Things to Remember When Visiting a Temple in Japan

A step-by-step photo guide to show you how to conduct yourself inside a temple.


2-3-1 Asakusa, Taito Ward, Tokyo
Open 7 days a week. Summer time (April-September) 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Winter time (October-March) 6:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Contact: +81-03-3842-0181

In Japan there are two types of temples that can be visited by tourists, a Shinto shrine and Buddhist temple. Do you know what to do when you visit a temple? It will depend on the sect, and there is no universal set of proper practices, but at the very least you want to know the right way to carry yourself and what mindset to adopt. This article will give you some general advice on how to conduct yourself at a temple.

We’ll explain using the Senso-ji temple as an example. The main gate (called “San-mon”) of Senso-ji Temple, “Hozomon.”

Before passing through the main gate (san-mon), stop in front of it.

Bow to show respect to the Buddha. If you're wearing a hat, remove it before you bow.

When passing through the gate, step over the threshold (though there isn't one at Senso-ji Temple).

Purify your body once you enter the temple.

Water flows from the dragon's mouth.

First, lift the ladle with your right hand.

Receive water with the ladle.

Purify your left hand with the water.

Transfer the ladle to your left hand and purify your right hand.

Transfer the ladle back to your right hand, pour some water into your left hand, and rinse your mouth.

Finally, hold the ladle vertically and purify the hand you are holding it with.

When you have finished purifying your body, return the ladle to its original position.

After purifying yourself, it's time to light some incense.

First, buy some incense.

It costs ¥100 at Senso-ji.

Preparing change in advance is a good idea.

This is the incense we purchased.

Light your incense with the brazier located near the shop.

Touch the tip of the incense to the center of the flame.

Hold it there for a bit and it will light up, releasing smoke like this.

Once you see the smoke, stand your incense at this incense burner, called “Kouro”.

It's hot, so be careful!

Once you've planted your stick of incense, wave the smoke over yourself.

This is another act of purification.

Once you have been purified, enter the main temple building.

First, make an offering. Any amount is fine.

Make sure to deposit your offering quietly.

After depositing your offering, join your hands and give thanks to Buddha.


Once you are done praying, take a bow.

The exact style of the bow depends on the sect, but as long as you are giving thanks to Buddha, any style is fine.

When leaving through the main gate, bow to show your appreciation to Buddha. And with that, your temple visit is complete.

Provided by Japan Walker™ and Travel Photo Guide™ (30 November 2018)

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