Jan 8, 2018
Shrine Hopping #神社巡り
Kyoto, Nikko, and even Tokyo, many of the destinations in Japan revolve around the same thing, shrines, and temples. It's one of the features that we Americans certainly aren't accustomed to, and one of the reasons Japan feels so special and, dare I say, foreign to many from western cultures. But as a person living in Japan, why so many shrines? Once you’ve seen one, haven’t you seen them all? Well, if that was the case, then why would so many Japanese people also want to go to shrines and temples? Aside from holidays like New Year’s and shichi-go-san, a rite of passage for children, isn’t it just a bunch of old people worshiping?
Far from it. Especially recently, there has been a wave of young and old going shrine hopping in Japan. It entwines perfectly with the goshuin which I wrote about here on City-Cost. There is even a nickname for girls who go shrine hopping and collecting stamps, "goshuin girl". But shrine hopping has a beauty all of its own. While each shrine has a beautiful history and design to it, there is more than just architecture to these things. Shrines are where the gods dwell, and each shrine houses a different god. The torii gates you can find at the entrance of every shrine in Japan is a gate from our world to the sacred world of the god’s. The god’s walk through the middle and always in a straight path, so best to keep to the side. This separation of the "here" and the sacred ground means that all shrines are built in places someone has felt is sacred. This makes the setting of almost all shrines auspicious. Not only does it create beautiful photos worthy of any Instagram feed, ...
... but also many of the places require a certain amount of effort to get to them. That moment of success in climbing to the top of a staircase, ...
... or finally reaching one out in the middle of nowhere, ...
... gives one a sense of accomplishment and can really lift one’s spirits. It is no wonder why the hashtag #神社巡り(shrine hopping) is so often accompanied by ＃パワースポット (power spot) and ＃心洗われる (soul cleansing). At least for those shrines that have the water basin in which to wash your hands, you can also imagine it as washing your spirit as well.
Buddhist temples in Japan have their merits as well. Many offer fortunes (omikuji) and charms or amulets (omamori). Depending on what form of Buddha is housed in the temple, the offering for those amulets differs. They are meant for the person who receives them and it’s bad luck to take some else’s so don’t pick up one that is lost on the ground. Pay your respects and donate to the temple and you can get your own amulet catered to your own needs. Perhaps one for safety during one's travels to protect you on the rest of your journey while here? Just ask for "koutsu anzen". And if you get a chance to observe some praying, the chanting can be mind-numbingly soothing. Let yourself go in the moment of it.
So, while you are here hopping from shrine to temple to shrine, appreciate the beauty around you. Find your own power spot and do a bit of soul cleansing. Let your spirit go and maybe get some great photos to remind you of how you felt.
American step mom with beautiful Brazilian babies. Raising them in Japan. I'm a crafter too