Shrines have long been considered sacred places in Japan where Gods are worshipped. Hence, it is crucial to follow a set of rules once you are inside a shrine’s premises. One important indicator of a shrine is the Torii Gate. It is a wooden gate, without a door, often painted in red. This is not just any ordinary gate but a symbolic one which marks the transition from the profane to the sacred.
If you happen to visit a shrine, here are some tips you should follow.
There are two gates to pass through upon entering a shrine. The first gate is known as “ichi-no-torii.” They lead to the “sando,” which is a sacred space or pathway leading to the front of a worship structure. It is said that passing the pathway prepares tour mind for the sacred worship. Do not walk through the very center of the Torii, it is known as “Sei-chu” or the passage of the Gods. You should walk a little to the side instead.
Temizuya is a place at the side of a sando where people can purify themselves before entering a shrine. You have to scoop some water with the ladle with your right hand and clean your left hand with that water. Next, switch sides. Scoop some water with the ladle with your left hand and clean your right hand. Lastly, take the ladle back into your right hand to scoop some more water. Cup up your left hand while pouring water from the ladle, then place it over your mouth to cleanse it. After that, clean your left hand in the same manner and make sure to lift the ladle so that water streams down the handle before putting it back onto the temizuya.
A way of informing the Gods of your visit is by ringing the bell located right in front of the main shrine. This is also a way of greeting the Gods. However, some places have no bell. In that case, omit this step. After, you bow twice and clap your hands twice (a sign of appreciation). Then, you can start praying.
Shrine vs. Temple, telling them apart is easy!