Tips for Visiting a Shrine in Japan

Today we are answering the question, “What are tips for visiting a shrine in Japan?”


Shrines are historical and cultural places of worship. They have beautiful architecture and vast gardens. Many are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and they’re visited by tourists year round.

In today’s video, we’re going to talk about Shinto, entering a shrine, how to use the water pavilion, how to pray, and good luck charms.

About Shinto

Shinto is the indigenous religion of Japan. It’s about as old as the culture itself. There are many rituals that are deeply ingrained in Japanese society.

The religion stresses respect for nature, and there’s no separation of the spiritual from the everyday. Spirits can live in trees, rocks, and other objects. There are gods floating around, and they’re together with the people.

A Shinto shrine houses the gods of the Shinto religion.

How to Enter a Shrine in Japan

Shinto shrines always have a torii gate at the entrance. The torii gate signifies the boundary between holy ground and non-holy ground. When you enter the holy ground through the torii gate, it shows respect to bow at the gate. However, this is not always practiced, and it’s not necessary as a foreign tourist.

After passing through the torii gate, walk to the side of the entrance. The center is reserved for the gods to enter and exit the shrine. So, it’s best to avoid walking down the middle.

How to Use the Water Pavilion

When you’re visiting a shrine in Japan, you’ll see a water pavilion. This is to purify your body before you pray to the gods.

To use the water pavilion, take the ladle with your right hand and scoop some water. Use the water to rinse your left hand. Then, change hands and rinse your right hand.

Change hands again. Pour some water into your left hand and rinse your mouth. Be careful not to touch the ladle to your mouth. Then, spit out the water next to the fountain, usually where there is a drain.

All of this can be done with just one scoop of water.

How to Pray

There are various ways to pray at a Shinto shrine, but they all basically include bowing two times and clapping two times.

To start, toss a five yen or ten yen coin into the donation box, which is between you and the altar. Be sure here to use your own coins. Don’t borrow a coin from someone, or your pray won’t come true!

Next, shake the rope to ring the bell. This summons the god of the shrine to listen to your prayer. Then, bow two times and clap your hands two times. Keep your hands together after the final clap and say your prayer.

When you’re finished, bow one more time and back away.

Good Luck Charms

After you pray, you can buy a good luck charm. There are good luck charms for just about everything. You can buy good luck charms for traffic safety, for good health, success in business, safe childbirth, or even to do well on an exam.

Responsible Travel

Remember to travel responsibly and act respectfully. Shinto shrines are religious grounds. You should act the same as you would if you were visiting a church in Europe.

It’s not a big deal if you make a mistake rinsing your hands or praying, as long as you’re acting respectfully. The local people are happy that you’re taking part and interested in their culture.

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