

31.December.2017 | SPOT

Visiting shrines and temples is one of the must-do activities when visiting Japan to really experience the traditional culture. But did you know there are certain rules to follow when praying at a shrine? But do not worry, it’s actually quite simple. We will walk you through the process step by step so you know exactly what to do when you arrive at a shrine or temple during your trip to Japan.

 

1:Shrines? Temples? What’s the difference?

浅草寺

First of all, let’s clear up the difference between a shrine and a temple. Temples came from countries such as China and India to spread Buddhism. They are places to worship Buddha and are installed with statues of Buddha. Buddhist monks live to spread the teachings of Buddhism. Inside the temples are bhikkhu (monks), bhikkhuni (female monks), temple masters and more who enshrine the image of Buddha.

 

Related article:【Tokyo Stroll】Strolling around Asakusa for half of the day finding the stereo typical sightseeing spots and new spots.

 

 

日枝神社

On the other hand, shrines originated from primitive, scared altars such as “iwakura” (sacred rocks) and other places where the gods are said to live – places where people cannot enter. They were temporarily erected during special occasions. Shrines that you see today were not originally a permanent structure. Their origin is different from those of temples that came from abroad. Shrines originated in Japan and their history there goes back further than Buddhism, making them much different from temples.

Related article:Visit Temples and Shrines, and Collect Goshu-in!

 

 

2:So, how do I pray?

There are several steps to follow when praying at a temple or shrine in Japan. These steps may also differ from temple to shrine, so be sure to check properly before starting.

 

Shrines & Temples

お祈り

Praying

The general starting point is to throw some money into the offertory box. Most people throw in a ¥5 coin. This is because “5 yen” in Japanese is pronounced “go-en,” which is a homophone with the word for “good luck” (ご縁).

 

Bell

If there’s a bell positioned above the offertory box, then be sure to ring it by shaking it back and forth. This is done to call the gods to the shrine.

 

Can I take photos

Many places will not allow you to take photos. Be sure to check thoroughly whether there is a warning sign or not. Even if you see people taking photos, make sure to check for yourself.

 

Related article:【Tokyo Stroll 】A power spot at the heart of Tokyo? Half a day at Meiji Shrine!

 

Shrines & Temples

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“Temizuya”

The first thing you’ll find when arriving at a shrine and many temples is the “temizuya” (water purification basin). This is where you wash your hands and rinse your mouth to cleanse yourself before praying.

 

There are several steps to follow:

1) Hold the ladle with your right hand and wash your left hand – then do the opposite.

2) Take the ladle with your right hand and scoop some water. Pour the water into your left hand and rinse your mouth with it. Make sure to never bring the ladle to your mouth. Spit the water next to the fountain, never directly back into it.

3) With the ladle still in your right hand, rinse your left hand one last time. Done.

 

Praying at a shrine – bowing and clapping

  1. Come before the shrine, perform a light bow and ring the bell.
  2. Toss your money into the offertory box.
  3. Perform 2 deeper bows (30°-45° angle), bring your hands to the front of your chest, pray, then clap twice.
  4. Finally, bow deeply one last time, and you’re done!

 

Temples

Praying at a temple – bowing

  1. Perform a light bow, throw your money into the offertory box and ring the bell.
  2. Bring your hands to the front of your chest, pray, and perform a final light bow.

 

What’s the best way to tell if you’ve come to a shrine or temple, I hear you asking? If you passed under a “tori” on your way in, you’re at a shrine. They’re usually red and look like big gates with two main pillars. If you passed under a “sanmon,” you’re at a temple. These are often complete with a roof and look like mini-temples in their own right. The praying process at shrines and temples are much different so be sure to check where you are first!

 

Temples

Incense

Some temples have an incense holder stationed outside, where you can purchase your own bundle of “osenko” (incense) to burn. If you’re lighting your own incense, be sure to put out the fire by hand and never blow it out. But before you do, make sure you wave some of that incense smoke onto you as it’s said to have healing powers! If there’s a weak part of your body, too, then be sure to try it out.

 

 

3:What’s a “Goshuin”?

御朱印

Goshuin

The must-do popular thing right now is collecting “goshuin” (red seal stamps). These stamps are given at shrines and temples to show that you have visited those places. In addition to the shrines’ and temples’ unique seals, specially trained writers will write the name of the shrine or temple, the date at which you visited and sometimes other information, all in calligraphic writing. One of the reasons for the goshuin popularity is for the artistry behind it all as the penmanship and designs are different depending on which place you visit. Whether you visit the same place twice or just the date is being written for you, each and every goshuin entry has its own unique characteristics and feeling put into the characters depending on the person writing for you, meaning your entry will be the only one of its kind in the world. You will require a goshuin stamp book to receive a stamp entry. They are sold at many of the popular shrines and temples.

