Family Travel: Learn Shinto Shrine Customs in Japan

When we travel with our three kids we try to teach them about the popular customs and beliefs of the places we’re visiting. After all, one reason we travel is to gain a greater appreciation of different cultures! On our trip to Japan, this summer one of the first things we did was learn about Shinto, the predominant religion of the country. 

Shrines are a quintessential part of Shintoism. As soon as you enter, you will see people performing specific customs in different areas of the Shrine.  In the video above, we’re at the Nishiki Market shrine, Tenmangu (Tenmangū, 錦天満宮), which is a Shinto shrine in Kyoto, Japan (京都) dedicated to Tenjin.  This was our first time visiting a Shinto shrine and Tatsuya and Michiko, our tour guides with  Japan Wonder Travel, showed us the customs that are observed throughout the whole process of visiting a shrine.

First, you have to wash your hands, first your left then your right, and then your mouth. You are then cleansed and pure enough to approach the deity. You have to summon him and to do so you must ring his bell. Once he’s summoned you have a preset number of gestures that have to be respected before you can finally make your wish to the Shinto deity. In this case, this Shrine is dedicated to business and school. Logically, your wish probably has to do with getting successful.

After learning these basic customs, our eldest daughter, Ava, was super excited! At each shrine, we would visit she would make sure to be respectful and also perform the cleaning of her hands. It really made her feel more connected to the people and our travels in Japan. Even our 2-year-old twins, Ella and Rose got in on the action and we left with some great family memories.

Are you heading to Kyoto in the near future? Be sure to watch our Nishiki Market tour on YouTube. We also have a Kyoto City Guide for families over at The Go To Family blog.

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