No matter what religion you practice or who you believe in, it is always important to try and respect someone's beliefs.
When I was in Japan, I got to visit a number of shrines. It was very spiritual and I am glad to have set foot in these sacred sites. I am Catholic and my beliefs are centered on what I know. But that didn't mean I couldn't come and pray here. At least in my eyes.
When you set foot here, it's always best to wash your hands and purify yourself at the entrance. You will find a little area with a wooden ladle to do so. Upon entry, you will stand in a queue and be careful not to cut! Bow before the altar and toss a coin in!
Fujizuka Mound in Hatomori Shrine in Sendagaya is one of the well-preserved mounds in Tokyo. Fujizuka was made so that people who cannot climb Mt. Fuji either for financial or health reasons can accomplish the Mt. Fuji climb. Mound is often made up of lava stones picked from Mt. Fuji mountainside. Most of the Fujizuka mounds in Tokyo can be climbable only on special occasions such as new year days or July 1 when the real Mount Fuji is opened. Fujizuka in Hatomori shrine is one of the few mounds that can be climbable thorughout the year. Photo #2 is a small mound in Hanazono Shrine close to ISETAN and MARUI of Shinjuku which used to be a part of Shinjuku Fuji a lot larger mound but moved to present place. This shrine is small but popular among actors, singers and entertainers as well as traditional art performers such as Kabuki actors because this shrine is believe to grant wishes of art performers and entertainers. It is called GEINO ASAMA SHRINE.
Before visiting a shrine in Japan, you should purify your body. Here, at the Meiji Shinto Shrine, you should take a ladel of water, swish it around in your mouth, and spit it out, preferably not into the same water that everyone else is using.
One of the interesting cultural differences between Japan and the west is the way religion is incorporated into every day life, and this can be easily seen in Tokyo. Unlike western religions, which formally insist on exclusive fidelity appropriate to a marriage (the Pope frowns Catholics participating in Druid rites, for example), Japanese people are free to make offerings at a Buddhist temple on one day and a Shinto Shrine the next. Whereas the history (and present!) of the West is marked by inter-sect warfare, there is rarely conflict among religions in Japan and violent religious zealotry is not common. Furthermore, this spirit of polyreligiosity has made it easy for almost every Japanese to celebrate the Christian holiday of Christmas without bothering to become Christians -- something that makes the store-owners of Tokyo very happy!
...All that being said, surveys show that Japan is one of the least religious societies on earth. Maybe that explains their tolerance for the mixing of so many beliefs. The only times religious intolerance appeared in Japanese history was when the Christians were pushed out in the 1590s as Japan unified around the xenophobic Tokogawa Shoganate and during World War II, when the Emperor made Shinto the state religion and suppreseed Buddhism and other faiths.
Zojoji is one of the largest and important temple in Tokyo. Its located near Tokyo Tower. The cherry blossoms are beautiful there and its a nice spot for pictures. My father's funeral was performed here. That makes this temple a special place for me. There is a "Mizugo" worship place (see my home page) in the garden of this temple. its a nice area to walk around. I never fail to visit this temple whenever I visit Tokyo.
Tke the Mita Subway Line to Onarimon Station
This isn't a huge shock as there are many ways to "cleanse" yourself before entering a religious structure from many cultures. In Japan, there is always a trough of water sitting outside the temple entrance (the "human" world) and small containers to allow you to wash your hands in before going in. You may also take a drink of the water, but DON'T put it directly to your mouth! Put it in your hand first, then drink from it!
Observed in Asakusa temple and later in other temples, that local worshippers will use their hands to wave smoke (kemuri) from burning altars to flow over their heads.
Asked a local and was told this was a self-cleansing ritual. So try it.
May 17 & 18 and October 17 are particularly popular as rather elaborate festivals are held on these dates with omi koshi (carrying the Toshogu deity through the streets with a portable shrine) and hundreds of people parading in traditional costumes, which are stored at Toshogu Shrine.
During the first 2 weeks of February is the Nikko Ice and Snow Festival. There are many ice sculptures as well as other events and a fireworks display. This festival is held near the Chuguji Shrine at Lake Chuzenji.
It's quite a sight here on New Year's Eve, when people line up for several kilometers to go to the shrine and pray for good luck. This line starts a couple of hours before midnight and lasts until the morning. The area gains a carnival type of atmosphere with hundreds of food stands (and all types of food on a stick), and many stands selling items for good luck.
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. Purchase a bundle of incense(osenko), cost bout 100-yen in Sensoji Temple and light them. Let them burn for a few seconds and then extinguish the flame by waving your hand rather than by blowing it out.
When you visit the Meiji Shrine, you could make a wish or say a prayer.
As you enter through the Torii Gate, at the Temizusha well ("the font for ablutions"), you must rinse your hands and mouth using water from the stone basin. You should not touch the dipper with your lips directly.
After that, if you want to make a wish, you could buy a small 3 inch by 2 inch polished wooden block. Upon this, write your wishes or prayers in black marker ink. Enter the temple grounds and hang your wish under the tree in the inner courtyard. In this way, when the shinto Monks say their prayers and do their daily chanting, they will be sure to ensure that the deities include habe taken note of your wishes or prayers.
How to pay respects: At the Main Shrine, you may throw some coins into the Offering Box. In front of the Main Shrine, you bow twice. Then you clap your hands twice. Finally, you bow once again.
May all your wishes come true!
Transport Tip: 1 min walk from JR Harajuku Station
1 min walk from Meijijingu-mae Subway on Chiyoda Line Exit 1/2
At many of the shrines you will find little pieces of wood with writing on them. These are for the practice of Ema. Ema is when you write a wish for the following year on the piece of wood, something like happiness, health, proseperity, etc. The wood hangs around for a while and then at the start of the new year is burned, taking your wish to heaven to be granted.
It didn't really work for me when I tried it, but your results can be different.
Omikuji are fortunes written on slips of paper,sold at temples and shrines all over Japan. You shake a container full of bamboo sticks and then remove one through the hole in the container. It has a number on it, and you take a corresponding slip of paper with fortune written on it from the drawers. At other temples and shrines you simply put your hand in a box full of omikuji and draw one. Omikuji is said to have been imported from China in ancient times, and used as a message medium of the gods on such important occasions as business transactions and marriage. However, nowadays there are omikuji vending machines. talk about taking the fun out of it.
Literally this means 7-5-3. This is a celebration for children of these ages every year. They dress up in kimono and visit the shrine. I was lucky enough to see these cute little kids visiting Meiji Shrine and so I asked if I could get my picture taken with them.
In a city as populated as Tokyo, land prices are amongst the highest in the world and apartments are small to the extent that sometimes you wonder how people live in places so small. After you have lived in Tokyo you will realize that living in the heart of the city there is no need for large rooms and wasted space. Tokyo is a city without planning and certainly not the most beautiful city in the world. For the first time visitor it will probably seem ugly and ill conceived, it is certainly not an exotic Oriental city. Nevertheless, the longer you stay in this city the more you will come to appreciate it and the more it will begin to grow on you. Tokyo does have many things to offer but these are things that you must find yourself.