Japan Shikoku 88 Introduction Temples and Shrines

Shrine etiquette

Just as at Temples, there are a number of steps to follow when visiting a Shrine.

The first thing one meets when visiting a Shrine is the Torri gate – the boundary of the shine’s consecrated grounds. The proper procedure is to bow slightly just before passing under the torii gate, and enter through either the right or left side of the pathway. The center pathway is reserved for the enshrined deities. Be careful not to pass on the oustside of the gate, the intention of the gate is to welcome you.

As at the Temples, the next step is to purify oneself at the water basin. The procedure is the same at a Temple and a Shrine. Start by getting hold of the laddle with your right hand. Fill it with some water and use the water to cleanse your left hand. Once done, pass the laddle to the left hand and repeat the process to cleanse your right hand. Now both hands are clean, pass the ladle back to your right hand and pour some liquid into your left hand and clease your mouth with the water in the left hand – don’t drink from the ladle. You are not supposed to drink the water, it is supposed to be OK to spit it out, but I don’t recall seeing anybody do this. Finally, while still in your right hand, hold the ladle vertically, allowing for the remaining water to trickle down and cleanse the handle. It’s important that you do not allow any of the water to splash back into the water basin.

Once you are cleansed, walk towards the Shrine, and throw a coin into the offer box – the amount doesn’t matter. Once you have paid your respects to the enshrined gods via your offering, ring the bell two or three times to alert the spirits of your presence. Next step is to bow twice, at a 90 degree angle and then clap twice, making sure to keep your left hand slightly more forward than your right.

After the second clap, keep your hands together and pay your respects. Be sure to remember to thank the deity for their time too. After you have finished your prayer, bow one final time and then walk away. Now you are ready to leave or perhaps purchase a Ema board or omikuji – fortune telling.


When leaving the grounds, face the inner sanctuary at the torii and bow once – again do not leave through the centre of the torii.

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