How to worship correctly at temples/shrines [with images]

2019-05-23 LIFE , MANNER

This post is also available in 日本語

Recently, when introducing “Goshuin to you, we mentioned that “When receiving a “Goshuin”, you should always worship in advance”. But, how should you worship?

The method of worship is different between shrines, where God is enshrined, and temples, where faith in Buddha is expressed. Shrines and temples may have their own specific rules. However, the basic philosophy is the same. This article will introduce you, in order, to the main points in an easy-to-understand way.


At the entrance to the shrine is the “torii” or gate, and it is said that the world of the shrine begins inside here. There is also a “Sanmon” (main gate) at the entrance to temples, and Buddha is considered to inhabit the area beyond this gate. For this reason, before you pass through the gate, you should straighten your appearance, and bow. In the case of a temple, you should join your hands in prayer and bow before going in. Where there is a threshold, be sure to enter without treading on this threshold.

Avoid the center of the approach

The center of the approach is called “Seichu”. “Seichu” is considered to be the path that God takes. When you are at a shrine or temple, keep to the edges of the path as much as possible.

Cleanse yourself

At the edges of the approach, there is a place known as “Chozuya” or “Temizusha”. Cleanse your hands and mouth here before worshipping. As you are cleansing rather than washing, there is no need to use large quantities of water. Perform the whole procedure below with one scoop of the ladle.

  1. Take the ladle in your right hand and take a generous serving of water.
  2. Cleanse your left hand: Splash a little water on your left hand.
  3. Cleanse your right hand: Move the ladle to the left hand and splash a little water on the right hand.
  4. Rinse your mouth: Move the ladle back to your right hand and hold a small amount of water in your left hand.
    Place this water in your mouth and rinse. (Do not touch your mouth with the ladle.)
  5. Cleanse your left hand again: Splash water on the left hand with which you touched your mouth.
  6. Cleanse the ladle: Stand up with the handle facing down, drip the remaining water into the handle and cleanse.
  7. Return the ladle to its original position.

Make a money offering

There will be an offering box placed in the location of worship. This is both an expression of gratitude and an offering for your wishes being granted. Depending on a play on words, there may be amounts of money that are good luck and those that are bad luck, but there are no clear rules. Quietly put in the amount of money that you yourself wish to contribute.

There may be a bell or “Waniguchi” (temple gong) over the offering box. Shake and ring the bell by pulling the chord.


The method of worshipping differs greatly between shrines and temples. Here I will introduce you to the general method of worship.

Shrine:Two bows, two claps, one bow

At a shrine, you clap your hands together.

  1. Correct your posture
  2. Two bows: Bow deeply twice.
  3. Put the palms of your hands together in front of your chest. Point the fingers on your right hand down slightly and make some space within the palms of your hands.
  4. Clap twice: After opening both of your hands out about the width of your shoulders, clap twice.
  5. Pray: Match your palms together up to your fingers directly in front of your chest and pray.
  6. Bow once: Lower both hands, and finally bow once more.

Temple: Put your hands together and bow once

You must not clap your hands together at a temple.

  1. Correct your posture
  2. Put your palms together: Match your palms together up to your fingers directly in front of your chest.
  3. Pray: Pray with your palms joined together.
  4. Bow: Lower both hands and finally bow once more.


When leaving the “Torii” or gate of the shrine or the “Sanmon” of the temple, turn back and give one bow. In the case of a temple, you should join your hands together. When leaving the “Sanmon”, take care not to step on the threshold.

Never forget the most important thing – the “heart”

When worshipping, the most important thing is to treasure God or Buddha and feel gratitude. If you know the correct etiquette, you can worship with gusto, but it is not such a problem if you make a mistake. Rather than being overly concerned about procedure or manners, make sure you do not forget the original purpose of worship.