Manners at Shrine

I am going to take my guests to Gokono-miya shrine, located in Fushimi, the south of Kyoto city, so I would like to review the manners at a shrine.

What is Shrine?

A shrine is related to Shinto, Japan’s indigenous religion. They house a number of gods, known as kami, god, which can range from spirits of nature (wind, trees, mountains, etc.) to deceased people who may have been influential during their lives. As you travel throughout Japan, you'll see many shrines dedicated to emperors and shogun (military leaders).

Torii Gate

The main role of Torii is that it distinguishes sacred shrine area from the human word. It woks as a boundary that keeps off the uncleanness. Once you go inside from the gate, it means you are in the special place.

Before going through a torii gate, you bow once. Imagine you are greeting to the shrine and its god. Take off a hat if you wear one. Also be careful not to walk down the center path under the torii or Shinto gate, it is said god of the shrine walk in the center, so keep the way for them.

Chozu water

Chozu water is used to clean yourself before making any prayers at shrines or temples in Japan. You will find Chozu-sha, a Chozu hut, which has the large basin with special wooden dippers.

There are three steps: hands, mouth, the handle of dipper.

Hand: Hold the dipper with your right hand and take one scoop of water. Pour the water over your left hand. You will do the same to your right hand with your left hand holding the dipper.

Mouth: After washing your right hand, then pour the water into your right hand. Rinse your mouth from the hand. Note that your mouth shall not touch the dipper cup.

Dipper itself: Lastly, take another water if necessary, and rinse the hand of a dipper. Put it back to the basin.

Why is there a dragon in Chozu hut? The dragon is a god of water who controls the rain and cloud, so the water coming out from the dragon’s mouth is believed to be sacred and ward off the evil spirits.

How to pay homage

Toss a coin into a Saisen box. Poeple like to put five yen coin as five is Go in Japanese and the sound of Go-yen is associated with Goen, Luckiness.

Shake a rope and ring a bell. Bow deeply twice and then clap your hands twice.

Put your hands together in front of your face, and make a wish. When you finish, bow one more time.

When you leave

You were in the sacred grounds entering from the torii gate, it is good to leave from the same gate. After getting out of the gate, bow once again facing to the gate.

Thank you for reading!