Immerse Yourself in the Sacred World of Shinto Shrines!

While the majority of Japanese people don’t believe in one specific religion, they still go to Shinto shrines to pray, buy good luck charms, and so on. Recently, visiting shrines has become popular among young people because they are considered “power spots,” which are locations believed to contain a mystic force that heals ailments and enhances one’s spiritual energy. In Kanazawa, you will find many time-honored shrines all over the city. Why don’t you drop in and savor the serene atmosphere?

009_j07.psd1) Utasu Jinja Shrine

Shinto: A Polytheistic Religion
With Japanese Roots

According to Shinto beliefs, gods exist all throughout nature, such as in mountains, waterfalls, trees, and even grains of rice. Shinto has no known founder or single sacred scripture, but its tenets have thoroughly permeated Japanese society. Shrines, or “jinja” in Japanese, are where these gods are worshipped and summoned.
009_j05.jpg4) Kanazawa Jinja Shrine
It may be difficult to tell Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples apart. The easiest way to identify a shrine is to look at the entrance. You will almost always find a large ornamental gate called a “torii,” which indicates the boundary between the sacred and secular realms. Their shape is very distinct, consisting of two vertical pillars topped by two horizontal crossbeams, and they are usually painted bright orange or red. (By contrast, the entrance to a temple usually contains a smaller gate with walls separating the temple grounds from the surroundings.)

Through the Torii and
Into a Sacred Realm

omikuji.jpgOmikuji(おみくじ)
After passing through the “torii,” normally you’ll see stairs leading up to the main hall. But before you proceed, you must purify yourself at the “chozuya” water basin. Follow the steps below.
You should never leave a shrine without receiving an “omikuji” and buying an “omamori.” “Omikuji” are paper fortunes. “Omamori” are Japanese talismans believed to bring good luck and ward off harm.
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009_j02.jpgEma (絵馬)Making a wish using an “ema” is a good idea too. “Ema” are small wooden tablets with various illustrations on the front. Write your wish on the back and hang it in the designated spot.

Recommended Shinto Shrines
in Kanazawa

Our friend Joy from Thailand will now introduce some foreigner-friendly shrines in Kanazawa that are conveniently located near famous sightseeing spots.
009_j06.jpg3) Ishiura Jinja Shrine

009_j01.jpg1) Utasu Jinja Shrine
Utasu Shrine, located near the Higashi Chayagai district, is considered one of the five great shrines of Kanazawa. They say this shrine was built to the northeast to protect Kanazawa Castle from evil. Northeast was once called “kimon” and considered unlucky, since it was believed that evil spirits came from this direction. Spooky, huh?
Dedicated to the first lord of Kaga, Maeda Toshiie, Oyama Shrine is probably the most popular shrine among locals as well as tourists. It has a beautiful gate with stained-glass windows and has been designated a cultural asset of national importance. Situated in the middle of the bustling downtown area, it provides a tranquil sanctuary amidst the clamor of modern life.
009_j08.jpgKomainu (狛犬)Kanazawa Shrine is located just outside the “Zuishinzaka” entrance of Kenrokuen Garden. A Shinto priest named Kannushi-san told us that the god of study, Michizane Sugawara, is enshrined here, so many students come here to pray for success on their exams.
Also located just outside of Kenrokuen Garden in front of the 21st-Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Ishiura Shrine is said to be the oldest shrine in Kanazawa. You can see the ultra-modern museum building through the aged pillars of the shrine—a fascinating juxtaposition of old and new.

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How to Pray at Shinto Shrines

Praying at a shrine consists of several steps, and even some Japanese aren’t familiar with the entire process. There are two different procedures: One performed at the “chozuya” and the other at the main hall. Joy demonstrates these steps below (a few shrines provide English instructions). It may seem a bit difficult at first, but you’ll be a pro in no time!
*You can use these basic techniques at any shrine. Note that temples have different customs. For example, you would never clap your hands when praying at a temple.

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1
009_p01.jpgPut a small offering into the box. Normally 100 yen will do.

2
009_p02.jpgIf there is a bell, ring it gently. This dispels evil spirits.

3
009_p03.jpgMake “two” deep bows (90 degrees if possible).

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4
009_p04.jpgJoin your hands and clap “twice”.

5
009_p05.jpgKeep your hands together and pray. Japanese people often pray for their health.

6
009_p06.jpgSeparate your hands and bow again.