穴守稲荷神社

We have an article about collecting cute goshuin on the MOSHI MOSHI NIPPON website so be sure to check it out!

 

Related Article: 【Tokyo Stroll】 Lost in a world of shrine arches and lucky sand! Head to Anamori Inari Shrine near Haneda airport!

 

Was our guide useful? We hope you use it for reference when visiting shrines and temples in Japan.

 

MMN will continue to answer questions related to Japan and Japanese culture. If you have any questions about Japan then be sure to hit us up on our Facebook page!

https://www.facebook.com/msmsnippon/

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    Giouji Temple
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    Fushimi Port Park

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    Kan’in-no-miya Residence

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    Official Website: https://kan-in-nomiya-teiato.jp/eng/

     

     

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    Photos: @macchan358

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    Kyoto Station & Kyoto Tower

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    ▼Kyoto Station

    Address: Higashishiokoji Kamadonocho, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture

    Kyoto Station Building Official Website: https://www.kyoto-station-building.co.jp/

     

    ▼Kyoto Tower

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    *Opening hours subject to change without notice

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    Yasaka Shrine

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    ▼Yasaka Shrine

    Address: 625 Gionmachi Kitagawa, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture

    Official Website: http://www.yasaka-jinja.or.jp/

     

     

    Kyoto Minamiza Theatre

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    Minamiza has a long history spanning back to 1610 when it was founded. In May this year, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu performed a special concert there entitled Kyary Kabuki Kabuki which made use of projection mapping, fusing history and tradition with the latest cutting-edge technology to provide a concert like no other. The theatre is becoming a new sightseeing spot as it is lit up at nighttime. All of the lights are turned on until 10pm after which just the roof lights are kept on.

     

    ▼Kyoto Minamiza Theatre

    Address: 198 Nakanocho, Higashiyama, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture

    Official Website: https://www.shochiku.co.jp/play/theater/minamiza/

     

     

    Ninenzaka

    Ninenzaka is a long winding road that leads up to Kiyomizu-dera temple and is also a very famous tourist spot. It is registered under the Important Preservation Districts for Groups of Historic Buildings. In the daytime, the street bustles with locals and tourists dipping in and out of the souvenir shops, but the dark evenings of Ninenzaka are another kind of wonderful. The number of tourists drops significantly at night meaning you can have the street all to yourself and take plenty of photos, warm lanterns lighting your way.

     

    ▼Ninenzaka

    Address: 2 Kiyomizu, Masuyacho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture

    Official Website: http://www.2nenzaka.ne.jp/

     

     

    Kiyomizu-dera

    Kiyomizu-dera is a 25-minute walk from Kiyomizu-Gojō Station which is reached via the Keihan Main Line. Registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this ancient Buddhist temple is a very popular tourist destination. What we want those of you to see when visiting in the evening is the beautiful sunset which can be seen from the temple, colouring the streets of Kyoto a gorgeous orange.

     

    ▼Kiyomizu-dera

    Address: 1-294 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture

    Opening Hours: https://www.kiyomizudera.or.jp/access.php

    Official Website: https://www.kiyomizudera.or.jp/

     

    Taka has visited so many incredible locations in Kyoto, so if you’re planning a trip there and need some recommendations be sure to follow him on Instagram.

     

    Photos: Taka

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    OHYA 1

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    A second building will be renovated in May 2020 to accommodate two more rooms. There are 70-100 vacant buildings in Kosuge, so there are plans in place to receive permission from landlords to make further repairs, improvements and renovations.

     

    If you’re travelling to Japan and are looking for a truly remote experience then why not visit the quaint little village of Kosuge in Yamanashi Prefecture?

  • Gaze at Shooting Stars at Akiyoshidai in Yamaguchi Prefecture with New Night Tour

    31.July.2019 | SPOT

    Akiyoshidai is located in Mine, Yamaguchi. It is Japan’s biggest karst plateau and is designated as a natural monument. If you love the stars in the night sky then you’ll want to hear about the new shooting star night tours that have been announced by the Mine City Tourism Information Center.

     

    Cities, towns and villages across Japan are seeking to cater tourist and travelers needs to experience something that only that place can offer which can be enjoyed by simply by ‘looking.’

