Created for expats living in Japan

Prayer Offering Manners at Shrines and Temples in Japan

There are many people in Japan who still get confused about what to do when visiting shrines and temples. While the prayers given at a shrine and temple may be similar, they each have their own procedures. We've written a quick and simple explanation on what to do at each place when praying below.

If you would like to learn about shinto offerings, please read "What are Shinto Offerings?" and you may also be interested in reading "Omamori: A Guide to Japanese Amulets".


Shrines are structures created to enshrine one or more local Shinto god. Objects for worship are often stored in the center of the shrine away from prying eyes.


First, bow once facing the main hall before entering the shrine gate, or “TORII”.

Wash Basin

The wash basin will be your first stop.

  1. Please purify yourself by taking the ladle in your right hand to scoop a cup full of water.
  2. Use one fifth of the water to wash your left hand and the same for your right hand after switching the ladle onto your left hand.
  3. Bring the ladle back to your right hand and drip one fifth of the water onto your cupped left palm.
  4. Use this water to cleanse your mouth and finally wash your left hand with the remaining water.
  5. Finally, place the ladle back so that the cup is facing upward. This way, the remaining water will drip down the handle and clean it.

Offering Box

Once you arrive at the main hall, throw a few coins into the offering box as monetary offerings.


If there is a bell, you can ring it to before offering your prayer. It is meant to get the god’s attention.

How to Pray

Bow deeply twice, clap your hands twice and join your palms when offering your prayers. Lastly, bow once.

Before leaving the shrine grounds, bow again to the main hall before exiting the shrine gate.


Originally temples were homes of practicing Buddhists. ( “Oshakasama” is the Japanese name for Shakyamuni, the founder of Buphism. )


Before entering the temple gate or “SANMON”, place your palms together and bow once.

*Although many temples do not allow the general public to ring the bell, if there is a notice permitting this, feel free to do so. It is meant to get the attention of the gods and inform them you have come to visit.

Incenses / Candles

If there are incenses or candles, make offerings using these steps as follows.

  • First, purchase incense or candles by paying the designated cost. (Some temples do not set a cost and instead, accept the amount you feel fit to pay for these.)
  • If offering candles, only one should be lit.
  • Some sectors designate three for number of incense, but if it is not specified, one should be good enough.

Offering Box

Enter the main hall and throw a few coins in to the offering box as monetary offerings.

How to Pray

Place your palms together and bow once at a 45 to 90 degree angle. At this time, offer your prayers. There is no hand clapping at temples as compared to shrines. After you are done with your prayers, bow lightly before leaving the main hall.

Before exiting the temple gate, face the main hall and bow once.