How to Learn Basic Etiquette for Visiting Shinto Shrines: "Chouzu and Praying"

How to Learn Basic Etiquette for Visiting Shinto Shrines: "Chouzu and Praying"

Japan has many Shinto shrines, attracting numerous visitors. According to the 2022 Religious Yearbook, there are 84,316 registered Shinto shrines in Japan, along with countless unregistered ones. The deities enshrined in these shrines are as varied as the "Yaoyorozu no Kami" (Eight Million Gods). Shintoism widely reveres mysterious and awe-inspiring entities, reflecting a strong animistic aspect. For example, the Akagi Shrine in Kagurazaka originates from the mountain worship of Mount Akagi.

How to Learn Basic Etiquette for Visiting Shinto Shrines

Many foreign visitors also come to these shrines across Japan. It’s fascinating that people who believe in monotheistic religions often visit Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples in Japan. Today, I will explain the basic etiquette (manner) for visiting a Shinto shrine, focusing on "Chouzu" (purification with water) and praying. This information is based on the website of the Tokyo Shrine Association, and I will also include a YouTube link from the site for your reference.

How to Learn Basic Etiquette for Visiting Shinto Shrines: "Chouzu and Praying"

Basic Etiquette for Visiting Shinto Shrines


Shrine Visiting Etiquette

  1. Bow before passing through the Torii gate. The Torii gate marks the boundary between the secular world and the sacred realm of the shrine.

  2. Purify your hands and mouth at the chouzuya (water basin).

  3. Walk along the approach path (Sando) to the main shrine. Avoid walking in the center of the path as a sign of respect to the deities.

  4. Bow slightly before standing in front of the offering box. Offer coins as a token of your sincerity.

  5. Perform the "two bows, two claps, one bow" ritual, then bow again before leaving.

  6. Bow again at the Torii gate before leaving the shrine grounds, turning towards the main shrine one last time.

How to Learn Basic Etiquette for Visiting Shinto Shrines: "Chouzu and Praying"
  1. Bow lightly and begin the purification ritual.

  2. Hold the ladle in your right hand and scoop water to wash your left hand. Then, switch hands and wash your right hand.

  3. Scoop water again with your right hand, pour some into your left hand, and rinse your mouth. (If concerned about hygiene, you may skip this step.)

  4. Wash your left hand again, then hold the ladle upright to rinse the handle with the remaining water, and return the ladle to its original position.

  5. Dry your hands and mouth with a handkerchief, then bow lightly to complete the ritual.

How to Learn Basic Etiquette for Visiting Shinto Shrines: "Chouzu and Praying"
  1. Stand in front of the main shrine and straighten your posture.

  2. Perform two deep bows. [Two Bows]

  3. Clap your hands twice at chest height, with your right hand slightly in front. [Two Claps]

  4. Bring your hands together and pray sincerely.

  5. Lower your hands and perform one final deep bow. [One Bow]

How to Learn Basic Etiquette for Visiting Shinto Shrines: "Chouzu and Praying"

Clapping Ritual: Sign of Respect and Peace

The clapping ritual originated from ancient Japanese who clapped to show they were unarmed and harbored no ill intentions, demonstrating respect to others. This practice extended to the deities.

Standardized Rituals: Two Bows, Two Claps, One Bow, But...

Until the Edo period (1603-1868), shrine worship methods varied. The "two bows, two claps, one bow" ritual became standardized during the Meiji era (1868-1912) when formal ceremonial procedures were established. Japan's flexible religious policies were refined under the Meiji government's push to promote Shinto as the state religion, which included separating Shinto and Buddhism.

Most shrines follow the "two bows, two claps, one bow" ritual, but at Izumo Ōyashiro Shrine in Shimane Prefecture and Usa Shrine in Oita Prefecture, the formal praying method involves "two bows, four claps, one bow." The four claps symbolize the four seasons (spring, summer, autumn, winter) and a prayer for prosperity without natural disasters. It also represents respect for the gods guarding the four directions (east, west, south, and north).

How to Learn Basic Etiquette for Visiting Shinto Shrines: "Chouzu and Praying"

Remnants of Shinto-Buddhism Syncretism

The Shinto-Buddhism Separation Order of 1868 prohibited the widespread practice of syncretism between Shinto and Buddhism. However, remnants of this syncretism can still be found today, such as small shrines within temples or small Buddha statues within shrines.

For example, Bishamonten (Zenkokuji Temple) in Kagurazaka has a small Shusse Inari Shrine, and Akagi Shrine has a standing statue of Kannon Bodhisattva. Discovering these remnants adds to the joy of visiting historical shrines and temples, providing a sense of their historical transitions.


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How to Access Kagurazaka

The Kagurazaka area is conveniently located within 30 minutes from any major station in Tokyo. This is because Kagurazaka is situated in the heart of Tokyo, at the center of the Yamanote Line. Please come and visit this convenient and charming Kagurazaka.
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