Introduction to Japanese shrines and temples

Introduction to Japanese shrines and temples

Todaiji temple (Nara)

Generally, it is defined that Shinto gods are worshipped at shrines whereas temples have Buddha statues and Buddhist priests preach the faith of Buddha. However, the Japanese people have long syncretized Shinto with Buddhism without distinguishing between Shinto and Buddhism, a foreign religion. Therefore today Japanese people are less aware of the differences of the two religions and these religions are co-existing as epitomized by the fact many Japanese families have both a home shrine and a family Buddhist altar. 

Moreover, Japanese people visit a shrine to make wishes on a New Year’s Day, get married at a church, enjoy shrine festivals in summer, celebrate Christmas in winter, hold a Buddhist funeral service and visit graves in a Buddhist way. These examples demonstrate that many Japanese people use different religions depending on their life events and they have their own unique viewpoints towards religion. 

There are many popular shrines and temples across Japan where many people visit every year. Not that there are many religious people, but rather these shrines and temples are often regarded as a sightseeing spot. Recently some shrines and temples have gained popularity as a so-called "power spot" (a spot regarded to be imbued with spiritual and mystical energy).  

Nikko Toshogu, a popular temple as a sightseeing spot. Sean Pavone /

Horyuji (Horyu Temple), registered as a World Heritage site.