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Visit Buddhist Temples and Shinto Shrines

Visit Buddhist Temples and Shinto Shrines

As a visitor to Japan, perhaps you may feel a little uneasy about visiting places of worship like Shinto Shrines and Buddhist Temples as a tourist. You may feel like you are intruding in a sacred place.
However, many Japanese people view temples and shrines not in a deeply religious sense, but more as a part of a living tradition or custom.
There are a lot of people who will celebrate the new year in a shrine in January, go to a temple in August to honor the spirits of their ancestors, and then wish each other a Merry Christmas in December. These things are not necessarily done out of any pious devotion or religious observance, but rather as part of long standing traditions passed down over time.
Regardless of your own religious beliefs, please feel free to visit a shrine or a temple. You are sure to receive a warm welcome - whichever one you go to.

Many of Japan’s traditions and customs have elaborate rules associated with them. For example, you should not walk right through the middle of a shrine’s torii gate. The middle of the gate is said to be the way the gods enter the shrine. You should keep to one side of the gate instead.
One unique custom is the purification of one’s hands and mouth before praying at a temple or shrine. Both have a place called a chozuya which allows you to wash your hands and mouth with water using a ladle. You must not put your hand directly into the water. And there are other rules too. You must start by washing your left hand. However, there are many Japanese people who don’t know the rules themselves so please don’t be too nervous! If you would like to know more, please click here.

Rather than fussing about getting every single step of each ritual exactly right, it might be more enjoyable to appreciate the unique character of each shrine and temple. Visitors from places with monotheistic religions may be surprised to learn that Japan worships many different gods or spirits and buddhas. The gods or spirits in Shinto are called kami. Each has their own special role in Japanese spirituality. It may be interesting to check which kami or buddha is venerated in a shrine or temple before you visit. That way, you can know what good fortune might be heading your way!

Some kami or buddha may be able to answer any prayer or wish you have. Others are associated with good health, academic success, and love. There are even temples called Enkiri-dera for people who want to separate from their partner. Some kami are prayed to for financial success. There are even kami that are said to grant wishes for a life free of money problems. Apparently, all you have to do is pray at their shrine three years in a row.

When you visit Japan, we hope that you can see a lot of different shrines and temples. Not just to admire the splendid architecture of the buildings but also to bring some good fortune home with you!

Here’s one last bit of advice from the Authentrip team about shrines and temples.

It can be very hard to find a calm and peaceful atmosphere in world famous tourist attractions. We recommend that you head outside of the cities and go to the countryside. There, you will find delightful shrines and temples with their own history stretching back over many years. Our tip is to head just outside of the busy cities. There, you can spend some time in quiet reflection.

Gansho-in Temple in Nagano has a tranquil atmosphere and a ceiling painting by the celebrated artist Hokusai.

Our 10 Day Tour of Japan will take you to Fushimi Inari Grand Shrine where you can immerse yourself in the spiritual atmosphere and see the uncountable red torii gates that are a symbol of Kyoto and Japan.

As part of our tour of Toyama Prefecture, you can learn about the area’s history and appreciate the architecture of Zuiryu-ji Temple.

The complex of shrines at Nikkō make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site and have been an extremely important spiritual location in Shinto for centuries.

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