Shrine in Japan

Cultual Experience in Japan

What to do when you visiting Shrine or Temple in Japan

If you are interested in visiting shrine or temple, you may be want to know how to worship respectfully.

I will explain and show you the most important steps and manners to visiting Japanese Shrine and Temples in Japan.

First of all, whats the difference between Shrine and Temple?

There are two easy ways to tell them apart. Firstly, shrines have a simple gate, called Torii, that separates the human world and sacred ground, while the gates of a temple, called Sanmon, look more like a large house rather than a gate. Secondly, temples almost always have Buddhist images and statues, while shrines do not.

Thus, to sum up, the differences in a single sentence, gods reside in shrines, while Buddhas reside in temples.

Visiting Shrine


Kumano Shrine


When you visiting shrine

1.  Bow once at the entrance gate called Torii in Japanese.

Shrine Gateway

Entrance to a Shinto shrine


2.  purify yourself before worshipping at the large water basin.
The purifying water basin is placed by the entrance of the Shrine or Temple.

Purity Water Basin at Shrine

Shrine in Japan

The Shrine in Nara Japan


How to purify yourself with the water.
Cleanse both of your hands by the dipper filled with water, pouring it over one hand at a time.

Next, fill the palm of your hand with water and rinse your mouth.
●Do not wash your mouth directly from the dipper.

Replace the dipper face down after rinsing the handle.

3. walk towards the shrine on the edge of the pavement leaving the center of the pah for the god,

4.Drop a few coins into the offering box.

5.Ring the bell by swinging the attached hanging rope, to get God’s attention to you.

6.Make two deep bows and clap your hands twice say a prayer in your mind.

You should start with your name, address, and mainly show your gratitude.

7.Bow once again before leaving.

How to worship at a Shrine a great short movie on Youtube(1:09)

 By Tsumaya Komachi

Visiting a temple


Todaiji Temple in Nara


The same rules apply as those of visiting a shrine – bow slightly before entering, walk to the sides and purify yourself at the water basin.

    1. Burn incense (usually provided at the temple)At some temples, visitors burn incense (Senko) in large incense burners(Koro). Purchase a bundle, light them, let them burn for a few seconds and then extinguish the flame by waving your hand rather than by blowing it out. Finally, place the incense on the incense burner and fan some smoke towards yourself as the smoke is believed to have healing power. For example, fan some smoke towards your shoulder if you have an injured shoulder.

Koro at a Temple to burn insence

2.Bow slightly.

3.Drop a few coins into the offering box.

4.Ring the bell 2 or 3 times.

5.Bow slightly and pay your respects, putting your hands together but DO NOT CLAP.

6.Bow slightly.

How to worship at a Temple a great short movie on Youtube(0:42)

 By Ruton Odekake Magazine

Additional Notes:

  • You need to take off your hat or cap when you pray.
  • At most shrines, it’s usually alright to take pictures outside but many restrictions inside the shrine itself. Be aware of the “No photography” signs.
  • You may need to take off your shoes inside of The Temple or Shrine.
  • Some Shrines and Temples may have a slightly different way of worshiping but good to know the basic way and manner. 


If you have any questions, please leave a comment below or send me a message.

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If you are interested to read about a temple in Nara, please read:
The perfect day trip to Nara with kids. World Heritage Todaiji Temple to Nara Old Town

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