30 useful tips for travel in Japan
- Manners for Visiting Japanese Temples and Shrines
- Shrines and temples in Japan are a huge source of intrigue for overseas visitors. This is true both for those who may be entirely new to Asian religions and for others who come from Asian religious backgrounds but are curious about Japanese nuances. Either way, during a trip to Japan you will likely make your way to one of the countless shrines or temples. Some are immaculately maintained, boasting souvenir shops and small food stands, while others might be more modest; quiet, old, and just sort of blending in with the landscape.
- An Atmosphere of Respect
- Shrines and temples, as well as the many churches, mosques, and other places of worship in Japan are primarily symbols of reverence for the life that we all share. Japan structures its clean, tranquil society around not inconveniencing others, and in this sense, you should avoid doing anything that will needlessly create work for someone else.
There is a saying in Japan, which happens to be a defining characteristic for people: "Read the air/atmosphere" (kuuki o yomu). This refers to the ability to be socially conscious in any situation, and make appropriate judgments. This extends to every aspect of Japanese society, and as such, is a fundamental rule when visiting shrines or temples. People have their own approaches to religion, their own sects, their own local customs, but the best advice to an outsider who finds themselves there is to first "feel it out", and "don't make a scene". In general, you will find yourself following Japanese customs very quickly, and these absolutely carry over to visiting a shrine or temple.
- General Rules
- As for specifics, do not bring food or drinks close to the main area of the shrine or temple grounds, do not occupy one spot to take pictures for too long, and refrain from repeatedly shouting to one of your party members from afar. Other obvious manners include not disrupting the vegetation or the decorations around the shrine or temple. Also, please keep in mind that the cool local shrine you stumble upon in the backstreets of a town will stay looking cool because of your respect and manners.