Shrine manners

There are many shrines in Japan.

A shrine is a general term for buildings and facilities for worshiping gods in the Shinto religion.

We hope that you will enjoy visiting shrines when you come to Japan for sightseeing purposes.

This time, we would like to introduce manners required at such shrines.

What is a shrine?

In the old days, even if there were no shrine buildings or facilities, there were objects and locations that were worshipped as sacred and where gods dwelled, such as mountains, waterfalls, rocks, forests, giant trees, etc., and mountains and forests were classified in a different group as categories that were a part of everyday life.

Shrines of today are permanent shrines dedicated to these gods.

In addition, since weddings are held at shrines, shrines with wedding halls are increasing.

Around the shrines are forests called guardian forests, and in the forests are sacred trees, which are fastened with a rope.

The entrance to the shrines is called a torii gate, which marks the boundary between the precincts and the world.

It is common for the approach to the shrine to have a sluice to cleanse your body and soul before worship.

Since a shrine is regarded as a sanctuary in this way, death is considered to be unpure, so there are no funerals held or graveyards built inside the shrines.


Manners of worship


Regarding clothing

The way a person dresses is said to also be a manifestation of the person's heart at that time. Even today, people are especially careful how the dress in proper locations. A shrine's priest dresses like he is facing a superior when interacting with gods. So, the rest of us should try our best to also dress properly when visiting shrines.
Men are sometimes required to wear suits and ties, especially when visiting special spots inside shrines, as are women at times. When traveling, people tend to be lightly dressed, but if you are planning to visit a special place and worshipping, you should wear appropriate clothing.



How to pass through the torii

It is said that the torii of a shrine has a meaning like a barrier that separates the sanctuary from the general society. It is said that the proper way of passing through a torii is to first bow, just as you would when visiting a superior's home. Also, when you have finished your worship and want to leave the precincts, you should turn to the shrine and bow.


How to walk the approach


At a shrine, the center of the approach may be regarded as the path through which the god passes (seichu). It is therefore a sign of respect to go around the center of the approach. Also, when crossing the center of the approach, there is a way of expressing respect, such as gently lowering your head or turning to the front of the shrine at the center and bowing before crossing.



How to properly visit shrines

  1. Before you pass through the torii gate, bow down and focus your mind before entering the precincts.
  2. Purify your body and mind with the water from the watershed. This is called "temizu wo toru".


Temizu manners

① Hold the ladle with your right hand, draw water, put it on your left hand and purify your left hand.

② Next, switch the ladle to your left hand and clean your right hand in the same way.

③ Hold the ladle in your right hand again, rinse your mouth with water on your left palm.

④ After rinsing your mouth, pour water again to your left hand.

⑤ Finally, stand the ladle up that has water in it, pour water over the handle and place it face down.


  1. Proceed to the shrine through the approach.
  2. When you stand in front of the offer box, give a slight bow with your head and put your offer in the offer box as a sign of your dedication to the gods.
  3. Worship in the manner of two bows, two claps and one last deep bow, and then one nod and retreat.


How to bow

Japanese woman wearing a kimono,worship
  • ① Repeat the bow twice. [Nirei]
  • ② Next, bring both hands together to chest height, pull the right hand a little closer, open both hands to the width of the shoulders and clap twice. [Nihakushu]
  • ③ After that, pray with all your heart while holding both hands properly.
  • ④ Lower your hands, and finally bow once more. [ichirei]


What did you think?

Get the right knowledge about shrines and definitely go visit!

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