How to visit a shrine(Rules at Shinto shrine)【4min Read】

When visiting Shrines in Japan, you may be wondering about the rules you need to follow. Here is some information that would help you when visiting a shrine!

For anyone who’s visited Japan before, you’ll know there are Shinto shrines all over the country, from very popular locations such as Meiji Jingu, to small hidden ones down alleys that don’t get many visitors. The process of visiting these shrines is known as ‘sanpai’ in Japanese, where people of all religious beliefs are free to go and pay their respects. Sanpai entails following a set of certain rules that ensure you remain respectful to the guardian deities or ‘kamisama’ of the shrine.
This article will take you through these basic rules, so you can enjoy visiting Shinto shrines and pay your respects like a native Japanese.


First off, before entering the shrine grounds, you will probably see a large gate known as a ‘torii’ gate. When you enter and leave, it is important to bow at this torii gate, as a way of greeting the deities and asking permission to enter. Once you have entered, make sure you do not walk along the middle of the path leading up to the shrine, as this is reserved for the deities to walk along. 


Towards the end of this path, you will likely see a roof covered trough filled with water, known in Japanese as a ‘chouzuya’, accompanied by some large wooden ladles known as ‘hishaku’. These are used for a purification ritual to clean your mouth and hands. To do so, pour a little water onto each of your hands using the ladle, then pour some water into your left hand and bring it to your mouth. Wash your left hand to rinse it, again by pouring water into it using the ladle, then return it, leaving it facing downwards. This so the water runs down the handle, making it ready for the next person to use. 


When you reach the shrine, you can offer money to the Gods, known as ‘saisen’, by placing money into a large box in front of the main shrine hall. You can offer any amount of money, but often people offer five yen coins, as the pronunciation of ‘go en’ (5 yen) has a double meaning in that it can also mean good fate. Alongside this wordplay, the circle shape with the hole in the center of the five yen coin also symbolises connection, and is believed to bring good luck.   


When paying your respects at the main shrine hall, you should first bow twice, followed by two claps, and then one final bow. This process is known as ‘nirei, nihakushu, ichirei’, translating to two bows, two claps, one bow. After clapping, you should also take the time to pray, by joining your hands in a prayer position (palms flat together), known as ‘gasho’ in Japanese. There is also sometimes a bell in front of the main shrine hall, with cords suspended from it, which you can ring when you first arrive at the shrine hall. 
Remember to bow at the torii gate when you leave again, and that’s it! We hope you can enjoy visiting the many shrines Japan has to offer all over the country.

As always, happy travelling!

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