All About Japan

6 Differences Between Temples & Shrines

Temples Shrines Temples & Shrines First Time in Japan Deeper Japan

I have been to my fair share of temples in Japan. I have also been to my fair share of Japanese shrines. Despite having seen so many, I would often get confused between the two when trying to explain them to others. So I decided, once and for all, to figure out the differences between a temple and a shrine.

Japanese shrines (jinja, 神社) are based in Shintoism, which is a set of Japanese spiritual beliefs. So many of these shrines have features and designs that are unique to Japan. For example, you’ll find torii archways at shrines.

Generally, you can also tell by the name if you’re at a shrine. Often you will hear the word jingu (神宮) in the full name, which literally translates to mean Shinto shrine.

Shrines usually have purification troughs for cleansing your hands and mouth before entering, too (some temples do as well, though). Shinto shrines are centered around kami, or gods. Before you say a prayer, you’re supposed to clap twice in a shrine. Shrines also sometimes have some kind of guardian animal, like a dogs or in the case of Fushimi Inari, foxes.

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