【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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    Writer: Sayuri Mizuno (MOSHI MOSHI NIPPON)

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    We are joined by Instagrammer Macchan who recently attended the exhibition and who has provided photos for us.

     

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    Photos by まっちゃん

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  • Haneda Airport Releases First Bubble Tea Which Passengers Can Enjoy as They Fly

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    These bubble tea flavours are limited to XFLAG STORE + HANEDA and were created with the intention of providing a splash of energizing fun to tiresome travels. 

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    *Drinks and liquids are usually permitted on domestic flights in Japan. Please check the specific rules of your flight by referring to the official website of your airline. 

     

    To commemorate the release of the new bubble teas, XFLAG STORE + HANEDA has launched an Instagram campaign with the chance to win an Amazon gift card worth ¥10,000 (approx. 80GBP/95USD). 

     

    To take part in the Instagram campaign for the chance to win a ¥10,000 Amazon gift card, be sure to take a photo with your XFLAG STORE + HANEDA bubble tea drink and then post the picture on Instagram with the following three hashtags:

    #旅タピ #タピオカ #空の上で飲めるタピオカドリンク

    Four winners will be selected.

     

    Get your summer holidays off to a soaring start with a beautiful bottle of bubble tea. 

  • 4 Must-Visit Fireworks Festivals in Kyoto This Summer

    10.August.2019 | SPOT

    Kyoto―also known as the “old capital” and said to be the birthplace of Japanese culture. In its 1,200 year history, this ancient city has given rise to much of what can be considered quintessential Japanese culture. Fireworks are a monumental feat of summer in Japan with countless festivals up and down the country dedicated to them, and Kyoto is no exception.

     

    If you’re in Kyoto this summer then you mustn’t miss these 4 fireworks festivals.

     

    Kameoka Peace Festival Hozugawa River Fireworks Festival – A Magnificent Arsenal of 8,000 Beauties

    This long-running event is held every year to pray for world peace. Its spectacular display features a lineup of fireworks specially selected by the Japan Fireworks Artist Association which aims to evolve the tradition of firework culture. Expect to see the night sky illuminated with a rainbow of colours from the festival’s launch of 8,000 fireworks, including the Starmine which shoots a cloud of bright stars into the overhead abyss, as well as some original fireworks crafted for the festival such as the “Kamemaru Hanabi.”

     

    ▼Kameoka Heiwasai Hozugawa Fireworks Festival (Kameoka Peace Festival Hozugawa River Fireworks Festival)

    Date: August 11, 2019

    Time: From 19:30
    Location: Hozubashi Bridge
    Official Website: http://kameoka-hanabi.jp/

     

    Kyoto Nantan City Fireworks Festival – The Spectacular Starmine

    Held by the riverbed of the Katsura River, the fireworks festival in Nantan makes use of the opposite shore from the viewing point which makes the fireworks look like they are raining down from the sky like a waterfall. The finale of this festival welcomes the behemoth of all Starmine fireworks which rips across the night sky in a blazing spread. The festival is also held as part of the Bon Festival and so lanterns are let loose down the Ōi River, creating a sight of subtle grace and beauty.

     

    ▼Kyoto Nantan City Fireworks Festival

    Date: August 14, 2019

    Time: From 19:30

    Location: Katsura River
    Official Website: http://www.yagi-hanabi.com/

     

    Miyazu Toronagashi Fireworks Festival – Floating Lanterns & Fireworks For 400 Years

    Held in the city of Miyazu, this festival combines fireworks with floating lanterns and shoryobune―boats adorned with tanzaku paper slips that are sent out to light the way for the deceased as part of the Bon Festival.  Floating lanterns on the water (known as toronagashi in Japanese) in Miyazu began 400 years ago. This year, it was counted as one of Japan’s three biggest toronagashi events.

    Together with the boat, around 10,000 lanterns are sent into Miyazu Bay, creating a beautiful and majestic atmosphere. Close to 3,000 fireworks are set to illuminate the sky above, leading to an indescribable beauty as the fireworks and lights give off their own light.

