Alicia’s Traditions Field Note

Title: The Beautiful Tradition of Visiting Shrines

Abstract (300 characters): Shinto shrines are found all throughout Japan, so it is easy to see how important the traditions around it are to the Japanese. I will teach you how to go to a Shinto shrine for the very first time!

What tradition did I learn about?

The Japanese people have been visiting shrines for a long time! There are certain things you are supposed to do and avoid when going to a shrine.

First, near the entrance of the shrine, there is something called a purification fountain. There are thin streams of water falling down from the fountain. Near the water are some ladles.  You pick up one of the ladles with your right hand and place it under the stream of water so that it fills up. Then pull the ladle away from the fountain. Pour the water over your empty left hand. Make sure the water that you wash your hand with doesn’t go back into the fountain! You repeat the same thing to purify your right hand. Then, hold the ladle with your right hand again and pour some water into your cupped left hand. You put this water from your hand into your mouth, but don’t swallow it! Spit it out outside of the fountain. Put the ladle back, and now you are completely purified!

You can now go to the main part of the shrine, which is called the offering hall. There is a big wooden offering box in front. Throw a coin into the offering box. If there is a rope, you can use it to ring a bell to summon the gods of the shrine. Do two deep bows and then clap two times. Now, keep your hands together and think about your prayer or wish. When you finish, bow one more time and then step away.

Going to shrines has been a tradition in Japan for a long time, especially for New Year’s. After midnight on New Year’s Eve or sometime on New Year’s Day, almost everyone in Japan will go to a shrine for the first time of the year. Many of them will follow these traditional ways of visiting a shrine and may wear a kimono as well there.

Why does the community have this tradition?

Shrines in Japan come from the Shinto religion. Most Japanese people grow up going to shrines for important events, especially New Year’s. They believe that their prayer or wish may be granted when they go to the shrine. Sometimes, they will even go to shrines just to see the shrines themselves. The shrines are each different in their own way. They can be a great place to visit. It is important to follow these kinds of customs to show respect to the shrine and to be respectful to others visiting the shrine.

Is this tradition connected to its environment? How?

The tradition isn’t necessarily connected to the environment. It is more connected to the community and location. The Shinto religion is followed all throughout Japan, and shrines can be found in every city. It is easy to visit a shrine and many Japanese people follow this tradition.

Use this ladle to purify your hands

Use this ladle to purify your hands

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