Basic Temple/Shrine Etiquette

All temples/shrines have a point where everyone is required to remove their shoes before entering. This is usually well-marked, if not by signs than by a large collection of shoes. Usually you leave your shoes right there, but occasionally you are expected to carry them with you.

Some temples charge admission, usually Y400 a person, half price for children through junior high school age. The ticket seller usually eyeballs the kids to determine if they qualify for the discount, so no IDs are needed.

Most temples are pretty casual about visitors and photography, compared say to Thailand. If photos are not allowed, there will be a sign. Otherwise, you may take pictures, including of the alters. Use basic courtesy; don't photograph worshippers without their permission, and do not disturb people in prayer with super nova flashes. Ask permission before photographing monks or other religious persons.

Outside, and in garden areas, low conversation is fine. Inside, quiet is appreciated. All temples solicit donations, usually with a alms box, but you are not obligated to contribute. If you do want to offer something, coins are just fine. Five yen coins are considered good luck to toss into the box.

There is usually a gong or bell used to summon the gods, which kids love to ring. Watch how others do it, don't interfere with serious worshippers at work, and no one should mind a discrete clang of the gong by your kids.

If there is incense burning, it is considered good luck to stand near it and wave some of the smoke onto your head while making a request to the gods.

Some temples require you to wash your hands upon entering; there is usually a water trough, sometimes with bamboo dippers for this purpose. Again, just watch what others do. Some serious folks will also wash their mouths out with this water but it is neither necessary nor hygienic. You never wash your feet, refill water bottles or otherwise splash around in this water.

Trust me, on a hot day it will require Serious Parent Work to keep the kids from messing around here.

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