What are Jinja?

Jinja 神社 are Japanese temples, Shinto shrines. They sanctify Shinto deities.

Fun fact: You’ll find a jinja in almost every community across Japan. Some large and very popular… some extremely tiny.

Rituals are held in jinja, such as weddings, festivals, and praying for one’s health.

In many ways, they’re similar to western churches, acting as a community center.

But Shinto has no founder. No teachings. No scriptures.

People pray for their wishes.

The shrine gates are called torii — they mark the point where one transition into the spiritual realm.

Inari shrines have tunnels of torii gates.

The Japanese believe bad fortune fades at the end of the year.

And the New Year is a valuable time to pray for good fortune to come.

How to pay respects at a jinja

  1. Wash your hands and mouth at the water basin usually near the entrance. This is said to purify you.
  2. Throw a ¥5 coin into the offering box in front of the shrine
  3. Ring the bell by pulling the rope
  4. Bow twice, deeply
  5. Clap your hand twice
  6. Make your prayer
  7. Bow deeply once more before turning to walk away

Why a ¥5 coin?

Actually, a ¥50 coin would be fine since it also has a hole. These coins are said to have engi (good luck) — believed to help bring good fortune when tossed into the offering box.

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Shinto shrines are places of worship and the dwellings of the kami, the Shinto “gods”. Sacred objects of worship that represent the kami are stored in the innermost chamber of the shrine where they cannot be seen by anybody. —JapanGuide

You’ll often find a pair of komainu (狛犬) lion-dogs between the torii and the haiden (拝殿) or front shrine. It’s the job of these mythical protector-beasts to drive away demons. One komainu has its mouth open and the other has it shut. This represents the concept of the beginning and the end of all things or the universe. —DIGJapan

Gods which are enshrined within Japanese shrines are referred to as saijin in Japanese. The term saijin refers to the ancestors of the Imperial Household. Shrines that harbour a deep-rooted connection with royalty are called jingū in Japanese. Mie Prefecture’s Ise Jingū, where the sun goddess Amaterasu-Ōmikami is enshrined heads the list, followed by other famous shrines, such as Meiji Jingū in Tokyo where the Meiji Emperor is deified. —Matcha

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