In the Land of the Rising Sun, the influence of the religion It shows a lot in the culture and spirituality that the inhabitants emanate. Shinto and Buddhism have lived in harmony for centuries, leaving a legacy of magnificent Japanese shrines and temples in the archipelago.
Discover these sacred places in Japan, considered true cultural treasures.
?♂️ What is the difference between a temple and a shrine?
In Japan, there are two types of religious buildings: buddhist temples (寺) and the shinto shrines (神社). They have common features and are often confused. In fact, both present a traditional Japanese architecture: generally wooden structures with columns and typical large ceilings…
The influences of the two religions blend in both substance and form. Practices and rituals intersect and it is not uncommon to find Buddha symbols in a Shinto shrine and vice versa. This is due to the religious syncretism that has persisted in Japan since the introduction of Buddhism around the 5th century. You know that phenomenon of combining totally different beliefs to create a new religion? However, for differentiate these two sacred monuments, it is enough to pay attention to certain details.
Left: The Daigo-ji Buddhist temple located in Kyoto. Right: Shinto shrine located in Kyoto. Source: Pinterest
? Japanese Buddhist temples
Buddhist temples are places reserved for the practice of Buddhism, a religion of India. Their names end with hee either dera.
The Japanese flock to these places of worship during funeral ceremonies et religious holidaysto meet, pray and worship Buddha. Among the Buddhist rituals we find the meditationthe prostrationto them Offerings, incenseto them religious songsto them mantras or even the sutras (sacred texts). Note that the most common branch of Buddhism in Japan is that of land too and not Zen.
Unlike Shinto shrines, Japanese temples feature neutral colors. According to the currents to which they belong, they can have different characteristics, however we find the deep or main building, a large tower or pagoda and the codea room where the holy writings. The door of a Japanese temple is called ” mon and is distinguished by its imposing shape and size. The entrance is guarded by two children who prevent the demons from entering the enclosure. Other elements are typical of Buddhist architecture such as gigantic ceilings, large incense burners… In addition, inside a Japanese temple you can see statues of Buddhas or bodhisattvas (Buddhas on the path to enlightenment). Finally, these religious buildings have magnificent gardens (sometimes zen) and a nearby cemetery.
⛩ Shinto shrines
Japanese shrines are linked to Shintoism. That is The primitive religion of Japanbased on the nature worship et mythology. we go there to pray good luckcelebrate the wedding and adore the Thursday (Shinto gods). The ceremonies are given by the shinto priests assisted by the miko (young girls in traditional dress). Similarly, the rituals (purification, bell ringing, clapping, bowing, etc.) are carried out in a very specific way. Finally in a sanctuary, we can draw predictions (omiku-ji), inscribing prayers on wooden plaques intended for the kami (Emma) or buy amulets (omamori).
The shrine is still dedicated to a deity. This is the place where the us comes to earth; his house somehow. In the effigy of him we do not find especially statues, but representations symbolic animals or some 7 gods of happiness. In addition to their names ending in jinja, taisha, a giant either GuJapanese shrines often feature vivid colors. We find the famous vermilion red or red-orange as well as numerous golds on the facades of the buildings. At the entrance is a Torii. It is a portal in the form of a coat hanger that separates the sacred place of the kami from the profane world. Surely you have already been able to admire the emblematic submerged torii of the holy island of miyajima on postcards. In the alley leading to the place of worship (sharks) we find the chozuyaa source used for purifier. Finally, the dogs o main building of the eastern sanctuary the holiest place on the site.
Other elements are specific to shrines such as all. ces lion dog statues Located at the entrance of the building are the guardians of the premises. Its function? Chase away evil spirits. We also note the presence of Shimenawaa sacred braided rice straw rope who protects the kami.
?♀️ How many temples and shrines are there in Japan?
In the Land of the Rising Sun there is over 100,000 Japanese shrines distributed throughout the territory. The number of temples is estimated around 80,000. The cities of Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Nikko and Miyajima are full of places of worship to visit. In addition, the Kansai, Kanto, and Aichi Prefecture regions are home to many Japanese temples.
? The most famous Japanese shrines and temples
While all shrines and temples have their charm, some are absolutely essentials. For its beauty, its originality or its history, discover Top 10 Temples and Shrines to Visit in the Land of the Rising Sun :
Also called the golden pavilionor Golden Temple in Japan, the Kinkaku-ji shimmers with its gold leaf trim. Located in the historic city of Kyoto, it was built in the 14th century by the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. It is the most famous Buddhist temple in Kyoto. Despite several fires, the Golden Pavilion and its magnificent park remain on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
In Mie Prefecture, not far from Isuzugawa Station in the authentic city of Ise, headquarters Ise Grand Shrine. This holiest Shinto site consists of a multitude of buildings in the heart of Ise-Shima National Park. The two main sites are the Inner Sanctuary and the Outer Sanctuary. The first, dating from the fourth century, is dedicated to kami amaterasuthe greatest deity of Japan and the second to Toyouke, goddess of food. The craziest thing: The inner sanctum is rebuilt every 20 years in purity oath !
Located in Tokyo, the Meiji-Jingu Shrine is a true wonder. It houses the spirits of the dead. Emperor Meiji and his wife. Destroyed at the end of World War II, it was restored in 1958.
? Fushimi Inari-Taisha
south of Kyoto, the iconic Fushimi Inari Shrine it is the most famous in Japan and possibly the best known in the world. This place of worship guarded by fox statues is simply amazing with its torii tunnels. It is dedicated to the goddess of trade and prosperity: Inari.
It is one of the Shinto shrines. oldest and tallest from Japan. Located in Izumo (Shimane) between the sea and the mountain, this sacred monument features exceptional style architecture taisha-zukuri. Listed as a National Treasure, this high place of Shinto dedicated to here Okuninushi (god of agriculture and medicine) is famous in Japanese mythology.
famous for his thousands of darumaor lucky dolls, le Katsuo-ji It is located in the mountains, near Osaka. It is said that this lucky temple granted the wishes of emperors and shoguns.
This Japanese temple known to be The oldest temple in Tokyo It is located near the Sumida River. Built in the 7th century, then completely rebuilt in 1958, the temple is dedicated to Can I, bodhisattva of compassion. It is distinguished by its colors, its architecture and its imposing size.
With their chinese lucky cat, this Tokyo temple is most surprising. Its altar that houses countless lucky cat statues attracts many visitors every year.
an orange, Toda-ji temple It is one of the most famous in Japan. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this 8th-century temple houses the world’s largest wooden building called Daibutsu-den and his bronze Buddha of 18 meters high.
In Nagano Prefecture, next to Mount Togakushi, is the wonderful Togakushi jinja shrine. Located in the heart of nature, this Shinto complex made up of 5 shrines It is a real reward after the effort of walking. It is famous for hiding the sun goddess.
Japanese temples and shrines are mystical places not to be missed during your trip to Japan. High places of Buddhism and Shintoism, these religious monuments will impress you with their architecture while enveloping you in serenity.