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About Shrines

Landscape of a Shinto Shrine

The word ‘Shinto shrine’ describes a complex for worshipping deities not only the building where deities reside. The shrine grounds are composed of various buildings, and the components of a shrine vary depending on location and history of the shrine.

Here explained is a general landscape of a Shinto shrine.

At the entrance to a Shinto shrine stands a shrine gate, or torii, which indicates that the space within is sacred ground. Sometimes even the Japanese cannot distinguish the difference between Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. The easiest way to identify a shrine is to see whether there is a torii at the entrance or not.

Approaching the main sanctuary, you will find a temizu, a font, where people purify themselves by washing their hands and mouth with water. The font is sometimes made from one large piece of stone and decorated with beautiful relief.

Now you are ready to stand in front of the deity. The building you see next is the hall of worship (haiden). As its name suggests, this is a special building in which rituals are performed and official worshipping is offered to the deity. This building is sometimes attached to the main sanctuary and people often mistake this for the sanctuary.

Beyond the hall of worship is the main sanctuary where the deities worshipped at the shrine are enshrined. Shrine sanctuaries throughout Japan have several different styles. Some shrines have more than two sanctuaries for enshrining different deities at one location, and some shrines do not have a sanctuary building since the divine symbol is too large (i.e. a mountain) to enshrine in a building.

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