Shrines

Kami is the Japanese word for the spirits, natural forces, or essence in the Shinto faith which originated in ancient peoples’ worship of supernatural powers. It has no written doctrine, but it is Japan’s main religion and is practised widely through ceremonies and festivals.

Trees and stones have long been objects of deep devotion in Japan. Originally there were no shrine buildings; instead a tree, forest, or a large boulder or a mountain, decorated with ropes, would be the focus of worship.
Certain trees were considered sacred. When cut and used in the construction of a shrine, this sacred quality was believed to follow it into the building. The sacred tree itself was symbolically present in the form of a post around which the shrine was constructed.

Ancient shrines were built like the dwellings with gabled roofs covered with reed or bark, raised floors, plank walls. They did not include a space for worship.
In the 6th century, as Buddhism was brought to Japan, the concept of temples as a place of assembly was applied to shrines. Spaces for worship were added in the form of extended roofs or worship halls (haiden) in addition to the main hall (honden).

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Torii are gateways at the entrance of Shinto shrines. They are typically made of wood, often painted in red.

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Purification fountains are situated close to entrances and used for purification. They are used to clean both hands and mouth before approaching the main hall. These days many will skip the mouth rinsing part or the purification ritual. altogether.

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Stone / bronze lanterns were used first as votive lights, later as ground lights on the pathway to a shrine.They have been introduced to Japan from Korea along with Buddhism in the 6-th century. Their use was lter extended to various Japanese gardens,
Hanging metal lanterns usually hung from the corner eaves of temples and shrines.
Paper lanterns come in various forms and names. They consist of paper stretched over metal, wood, bamboo or iron frames.

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Ema. Shrine visitors write their wishes for good health, success in business, passing entrance exams, love or wealth on wooden plaques.
Omikuji are fortune telling paper slips, randomly drawn. They contain predictions ranging from daikichi (“great good luck”) to daikyo (“great bad luck”). By tying the piece of paper around a tree’s branch, good fortune will come true or bad fortune can be averted.
shimenawa is a straw rope with white zigzag paper strips (gohei). It marks the boundary to something sacred and can be found on torii gates, around sacred trees and stones.

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Guardian lions / dogs can be seen at the entrance of shrines. These statues usually appear in pairs, one with an open mouth, spitting out good luck, the other one with a closed mouth, catching evil. Rice shrines are guarded by foxes, clever animals, symbols of fertility.

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