How to behave when you visit a shrine | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan

How to behave when you visit a shrine

By Guidable Writers Oct 21, 2016

This post is also available in: Chinese (Simplified) Japanese Korean Spanish Vietnamese Chinese (Traditional)

Shrine is a holy place for Japanese people and an integral part of their culture. Many foreigners might consider visiting one while in Japan. However, if you are new to Japan and it’s culture it could be tricky to know how to behave in a shrine. Mentioned below are a few guidelines for people who want to visit a shrine. Although, the instructions are not a must, Japanese people will be impressed if you follow them.


1. Take a bow before you get through the gate

Passing through the gate means you are getting into a holy place. So, to show your respect to God who belongs to this place, take a bow before you enter and when you leave the place.


2. Walk on the side

The center of the roads in the area are called Seichu(正中), where only God is supposed to walk. So it is better not to walk there, further more, it’s said that it is good to walk on left side.


3. Freshen up your hands and mouth

You will see a water place which looks classic and well decorated. The place is not for just washing your hands. It is to purify your whole body. There is the way this can be done.


(1) Take a dipper filled up with water by your right hand and purify your left hand first.

(2)Change your hand and cleanse your right hand.


(3)Again hold it with your right hand and pour some water on your left hand. And rinse your mouth. Do not touch the dipper with your lips.

(4)Then, wash your left hand by the water left in the dipper, and make it straight to let the water clean up the glip.

(5)Place the dipper back.


4. Toss some change (5 yen coin is good if you have. A currency note is also fine if you have a BIG wish) into a coin box, then ring the bell softly.

The money you give away is considered to be dedicated to God. So, please don’t throw it away and make a big sound. It is ok whether either coin toss or bell comes first.


5. Make a deep bow twice, clap your hands twice, pray and take a deep bow again.

I suggest you to slide your hands a bit when you do a handclap. So, you can make a good and loud sound that reaches God.


Enjoy roaming around in the beautiful shrine!