If you are traveling to Japan, temples and shrines are must-visit. But do you know how they are different and what people do there? They are typical tourist sites but there are some basic manners that you want to know before your visit.

Tenples and Shrines – How They Are Different

Sometimes it is confusing even for Japanese people, but to put it simply, temples are Buddhism and shrines are Shintoism. They are different religions, but both have been important part of Japanese history and are now coexisting in the culture. (How those religions are different is a long story so I will skip the explanation here.) At temples, it is said that you pray for happiness in your current life or the life after your death, depending on what kind of great image of Buddha is there. On the other hand, at shrines you pray for happiness only in your current life.

How To Do in Temples

When you enter temples, first wash your hands and mouth. There is an order. Hold a ladle with your right hand, take some water and wash your left hand. Next, switch the ladle to your left hand to wash your right hand. Lastly, hold the ladle with your right hand again, take some water, pour some of it into your left hand to wash your mouth.

If there is incense burner, fan some smoke towards yourself to heal your body and soul.

When you get to the offertory box, put some coins. There are no rules in the amount, but 50 yen or 5 yen are often used since those coins have holes so you can “see through the future”. After putting in the offering, put your both hands together and pray. Lastly bow once towards the temple before you leave.

How To Do in Shrines

The first thing you do is as same as at temples; wash your hands and mouth. On the way walking to the offertory box, walk the edge of the path since the middle is to be kept open for God of the shrine.

After putting in the offering, bow twice, clap twice and pray. Do not forget to tell God your name and address when praying. After you pray, bow once to show your gratitude.

These are not strict rule that you are required to follow, but something helpful if you are aware. Even if you are not in Buddhism or Shintoism, you are more than welcome to visit and experience the Japanese style manners. Temples and shrines are typical tourist spot but there is so much more to experience than just walking around and taking pictures!

Author: Yurika Haneda

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