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How to distinguish shinto shrines from buddhist temples.

Date Published: Last Update:2014/06/17 Travel & View point ,

If you are sightseeing in Japan, in many cases, you may have the chance to visit different temples and shrines .

At this time, you will be troubled for the different manners of temples and shrines.

(Because these are the buildings of another religion.)


But, if you understand a few key points, it is fairly easy to distinguish the two.


1. There is a “Torii” gate at the shrine.


In the Shinto shrine, you pass through the torii before entering there.

So, if you find a torii, in most cases, it’s a shrine.


By the way, ‘Torii’ means the entrance to a sacred place.


2. In the shrine, there are statues of animal.(With exceptions)


In front of the main hall of the shrine, there are statues of an animal.

They called “Komainu” that guard god.


In the temple, in many cases, there are human type statues called Nio (Deva King) at a temple gate.


By the way, They are a pair of “阿;A” shape and “吽;Un” shape.

Who open their mouth is “阿;A” shape and close is “吽;Un” shape.


“阿;A” and “吽;Un” were the words that express the beginning and end of the universe, respectively.

(That is why, the Japanese syllabary starts with “あ;A” and ends with “ん;Un”… It is a joke.)


4. You often see the Rope called “Shimenawa”.

Take a look at this picture.



5. In Buddhist temples, there is a place to burn incense.


If you burn incense in the buddhist temple, meaning clean your body and mind.


6. Type of bells are different in the buddhist temple and shinto-shrine.

Take a look at this picture.





buddhist temple


Many temples will have large bells.


7. Workers are different.

In the Shinto-shrine, there are chief priest called “Guji”(or “Kannushi”) and priestess called “Miko”.


In the buddhist temple, there are monks and nuns (called “Ama”).


So, when you see a woman in red “Hakama” skirt, you will know that it is a shrine.



I have seen the various difference between shinto-shrine and buddhist temple.

After all, the easiest and guaranteed way to tell the difference of them, is to check whether there is a torii.


“torii” = “shrine”


With this, you will never have trouble distinguishing between shrines and temples.


That’s all.

Thank you for reading.



In this way, you got to be able to distinguish shinto shrines from buddhist temples.
But, even if you wrong manners in shinto shrines and buddhist temples, Japanese are tolerant to foreigners, and they would not complain about your manners.
So, you do not have to worry about their difference so much.


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