Necessary cleansing before entering a shrine (Shinto part 4)

Most likely when you had visited a shrine in Japan, you noticed in the approach to the shrine an ablution pavilion (temizuya). Temizuya is the place, where the ceremonial purification by means of rinsing the mouth and pouring water over the finger tips takes place. As the attached photo of the explanatory panel shows, this symbolic cleansing is considered indispensable as a preparation for the worship. No shrine fails to provide an ablution pavillion. Usually it is just a simple open pavillion with a stone basin filled with clear water and some wooden dippers. With the purification rite the goal is to remove evil and pollution so that the worshipper becomes once again pure. The goal is to remove everything that might hinder life according to the Kami-way.
Formal purification is accomplished by a priest reciting a prayer of purification and then waving a purification want in characteristic manner in front of the individual or the group. The ceremony is often accompanied by lightly sprinkling salt or salt water. In the past originally this purification was performed at a spring or stream. Interestingly the dresses used today originate from the Heian period (794 to 1185).
At the shrine even the minimum ritual requires offerings. Ideally it should be done daily. If this simple act is neglected, it is believed that the Kami, especially the ancestral spirits will be unhappy and misfortune will be experienced often by individuals, who are not observing this duty. In general the offerings conform to very ancient tradition: the most simples ones are rice, salt, water and perhaps a sprig of sakaki (Cleyera japonica: flowering evergreen tree or shrub native to warm areas of Japan). Otherwise offerings of cut flowers, money, food and drink are acceptable. The most simple offering money is provided

– by tossing a coin into the box in the front of the sanctuary,
– by presenting a small sum wrapped in formal paper as a gift for special service,
– by a donation in connection with receiving the shrine tablet, the construction or repair of shrine property.

Sometimes you can find lanterns in or outside of the shrine compound. This is as well a kind of monetary offering as a gift from devout parishioners either individual or associations. These lanterns are either made of stone or bronze.

Brought to you by Sibylle Ito (シビル伊藤)

Do note further related readings to be found at:

Shinto part 1:

Shinto part 2:

Shinto part 3:

Shinto part 5:

2 thoughts on “Necessary cleansing before entering a shrine (Shinto part 4)

  1. Thank you very much for your compliment. So far I have focused more on cultural, historical and business aspects. Let me know if you have any special interest on food or any questions in regard to Japan.
    All the best,


  2. Your blog is so interesting! I have always been amazed by the Japanese culture (and their food!). Will be back to read more.

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