We Japanese visit shrines and pray to kami every year. A lot of people visit shrines. They pray during New Year's visits to shrines, during the Seven-Five-Three year-old Festival for small children, and they also pray for safe birth of babies, or family safety, and success in business and traffic safety.
Shrines were places set up by Japanese ancestors to meet the Shinto gods, and they invited the gods and worshiped them there. At important stages of our lives, and when starting something new, we are sure to visit shrines and ask for the god’s instructions. And we pray to the god for success and hope for the help of the god. A shrine visit has a certain style of worship. Let's see how to visit a shrine. And think about the meaning of that.
All shrines have temizuya. New water is running out and a basin is filled with it. A shrine visitor rinses
his or her left hand, right hand and mouth.
Japanese people cherish the purification. Particularly in front of the kami, we want to be much purer.
Old shrines are always located near clear streams. Shrine visitors lustrated and purified themselves
there. Japanese have always believed that water cleans out polluted and evil conditions. The temizuya
is today's place of ablutions.
Then people head for the hall of worship. This road is called the sandō. People avoid walking in the
center of the approach because it is believed to be the kami’s path.
There is a bell and offering box for coins (saisenbako) in front of the haiden. People toss offerings of
money into the box, and ring the bell and pray.
Offering money originated as an expression of gratitude for the fulfillment of a prayer. Generally we
think it is an expression of purity of heart when we make a wish and give thanks for something.
The bell has been used since old days, as an instrument to call and invite the kami.
The pure sound
of the bell plays a role in attracting the kami and conveying a wish.
First, we bow deeply twice, and clap our hands twice, then finally make another deep bow in worship.
Clapping is a universal expression of praise and pleasure. But it seems that only Japan included the
handclap as a ceremony of worship.