When we were planning our trip to Japan, I was really interested in seeing Buddhist temples. We did that, and it was amazing, and I’ll tell you all about it on another day.
Somehow, though, I overlooked another spiritual option: Shinto shrines.
They’re completely different and separate from Buddhism as I understand it, and serve to worship the spirits of the natural world. They were everywhere–in the middle of the city, the countryside, near natural wonders…
I felt a ton of peace at these shrines as I watched others come to pray. These shrines appear to be an integral part of Japanese life, so our friend taught us how to pray, too.
Here, we learned about the spirits of nature, and how they are never represented with icons. We learned to wash our hands and mouths, offer up our goyen (5 yen coin), ring the bell to alert the spirits of our presence, bow, clap our hands, pray and bow again.
We also learned of the fortunes you can purchase, as our friend was kind enough to get us each one. my sibling got a very lucky one and I got a medium luck one. But if you get bad luck, you can hang your fortune on these clothesline-like cords, and hope that prayers will remove your ill fortune.
Study Shrine in Wakayama
This shrine was located not too far away from a school my friends attended. Here, you’d come to pray for luck on an exam or other school-related endeavor. This is where I learned you can also purchase these plaques–you write the thing you’re hoping for on the back, and then hang it with others’ prayers.
To get to this one, you climb some pretty steep steps–or go around the side and climb up a trail. The views from the top were way worth it.
Shrines are Cheaper than Temples
We did visit other shrines–most notably Fushimi-Inari. That’s coming in a future post.
I’m hesitant to tie money to spirituality, but I know you’re all here because of the personal finance. While there were some extras you could purchase at the Shinto shrines, visiting them was 100% free. You could spend the equivalent of less than a nickel if you wanted to pray, and you could go on to get your fortune or put your prayer to pen with a plaque, but it wasn’t a requirement.
Buddhist temples, however, did sometimes have a few extras you could purchase, but were primarily somewhere from 300-500 yen just to visit the grounds. It wasn’t money I minded parting with, but if you’re planning on visiting Japan and want to hit as many spiritual sites as possible, that’s definitely something to keep in mind with the budget: shrines are more affordable.
More Shrine Pictures
Don’t forget to follow on Instagram for more shrine and castle pictures this week. We visited some really gorgeous locations courtesy of my amazing friend and host–you will want to see them!