     

    ▼Miyazu Toronagashi Fireworks Festival

    Date: August 14, 2019

    Time: From 19:30

    Location: Shimasaki Park
    Official Website: https://www.kyo.or.jp/miyazu/hanabi/

     

    Ine Fireworks – Fireworks Galore Envelop Ine Bay

    Around 1,200 fireworks climb up and over Ine Bay, lighting the calm water surface and the funaya boat houses of Ine with their brilliance. The boat houses themselves are also strung and lined with hanging lanterns.

     

    ▼Ine Fireworks

    Date: August 24, 2019

    Time: 20:15

    Location: Ine, Kyoto
    Official Website: http://www.ine-kankou.jp/inehanabi/

     

     

    Did you enjoy our pick? It isn’t summer in Japan without fireworks. If you’re travelling to Kyoto to catch some sun this year, finish the day off with one of its many fireworks festival―from traditional Kyoto-esque events to large-scale ones with 8,000 fireworks ready to be deployed.

  • Stay Cool This Summer in Kyoto at These 4 Nature Spots

    09.August.2019 | FEATURES / SPOT

    When talking about seasons in Kyoto, a lot of people are sure to point towards autumn when the leaves turn fiery red and sun yellow. But did you know that in Kyoto enjoys cool and truly beautiful summers?

     

    If you’re in the old capital this summer, or are planning to catch the sun there with a trip next year, then you’ll want to add the 4 spots in this list into your schedule, each abloom with magical foliage and verdure.

     

    We are joined by Macchan, a Japanese Instagrammer who snaps photos of sightseeing spots around Kyoto lush with greenery.

     

    Giouji Temple

    Giouji Temple is a modest thatched hut wrapped in a bamboo thicket and maple trees. The temple is detailed in the epic The Tale of the Heike in which the dancer Gio fled to the temple from her home in the capital with her mother and sister after falling out of love with Taira no Kiyomori.

     

    A visit here ensures you can enjoy the summer with more than just your eyes as you listen to the dancing of the bamboo thicket and the cries of the cicadas.

     

    Giouji Temple
    Address: 32 Sagatoriimoto Kozakachō, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto
    Official Website: http://www.giouji.or.jp/en

     

    Adashino Nenbutsu-ji

    Adashino Nenbutsu-ji is a Buddhist temple with a history spanning 1,200 years. A memorial service for those who died without kin is taking place on August 23 and 24 at the riverbed of the temple’s west wing where candles will be lit in their honour. Lanterns are also lit in the surrounding area along the streets.

     

    Adashino Nenbutsu-ji

    Address: 17 Saga Toriimotoadashinocho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto

    Official Website: http://www.nenbutsuji.jp/index.html

     

    Fushimi Port Park

    Fushimi Port Park is a huge park home to a gymnasium and sumo area. They also have a hiking course. The sea does not reach here, but there is a canal which boats go up and down, and this is where the park gets its name. It has a bounty of trees and plants, so if you’re looking to enjoy a peaceful stroll in nature then be sure to visit.

     

    Fushimi Port Park

    Address: Yoshijima Kanaidocho, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto
    Official Website: http://www.kyoto-park.or.jp/fushimi/

     

    Kan’in-no-miya Residence

    This residence was built for and used by the Kan’in-no-miya family in 1710, with Prince Naohito as its founder―the son of Emperor Higashiyama. The family lived in the house until 1877 after which they moved to Tokyo. Following the war, it was liberated and became a park, and today it is used to exhibit photography and paintings. The residence is famous for its peach trees, making it a popular spot in spring. However, in summertime, it’s much quieter, adding grace to the tranquillity of the surrounding green landscape. What’s more is that despite it being such a prestigious location, it’s free to enter! Don’t tell too many people about this secret spot.

     

    Kan’in-no-miya Residence

    Address: 3 Kyotogyoen, Kamigyo War, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture

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

     

     

    Macchan has visited many incredible spots around Kyoto, so if you’re in need of recommendations be sure to give them a follow.

     

    Photos: @macchan358

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