Welcome to our first of many blogs relating to the expected behaviors and manners for those of us visiting Japan. As with any country that you visit--there are different customs that we must learn and portray while we are in Japan. We are all super excited to be going, so it is easy to overlook things such as this--and doing so can sometimes offend those we do not wish to. So, between now and June--expect a lot of information!!
First up...Shrines and Temples:
To start...what is the difference between a shrine and a temple you may ask? They are 2 different religious factions for one.
Shinto or kami-no-michi (the original traditional term) is the natural spiritual cult of Japan extensively followed by the Japanese people. Shinto exemplifies the worship of the abstract forces of nature, the ancestors, nature, polytheism, and animism. The central focus remains on ritual purity which revolves around the honoring and celebration of the existence of Kami which is the ultimate spirit of essence.
Buddism is a tradition envisaged as the ultimate path of salvation which is to be achieved through an imminent approach into the absolute nature of reality and existence. The foundation of Buddhism lies on the performing of altruism and following the paths of ethical conduct. Some of the common practices of Buddhism are cultivation of wisdom through meditation and renunciation, invocating the bodhisattvas and studying the scriptures.
For either, you should behave calmly and peacefully in the shrines and temples. Remember, these are places of prayer and worship--much like your church at home.
Usually in both shrines and temples, you are welcome to take pictures of the grounds, but not of the inside of the buildings. Be sure to keep an eye out for clearly posted signs as to what you can and cannot photograph.
When visiting a Buddhist Temple, it is customary to show respect by making a short prayer at the sacred object. You do so by throwing a coin in the box in front of the object and standing and saying a short prayer.
When entering a temple, you may be asked to take off your shoes. Be sure to place them neatly in the shoe bin that is usually located right in front of the temple entrance. DO NOT step on the tatami with your shoes on!! Since you will be taking your shoes on and off frequently in Japan--plan on bringing plenty of socks so that they are always relatively neat and clean looking :)
When visiting a Shinto Shrine you will see a purification fountain at the entrance. Take the ladle provided and fill it with fresh water. Use this water to rinse your hands, then take another ladle of fresh water, transfer it into your hands and rinse your mouth--spitting the water beside the fountain. DO NOT drink directly from the ladle or swallow the water. Many people skip the mouth rinsing, but you do need to rinse your hands.
It is also customary to offer a prayer at the Shinto Shrine. You do this by throwing a coin into the offering box, bow deeply twice, clap your hands twice, bow deeply once again and offer a short prayer. If there is a gong or bell, ring it before praying. This is to get Kami's attention.
Well that's it for Part 1 of Manners in Japan. I hope you enjoyed it!
Dublin Taiko Secretary
References: www.thedifferencebetween.net & www.japan-guide.com