Japanese worship places.

Shinto and Buddhism are the most important Japanese religions. Shinto is the primitive Japanese religion which worships the ancestral spirits. There are a lot of shrines belonging to the Shinto religion throughout Japan. Buddhism is the religion inherited in Japan some years ago, which has strong roots in the nation. Many great Buddhist temples of the world are located in Japan.

Even though a large percentage of the modern Japanese people are not paying enough importance to the religious matters, they do visit these worship places on special days. Moreover, the shrines and temples of Japan are visited by a large number of people including tourists every day. For foreigners arriving in Japan, these worship places are the most important tourists’ locations which offer an exposure to the Japanese culture and customs. Lots of seasonal festivals are conducted in every shrines and temple.

Even though the temples and shrines of Japan are totally different, we can see many common features in these two worship places.

  1. Purification trough: Chouzuya is Purification trough filled with water and some ladles arranged beside it. These are common at both the temples and shrines. Worshippers have to purify themselves by washing their hands and mouth before entering the worship area.
  2. Gardens: Japanese style gardens with trees and flowering plants are common in both temples and shrines. Most such gardens have a pond with Koi fishes and a bridge over it. Small and big stone lamps could be also seen around the garden. In Buddhist temples, there will be small statues of Budha situated at various parts of the garden.
  3. Incense burners(Koudou): These are structures of Buddhist temples. But we can see incense burners in some shrines also. It will e situated in front of the main temple hall of the temple, while in a shrine it will be present at some part of the shrine ground. Osenko or the incense sticks are burnt and placed inside these burners. It is believed that the fumes from it have some healing power.
  4. Ema: These cards in wood/ paper are used for writing the wishes to the Lord. These plaques will be hung on special stands near the main hall of a shrines or temple. The shape and colours of these plaques vary in every place.

To know about the differences between shrines and temples, please read this post.