Introduction of Shinto shrine (jinja) in Japan

Japanese shrine(神社) and Shinto(神道)




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 Asuka Period, Buddhism introduced via the Korean Peninsula. Even though Buddhism have the founder of a religion and Shinto don’t, they have existed together. For example, Nikko Mountain and Kii Mountain Range hold the temples and the shrines.


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.


Ise shrine
The torii of Ise shrine



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).

But it has the several types including Shinmei, Kashima, Hachiman, Kasuga, Myojin, and Inari. Especially the Torii of Fushimi Inari Shrine(伏見稲荷) in Kyoto and Itsukushima Shrine (厳島神社) at Miyajima Island, Hiroshima deeply impress the visitors.

Komainu(狛犬, Guardian Dogs)

Guardian Dog
Komainu of “A”



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.


Shimenawa(注連縄, straw festoon)

Shimenawa, straw festoon

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.

Tourou(燈籠, lantern)

Tourou, at Toshogu, Nikko

Of course the light of the tourou would shine the visitors foot, but the foremost to offer it for the gods.

Suzu(鈴, bell)


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

  1.  Ladling up water with the right-hand
  2. Purifying the left-hand
  3. Passing the ladle to the left-hand
  4. Purifying the right-hand
  5. Passing the ladle to the right-hand
  6. Pouring water in the left-hand and
  7. Rinsing the mouth lightly
  8. Making the lade vertical to wash its


Praying at a warship hall

  1. Bowing once lightly
  2. Throwing a coin into the offertory-box and ringing a bell
  3. Bowing two times deeply
  4. Claping the hands two times
  5. Bowing once deeply


Click! The formal way to pray at a temple