Kyoto is known as the the city of a thousand temples, and with its over 2000 religious places, this label suits perfectly.

In Japan the two main worships are Shinto and Buddhism. Shinto developed together with Japanese culture, while Buddhism was imported during VI century. The two religion have always co-existed in harmony and also affected one another, for example it’s not uncommon to see some architectural elements of shinto shrines when visiting a Buddhist temple. Also, religion in Japan is not as strict as it is in other countries, and even if most of the festivities are religious, most of the Japanese people follow the rituals because its something related to tradition.

This time we’ll focus on what you can do when visiting a shrine. In Kyoto the most famous one is Fushimi Inari for sure. Here’s a photo I took during my first trip in Kyoto. Even if the day I visited the Fushimi it was crowded as usual, luckily I could capture the exact time when no one was passing by.

Besides praying, when visiting a shrine there are quite a lot of things you can do. First of all we’ll focus on the two rituals that deal with the moment of prayer, that’s to say the omairi and the purification of hands at the fountain.

PURIFICATION

Before going to pray at the altar, Japanese wash their hands at the temizuya. There are steps to follow to do it in the right way.

First of all take the wooden ladle in your right hand, fill it with water, then pour the water over your left hand. This ladle is called hishaku. You can take the ladle with your left hand just after you’ve poured water on it, then you’ll repeat the same operation for the other hand. Once again take the ladle with your right hand, pour the water on your left and and use the water to rinse your mouth. After rinsing your mouth, pour the water on the left hand again. As you’ve finished with the purification of your hands and mouth, don’t forget to also wash the ladle. To do this, til the ladle up vertically so that the water spills on the ladle too. Finally the last thing to do is placing the ladle upside down on the place where you found it.

In the video below you’ll find the complete tutorial

How to do the purification

New Year (shougatsu) is coming soon. If you're planning to visit a shrine during the first day of the year, be sure you're respecting the rituals. Before you go to the altar to pray you have to wash your hands at the temizuya, the fountain used for the purification. In this short video we're gonna explain you how to do it properly

Posted by Japan Apartment on Tuesday, December 18, 2018

OMAIRI

The actual moment of worshipping is called omairi and there are rituals to follow before actually starting praying.

First you have to bow to the altar and then bow in front of the offer box (saisenbako). Secondly, after you’ve made your offer, you can pull the rope and ring the bell.
Once you’ve done this, bow twice, deeply and with your arms along your body. Clap your hands twice and pray in silence. Finally you’ll bow one last time. Bowing twice, clapping your hands twice and bowing for the last time is called nirei-nihakushu-ichirei.

In this video we’re gonna show you how to do the omairi in the proper way.

Praying at a shrine

New year is coming soon and one of the most important rituals for the Japanese people is the Hatsumōde, that’s to say the first visit of the new year to buddhist and shinto shrines. If you’ve decided to spend the New year in Kyoto, it will surely be interesting to see how the Japanese celebrate it. Maybe visiting a shrine the first day of the year can be a bit stressful cause the most famous shrines, for example Yasaka shrine, will surely be crowded. But even so it can be the perfect occasion to express your wishes and expectations for the new year. In this video we’ll explain you how to do the omairi, that’s to say praying at the altar, in the right way. Make sure to make an offer first.

Posted by Japan Apartment on Thursday, December 27, 2018

OMIKUJI

Omikuji (in Japanese 御神籤) are divinations written on papers that can be done either in Shinto shrines and in Buddhist temples.
After making an offer you just have to randomly pick a small stick from a box. On the stick there’s a number that corresponds to the drawer you have to open to get your prediction.

There can be different kinds of blessings, from great blessing (大吉) to great curse (大凶). On the paper there are predictions about one’s future dealing with love, work, travel and so on.
It the predictions is bad it’s better to fold the strip of paper and attach it to a line tree or on a iron wire.

The habit is to do the omikuji during the Hatsumode, that’s to say the first visit of the shrine at the beginning of the year. However, I did it just before of the end of the year. It may sound silly, but there’s a reason for it. The first time I did the omikuji was during my travel to Japan almost three years ago. At the time I was in Tokyo and almost as we landed we visited the famous Sensoji. My prediction was not actually that good, it said “Good fortune in the future” and basically there was written that I had to be patient. I kinda liked the meaning of the message, so I decided to keep it and bring it back to Italy, hoping that one day I could go back to Japan. That’s why I decided to do the omikuji once again at the same shrine I did it for the first time. Surprisingly this time it said “Good fortune”, as if it means that that future has come.

WRITING EMAS

Emas are small wooden plaques used by Shinto worshippers to write prayers or wishes.
The name comes from the horse that is often painted, as a matter of facts ema is written with the kanjis of 絵 (え, “e”, painting) and 馬 (うま, “uma”, horse ). This is probably cause once horses were offered to gods in exchange of wealth and happiness.

Emas are hanged outside shrines so that the kami (gods) can read them. The requests may vary from wishing a world with no wars to succeed in an exam. The most famous shrines have emas written in many languages, this is a photo I took at the famous Meiji Jingu Shrine in Tokyo. However I’ve never written one of it.

These are some of the things you can do when visiting a shrine. Have you ever tried one of these?