Visiting Temples and Shrines, Kyoto
Kiyomize Temple (UNESCO's Cultural Heritage site) is one of the most frequently visited temples in Kyoto. The locals come here to enjoy the beauty the nature brings to the surroundings of the Temple. It was built in 793 and renovated in 1633, 30 years after the Tokugawa Shougun had started. Its a "must" place when you are in Kyoto.
How to get there: Take subway to Shijou and change to City Bus (207) and get off at Kiyomizemichi and you walk 10 minutes.
It's tradition but a lot of visitors of the temple miss this local custom!
There is a covered fountain fronting the gate of the Ginkakuji Temple. The water fountain has a bamboo scooper where you can scoop the water to drink or to wash hands. Before entering the temple, a visitor should scoop the water and splash it on the ground close to the fountain or wash their hands or drink the water for cleansing.
I can understand why people don't drink the water. They are probably unsure whether the water is safe or clean to drink!
Purification its a way to wash your with natural water before present yourself to God; Shinto way.
To purify yourself, well is available courtyard or normally located left hand side before the temple or the shrine entrance.
Key to remember during purification:
1. Never put your flesh even your hair into the well. (considered rude and disrespectful)
2. Always use the tip of the handle to take water.
3. Never allow scoop of the handle in contact with human body.
REMEMBER: Natural Water is Drinkable. Dont forget to feel up your bottle and no need to buy
Shinto is the way of Japanese religion. It said to be the way of god and it is an invidual matter.
Shinto not necessarily to be practice only by the Japanese but whoever believe in it; spirituality.
Right on Heian Shrine main building there is a tree for omikuji means sacred lottery. Normally shinto practice on this is you shake a box (contained pieces of paper of %omikuji%; until the omikoji come out in a shape of roll paper. Unrolled it to reveal the written sacred lottery. Once revealed you will tie it up on the omikoji tree hoping that the fortune will come true.
Generally its all about wishing good in health, studies or even relationship.
Most Temples have cute water soutces around them some are streams or wells this Dragon was one of my favorite. I don't know what temple it was but it is a huge one near the train station hard to miss.
At Shinto shrines you can place a small donation in a box that sits below a long rope which leads to a bell. You should pul on the rope to ring the bell which is supposed to wake the gods. Bow twice, clap loudly twice, bow again twice, then step back.....and ther eyou have it. As you can see below my little son got it all wrong. He didn't quite like the tolling of the bell and instead of waking the gods it got McKinley all worked up.
Behave calmly and respectfully. You are not supposed to visit a shrine if you are sick, have an open wound or are mourning because these are considered causes of impurity.
At the purification fountain near the shrine's entrance, take a provided ladle, fill it with fresh water and rinse both hands. Then transfer some water into your cupped hand, rinse your mouth and spit the water beside the fountain. You are not supposed to transfer the water directly from the ladle into your mouth nor to swallow the water. You will notice that quite a few visitors skip the mouth rinsing part or the purification ritual altogether.
At the offering hall, throw a coin into the offering box, bow deeply twice, clap your hands twice, bow deeply once more and pray for a few seconds. If there is some type of gong, use it before praying in order to get the kami's attention.
Photography is usually permitted at shrines. Watch for signs.
Behave calmly and respectfully. Show your respect by making a short prayer in front of the sacred object. Do so by throwing a coin into the offering box, followed by a short prayer.
At some temples, visitors burn incense (osenko) in large incense burners. Purchase a bundle, light them, let them burn for a few seconds and then extinguish the flame by waving your hand rather than by blowing it out. Finally, put the incense into the incense burner and fan some smoke towards yourself as the smoke is believed to have healing power. For example, fan some smoke towards your shoulder if you have an injured shoulder.
When entering temple buildings, you may be required to take off your shoes. Leave your shoes on the shelves at the entrance or take them with you in plastic bags provided at some temples. Wear nice socks.
Photography is usually permitted on the temple grounds. It is forbidden indoors at some temples. Watch for signs.
How you pray is rather simple. The simplest is to put your hands together, face the god and bow your head a few times together with your hands which are together.
At Shinto Temples, after you have prayed, you may ring the bell by pullung the long rope hard and bang it on the big gong. You may choose to burn a candle or the nice smelling joss sticks.
Before entering a Japanese Temple, there is a washing ritual which worshippers need to take note of. If you do not know how to do it, follow what others do. Basically, you will need to wash your hands with the water in the Temple Well. It is not really a well per se. It is usually a big concrete container with long wooden ladles for you to use.
From my understanding, the step-by-step approach of the washing ritual is as follows:
1. Use right hand, pick up the ladle, scoup the water.
2. Pour over your left hand and wash it.
3. Change hand and wash the other hand.
4. Drink/seep a little of the spring water.
5. Place the ladle back on the rack..
Take off your shoes before your step into any temples. The floor inside is clean and it's made of woods so it would be damaged if you are walking with shoes. There always are shoe racks for you so don't worry about losing your shoes : ).
I heard somewhere that if you breathe in the smoke from burning incense, it's supposed to make you smarter or something.
Here's my mom and Kikiree trying to do just that. Judging by the look on my mom, it doesn't help!
If you visit Kiyomizu-dera, check out the Love Stone! Basically, there are two rocks that are separated by about 10 meters, and if you can walk from one stone to the other with your eyes closed, then you'll find your fortune in love...
I found a big bump on my head!
Along the route and atop of Kyomizu Temple, there are specific 'wishing wells' where you can pray for a good fortune. One well may be designated for good health while another for career success, etc.
It is all in good fun...although some true believers take it seriously.
Towards the top of the temple complex, there is a fun little 'game' that will determine your fate in love. Two stones are placed about 25 yards apart. You have to start at one and closing your eyes, try to walk into the other stone at the end. NO CHEATING. If you walk right to the other stone without looking, you'll have luck, otherwise, time to hit the internet personals. For the record Kaz barely missed, but I walked straight to the stone....I'm not sure if the stones are right! It's fun.