Shrines in Japan deify various Shinto gods. Because Shinto have Yaoyorozu-no Kami(八百万の神, eight million gods) which means myriad gods. In other words, it is polytheism. Not only the gods from the myth, such as Kojiki(古事記), but also the nature and personal belongings.
Originally, the religion started from the nature worship in ancient time. People had the feeling of fear and respect for the power of the nature in Jomon Period. And hoping to help their prosperity, they also gradually regarded their ancestors, grounds, and country as a part of the gods.
In addition influenced by Confucianism in Edo Period, and Shinto became to have more ideological feature. And it came to be treated as the national religion of the country and people worshiped the Emperor from the 19th century.
After the World War Ⅱ the government haven’t directly engaged with the management of Shinto and the shrines. Ise Shrine occupies a central place around the country.
Prencint of a shrine
Torii takes on a role of a gate and show the border of the world between gods and human. Most of the shrines only have single torii, but a large one has two or three.
Generally the strucure is formed from two vertical(a little leaning inside) pole, and two horizontal, Kasagi(upper) and Nuki(lower).
A pair of Komainu mostly sit on the both side of an aproach of a shrine, nearby Torii. The name and the appearance seems to dog. But actually, komainu belongs to the divine beasts and keep evil from invading into the sacred area.
When you look at them carefully and notice the difference of the mouths. One of komainu open the mouth widely and another close tightly. In Japanese proverb, the breath of “A-Un” which means that the harmonizing、mentally and physically、of two parties engaged in an activity. They guard the prencint with the breath of A-Un and also sit in a Buddhism temple.
You can see shimenawa here and there. Torii shows the borders of the sacred area but Shimenawa lots especially holy space including a worship hall or a main hall.
At an event of Shinto and a household Shinto altar, people use it with the simplified style.
Chozuya(手水舎, purification trough)
The visitors should purify the mouth and hands at the chozuya before praying in front of a warship hall. You can see it also in the temples. In Shinto and Japanese Buddhism, the water have the power of making sin or impurity into purity.
An ascetic practice of Takigyo(滝行), standing or sitting under a waterfall, and Mizugori(水垢離), performing cold-water ablutions, aim at the same purpose of chozuya.
Of course the light of the tourou would shine the visitors foot, but the foremost to offer it for the gods.
The visitors can’t find the bell at the hall of the temple because the instrument in the shrine has the unique purpose. When they ring the bell, the sound sooth the gods and themselves, addition to that tell the hosts their visiting.
The formal way to pray at a shrine
Purifying at a Chozuya
Ladling up water with the right-hand
Purifying the left-hand
Passing the ladle to the left-hand
Purifying the right-hand
Passing the ladle to the right-hand
Pouring water in the left-hand and
Rinsing the mouth lightly
Making the lade vertical to wash its
Praying at a warship hall
Bowing once lightly
Throwing a coin into the offertory-box and ringing a bell