We got to teach the boys about visiting a Japanese shrine today.
Shrines and temples are everywhere in Japan. Many are world famous heritage sites while others can be found tucked in between tall skyscrapers in downtown areas. The religions of Shinto and Buddhism coincide in Japan and, from the traditional tori gates to the ringing of bells and the burning of incense, shrines and temples have many similarities. I tell you this because even though I have had many years of experience visiting both, in my ignorance, I can’t always tell whether a place is a Buddhist temple or a Shinto Shrine. I used to think that Buddhist temples were more drab in color while Shinto shrine are often orange and brighter in color, but I know as I say this that there are many exceptions.
That said, the following customs I do know.
Whenever you enter the ground of a shrine, there is always a chozuya, a hand washing station. All guests are expected to purify themselves by washing their hands (and often their mouths) before entering the temple grounds. With your right hand on the handle, scoop the water and pour over your left. Then, do the opposite.
Once you are purified, it is now it is time for prayer at the temple. First, throw your coins in to the offering box and bow deeply twice. The Gods do their fair share of sleeping so you must first wake up the Gods to hear your prayer. You can do this by ringing the suzu, the temple bell, with a quick ring or by clapping loudly twice. Then, pray. Follow your prayer with one more clap and a deep bow.
Many people buy omikuji, fortunes written on a piece of paper. They read like complicated fortune cookie fortunes. After reading them, the omikiji fortunes are then tied to a branch of a tree. Many people also make their own wish on ema. Ema are wooden tablets upon which you can write your own wish. This too is left hung at the temple. We didn’t buy a omikuji today because I was concerned that I wouldn’t understand enough of it, but we did buy a ema and wrote a wish for safe travels.Here are a couple shots of the boys putting it up.
So, today, we taught the boys what we knew. We have plans tomorrow to go to Meiji Jingu Shrine in Tokyo and of course, there will be many more to visit as we travel to Nikko, Kyoto and Nara.
At least now, we won’t totally look like foreigners.