Update: 22 March 2016


Shrines are, as everyone knows, buildings for religious services for Shintoism, which is one of the religions Japanese people believe in.

What Japanese gods are

Japanese gods with diverse dispositions are believed to reside in everything, from natural phenomena such as mountains and winds, to fire that stays in the kitchen. Since an innumerable amount of gods exist, it is expressed as "eight million gods". Japanese people who were leading farming lives in ancient times believed that extraordinary natural occurrences must be God's anger and felt that gods existed everywhere in nature beyond human knowledge.


At shrines, goshintai (objects believed to contain the spirit of a deity), that gods reside in, are prayed to. Goshintai are usually gigantic natural stones or trees, mirrors, and swords, but it varies according to the shrine. When it is quietly prayed to, the goshintai is deep inside the shrine so the general visitor cannot see it.


Torii has the role of being the gate separating the human world from the gods' world. The farthest torii from the main shrine where god resides is called Ichi no Torii (the first torii) and the next is Ni no Torii (the second torii). Since you are going into the god's world, please bow once every time you walk through the torii.

The chozuya, where you clean your body

At the chozuya (basin for cleaning yourself before entering a shrine), you cleanse your hands and mouth lightly in order to clean the dirt from your body before going to the main shrine where a god resides.

Sessha and massha

The god that is deeply connected with the god in the main shrine is worshiped at the sessha (auxiliary shrine). The god of the local area is worshiped at the massha (subordinate shrine). Please greet both gods.

Komainu that protect the gods

In front of the worship hall or main shrine a pair of komainu (guardian lion-dogs) who protect the gods are placed on both sides. These play a part to keep evil things from entering, but some shrines have different animals such as rabbits, monkeys or wild boars.

Shrines and events

Shrines have a large number of events throughout the year. Shichi-Go-San is an event to hold at when a child turns 3 years old, 5 years old, and 7 years old to pray for the child's health and happiness. Typical events are hatsumode, praying for the happiness of the coming year during December 31st to January 1st, and Setsubun on February 3rd to ward off misfortune at the beginning of the four seasons.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.

Share this article.

If you liked this article, follow us!