    Akiyoshidai is a very popular site with photographers as it offers a clear and unbroken view of the stars. Mine City Tourism Information Center is capitalizing on this by offering more tours to visitors.


    This series of tours will make it easier for people to travel to Akiyoshidai from the town area while taking advantage of a location where there is little artificial light.

     

    Check the official website for more details on how you can witness the incredible Japanese night sky.

  • Visiting Hakone? Pick Up A Freshly Baked Hakone Basque Cheesecake

    29.July.2019 | FOOD

    A brand new Basque Cheesecake shop called Hakone Cheese Terrace opened on July 26th. The carefully balanced rich flavour and smooth texture of these cheesecakes makes them the perfect Hakone souvenir! Basque cheesecake is a type of burnt cheesecake that originated from Basque, Spain.

    Hakone is home to a large number of Japan’s popular tourist spots as well as relaxing hot springs and beautiful nature. Located just 1.5 hours from Tokyo, Hakone has an extraordinary atmosphere which will heal both your body and mind. Hakone Cheese Terrace opened to enhance the appeal of the nature surrounding Hakone resorts and to contribute to the fascinating culture of the area. 

    The basque cheesecake comes in a mini cup so customers can enjoy this delicious treat while on the go exploring the local area. This is also the perfect souvenir size.

    The cheesecakes at Hakone Cheese Terrace are made mostly from locally sourced ingredients. For a creamy, fresh taste, milk sourced from the south of Hakone is combined with high-quality cream cheese. An original recipe blend is used for a rich flavour and smooth texture.

    The cheesecakes are baked fresh at the shop so you can enjoy your cheesecake at its most delicious stage. Rock salt, black pepper and soy sauce are available as toppings for customers to discover a new flavour.

     

    Come enjoy the flavours of Hakone to your heart’s content at Hakone Cheese Terrace

  • Explore The Hidden Beauty, Culture And Local Cuisine Of Hida Takayama In A Yukata

    18.July.2019 | SPOT

    Shimocho is one of the districts of Hida Takayama and is overflowing with traditional culture that you absolutely must experience. To make the most of your trip, there is a summer yukata-wearing programme running from July 20th which is the perfect opportunity to wear cooling and refreshing Japanese clothes while strolling and exploring the streets. 

     

    This year will be the 7th time the programme has been run. The Hida Takayama de Nippon no Natsu Yasumi programme allows visitors to dress in a comfortable and cooling yukata, stroll, explore, try different foods and enjoy the culture of the area. This year’s theme is “romance and yukatas” and gives visitors the opportunity to enjoy programme-limited desserts and the rich culture of the district.  

     

    Discover Hidden Beauty with the Stroll Map

    Visitors will be given a map packed with wonderful spots of the area. The map will also include the destinations of 31 shops where you can enjoy special experiences, meals and desserts that are limited to those who take part in the yukata programme. Recommended spots to visit are also drawn on the map in a very cute handwriting-like style, so you can stop by these places easily while enjoying your walk. There are even many places on the map that only a local would know about. 

     

    Some of the special benefits of the programme allow you to enjoy the best regional cuisine that Hida has to offer, including the wonderful experience of restaurants that have been loved by the locals for generations, a beef delicacy restaurant, and much more. Besides food, the programme also gives you the opportunity to witness the beautiful festival floats used during the Takayama festival at the Takayama Matsuri Yatai Kaikan. You can also enjoy experiencing baking your own senbei crackers and gold panning.  

     

    The programme includes a wide range of experiences for you to enjoy from local shops to food to culture to some new experiences. 

     An old-style café called Sabou Usagi is particularly popular with the locals. Here, the coffee is made using a vacuum coffee maker. With the summer programme, you can enjoy the delicious heart Tiramisù served here.

     

    The stroll map includes a variety of locations such as the Takayama Tourist Information Centre, Hida Takayama Tourism Convention Association, Hida Takayama Travel Hotel Association and much more. The map also includes some of the accommodations available around Takayama, some important train stations and much more. You can easily download this map from the official website. (Japanese only )  

     

    Stroll the Streets in an Elegant Yukata

    Change into a traditional Yukata that matches the beautiful surrounding townscape. There are four shops Yukata rental shops available to pick up your favourite Yukata, so there is no need to worry if you did not come prepared. There are also some accommodations that allow for yukata rental. 

    If you decide to join the Hida Takayama Nippon Natsu Yasumi programme, make sure to share your beautiful memories on Instagram with the hashtag #Hidasummer 

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