Things to note when going to temples and shrines in Japan

Temples are sacred places, a place for us to show respect and gratitude to the gods and Buddhas, also a place for us to purify and cleanse our souls, wish and pray for the best. . When visiting any sacred place, we all have to follow our own rules and regulations.

Mar 6, 2023 - 12:24
May 20, 2024 - 11:35
Things to note when going to temples and shrines in Japan
Photo by Federico De Iorio on Unsplash

So what are these things to keep in mind when visiting Japan and are they any different from other countries?

1. Dress politely
The first rule is also an extremely important factor, indispensable when going to any temple is to wear appropriate clothing. Dressing politely and properly is a way to show respect and seriousness of each person when going to sacred places. Clothing must meet all criteria such as cleanliness, neatness, absolutely not wearing revealing clothes such as tank tops, short skirts above the knee or shorts, the color of clothes must also be elegant, not too much. flashy and colorful.

It is best if you intend to visit temples, visitors should wear long pants, a collared shirt (if in summer) and avoid wearing unnecessary jewelry. In case visitors "miss" to wear short skirts, please borrow the long coats provided at the temple before entering the ceremony!

2. When entering the Torii gate
The Torii Gate is the gate that divides the boundary between the mundane and the spiritual. Stepping through this gate means you've entered the god's domain, so bow once before the torii gate as a way to pay respects to the god.

3. Wash your hands and mouth
This is followed by a ritual to cleanse the body before entering the main hall to avoid any disrespect to the gods. Visitors will see a large stone water basin, like the ones located on the side of the santo road, called a chozuya. This is also a place for people to clean their hands and mouth, as a way to wash away all dirt before setting foot in the sacred place.

First, each person takes a prepared ladle and places it on the wall of the chozuya - called hishaku. Note, we have to do it in order from right to left, that is, hold the ladle with the right hand to get water and wash the left hand, then do the opposite with the left hand.

So how to clean the mouth? Visitors absolutely must not bring their lips to directly touch the hishaku because this is considered disrespectful behavior. Please scoop water with your right hand, then pour some into the palm of your left hand, then slowly bring it up to clean your mouth, wash your left hand again and put the hishaku back in place.

What if there is still excess water in the hishaku, should it be poured back into the chozuya? The answer is no. Visitors should look for a drain or area to dump excess water instead of refilling the tank.

4. Praying
You probably don't know, praying in Japan has to follow a separate process.
First, donate money before praying
Once deep inside the main hall, there is a private area called Haiden - the place to pray. Gently place the money in the prepared boxes - called saisenbako. So how much support is enough, is it that the more money you have, the more sincere you can show? Absolutely not, although it is not specified how much support and merit should be given before praying, it is certainly up to each person's discretion. Amounts can range from 1 ~ 10,000 yen, especially, most will be 5 yen because it symbolizes cohesion and connection with people - is part of Japanese culture and is also considered a blessing lucky.

Next, ring the bell before praying
If there are bronze bells in Haiden, please ring those bells as a signal to the gods to announce your presence here, so that the gods can listen to prayers. sincerity and wishes of each person.

How to pray properly?
After ringing the bell, put your hands together to pray. The general rule would be to bow twice first, clap your hands twice and end with one last bow. When clapping, make sure the back of the right hand is slightly lower than the left, extend the arm to the shoulder and clap twice. Then retract your hands and lower them to pray. When you have finished praying, bow low again.

There are temples or pagodas that don't have bells, in that case just follow the same prayer rules as above: bow twice - clap hands twice - bow one last time. One more small note is that after clapping your hands twice, you should relax your body and hands, close your eyes for about 2 ~ 3 seconds to show your respect to the gods.

5. Ask for fortune telling, write prayer cards and buy souvenirs
After completing your prayers in Haiden, why not visit and discover a little about the beauty and unique culture of the temples here?

Omamori Lucky Charms
Omamori is a talisman that symbolizes good luck and is considered the embodiment of Japan's Shinto deities. Therefore, visitors can easily see these lucky charms sold in temples and pagodas around the "land of the rising sun". One thing in common is that these talismans are very compact, fit in the palm of our hand. Outside are brocade or brocade bags with colorful patterns and colors, including wooden or paper charms that are said to have been enchanted with the spirits of the gods.

It is said that if the charms inside the bag are peeked or dropped out of the bag, it will bring bad luck to its owner. Usually, at the point of sale, they will explain and clearly note each type of Omamori with its own meanings to help visitors make choices easier.

Omikuji - Lucky Tattoo
The Japanese have a custom quite similar to many Asian countries, including Vietnam, which is to draw a fortune tattoo to predict future things - called Omikuji. Of course, the content of each Omikuji will be different because it symbolizes the destiny of many people, but each of these "lucky pieces of paper" will solve fortunes in many areas such as health, money, luck, fortune. Or even love.
Since it is a prediction of the future, there will be two directions, one is a good Omikuji (symbolizing your lucky and smooth predictions in the future), the other is a bad Omikuji (prophecies about bad things). misfortunes or difficulties and obstacles that you encounter). The degree of tattooing is determined from daikichi (大吉), kichi (吉), chukichi (中吉), shokichi (小吉), kyo (凶), in order from best to worst.

If it is a good card, you should keep it to bring luck and peace to you, and if it is a bad card, we should fold it into small strips of paper and tie it to strings at the place where the hexagram is drawn. , with the meaning of leaving bad luck behind.

Ema wooden card
Ema wooden card, also means letter to the gods. The Japanese believe that when you write your wishes and dreams on Ema cards, the Shinto gods will read them and make those wishes come true. Therefore, we can see that the Ema card will have two sides, one side is a pre-printed image on many different themes, the other side is a smooth wooden surface so people can send and write their wishes. yourself in the future.

Traditional Ema cards are often printed with a mighty white horse. Legend has it that the Ema wooden card appeared from the Nara period to commemorate the great warriors who passed away, and the image of a white horse is considered a symbol of courage and is also a very rare animal for those who have died. meritorious in battle. Therefore, Ema also means "white horse painting". Then, under the development of society, not only the image of a white horse, but the artists also depicted the image of 12 zodiac animals representing each person's age on the Ema card. And today, we can come across hundreds of different images and designs from traditional and modern to lovely designs of wooden cards for around 500 yen.

6. Some other notes
In addition to the notes and rules when going to spiritual places as above, we have quite a few other notes:
- The most suitable time to go to temples and pagodas is during the day, especially from early morning to midday, as late as 14:00.
- Do not walk in the middle of Sando Street: The road behind the Torii gate is Sando Street. When entering this road, remember to go to both sides of the road, but absolutely do not go in the middle, that place the Japanese often call "seichuu" - the road for the gods.
- Do not take sensitive photos: You should not take pictures of the graves because it is disrespectful to the deceased. Also, you should not take selfies with statues of gods and Buddhas.
- No smoking
- Always queue in order and wait for your turn
- Leave shoes neatly, in the right place when entering the electricity
- Do not speak loudly, shout loudly

Injavi 編集部 "InJavi" is a website that provides information for foreigners to enjoy life and visit in Japan more smoothly. This website is easy to use even for first-timers to Japan and those who are not very good at Japanese, and supports multiple languages. 「InJavi」は、外国人が日本の生活や観光をよりスムーズに楽しむための情報を提供するウェブサイトです。 初めて日本を訪れる方や日本語が苦手な方でも使いやすい、多言語対応サイトです。