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Thread: Temples and shrines : an explanation

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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Post Temples and shrines : an explanation

    A few months ago, I was still wondering how to recognise the different sorts of Japanese temples and shrines. After some research, here is what have found.

    Japan has two main religions, the native Shinto animism, and Buddhism. Basically we speak of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. On maps and guidebooks, shrines are represented by a "torii" (gate) and Buddhist temples by a swastika (it is a symbol of good luck for Hindus and Buddhists and is inverted compared to the nazi one).

    Shinto _“¹, the way of the gods, has no formal structure or rules. there are no teachings or particular moral. It's all about gods being everywhere in the nature, for instance in a tree, a mountain or a river. That's a typical animism as followers believe in good and evil spirits, even ghosts (you'll notice that lot's of Japanese people still have a kind of fear for ghosts). Shinto was made religion of state at the Meiji restoration and is still funded by the government.

    Buddhism was imported from China with the kanji from the Nara to the Kamakura period. There are about 14 sects@(@ shuu in Japanese) and all have their own structure, with a main temple and independant finance. Some are more prosperous than others. Nowadays the active (or surviving sects) include the popular Jodo-shu@ò“y@ (pure land) and Jodo-shinshu@ò“y^@ (true pure land), the 2 branches of Zen, Rinzai@—ՍϏ@ and Soto@‘‚“´@, Nichiren@“ú˜@@, Tendai@“V‘ä@ and esoteric Shingon@^Œ¾@ (similar to Tibetan Buddhism).

    For more info on Shinto and Japanese Buddhism, check the site referredhere

    Now it's a bit more complicated than that if we want to understand the differences between all kinds of temples and shrines. In Japanese, shrine translates jinja@_ŽÐ, jingu _‹{, taisha ‘åŽÐ@or even hachimangu ”ª”¦‹{. Temples are either ji Ž› , in ‰@ or some other names like fudoson •s“®‘¸ (don't confuse it with fudosan •s“®ŽY, , which means "real estate" ).


    Let's start with Shinto. Shrines always have a "tori" to mark the entrance. Ordinary shrines are called jinja. The most common are the Inari Jinja ˆî‰×_ŽÐ. You'll find them everywhere in Japan in almost every district, sometimes concealed between two houses. Inari is the goddess of rice, sake and fertility.

    Every gods have a main shrine called Taisha. The Inari Taisha, for example, is in Kyoto. It is really impressive and I recommend it to anyone going to visit this city. I am going to write special article about it later.

    The Jingu are very few. They are Imperial shrines. The most famous ones are the Meiji Jingu in Tokyo Yoyogi Koen, the Heian Jingu in Kyoto, the Ise Jingu (Mie Prefecture) and the Atsuta Jingu in Nagoya.


    The Hachiman-gu are special shrines to the god of the same name. As Hachiman was an Emperor later deified, his shrines have the suffix "gu" ‹{@like in "jingu". Here is what I found on Internet about Hachiman :

    Generally refers to the deified Emperor Ôjin together with his mother Empress Jingû and his wife Himegami. They were first enshrined in the Usa Hachimangû in Oita Prefecture and later in many Hachiman shrines throughout Japan. Historically worshiped by the military class as a god of war, Hachiman is now the object of deep devotion for many people in Japan.

    There was also this on Yahoo Reference :

    One of the most popular of Japan's Shinto deities. Referred to as the god of war, he is believed to be the deification of Ojin, the fifteenth emperor. He is the patron of the Minamoto clan and of warriors in general. His first shrine was built in 725, and today half the Shinto shrines are dedicated to him. In the 8th cent. Hachiman was accepted as a Buddhist divinity.

    Now, let's pass to Buddhist Temples. The division is not as clear as for shrines and I am not yet 100% of how it works. The "in", like in Chion-in (in Kyoto) seem to be sub-temples of a main one called "ji". In big temple complex such as the Daitoku-ji (Northern Kyoto), there are dozens of sub-temples. Now I am still not sure why some are called "ji" and other "in" even inside a same compound. Apparently, the Byodo-in (Phoenix pavillion, on the back of the 10yen coin) in Uji, which was a residence of the powerful Fujiwara family,was later converted into a temple but as it was not founded as such it cannot be called "ji" (?). I have asked many people about this, but nodoby has been able to help me.

    Otherwise, you can sometimes recognise the sect of the temple through the style. The Jodo-shu and Jodo-shinshu being popular sects (easy to follow as you can be saved just by saying the name of Amida, with no meditation needed) are more rich and usually build bigger temples. The Nishi and Higashi Hongan-ji in Kyoto are good examples. In contrast, Rinzai Zen temples are often smaller, painted in white, with thatched roof and peaceful gardens. You'll find lots of them in the Higashi Yama part of Kyoto.

    The Fudoson are also Buddhist temples, but with the strange particularity to be dedicated to the (Buddhist) god of fire. Strangely, this deity would favorise happy marriages.
    Last edited by Maciamo; Aug 19, 2002 at 17:55.

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  2. #2
    Regular Member moyashi's Avatar
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    nice!

    The meiji period moved to Shinto officially to help build national spirit that built up to WWII.

    Shinto can also be referred to as a shamanistic religion. ie, American Indians.

    Buddhism was brought over under the auspisis (ugh) of Prince Shitoku.

    Also, let's not forget that jukyo (confucinism) also has been sort of built into the society and culture of Japan. Although, it is not officially recognized as such.

    To be honest I never bothered to figure out the difference between the sects and what classification each temple/shrine was. The reason being that it's not really such a clean line like they wish you to believe. During the Pre-Build up of WWII Japan. The military went on a cleansing spree of Temples (Buddhism) the funny thing was that they burnt down many Shrines (Shinto) and left many Temples, since they didn't know which was really which.

    Buddhism like Christianity adopted many of the local Gods and religions into itself. So much so at times that you really don't remember which was which.


    looking forward to more of your reports
    crazy gonna crazy

  3. #3
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    That's funny that you say they can't recognise shrine from temples. Shrines always have a (usually) big red torii. Check the picture below (here the entrance of the Fushimi Inari Taisha which I was speaking about). I have only heard of one temple that also had a torii. It's the Shi-Tenno-ji a Osaka (one of the oldest temples in Japan).
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    Decommissioned ex-admin thomas's Avatar
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    Torii aren't necessarily red according to what I've seen. I have taken the pic below at Yasukuni Jinja, but perhaps colours have just faded, lol.

    PS: Sorry for the bad quality, my "pocket scanner" actually adds scratches to the pic.
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    Regular Member moyashi's Avatar
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    True the red torii always are the main catch but ... when you get to the fox, tanuki, and lion shrines ... sometimes the torii is not there. Could be that these were also added during the nationalism period to prevent being burned down.

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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Notice that I have written that torii were usually big and red. Some are very small (less than 1m high) and it's true they are not always red, especially if they are in stone or metal (red ones are often made of wood or concrete).

    This brings us to the Fushimi Inari Taisha in South-East Kyoto ; there is a 4km path behind the main buildings (on the picture I posted) entirely covered by red torii. It's like a tunnel of tens of thousands of torii through the hilly woods. Big "kitsune" (fox, which is associated to the goddess Inari) stone statues appear intermittently and give an eerie atmosphere to the place. It's best visited just before sunset, except if you are easily scared.
    There seem to be a kind of torii factory there. You sometimes see small ones piled on the side, like if they were waiting to be sent to the 4 corners of Japan. All of them, from tiny to giant, are bright red. But enough said, check the pictures on these sites to understand what I am speaking about : http://www.japannet.de/kyoto/minami/fushimi.html
    http://pipimaru.dyndns.org/kyoto_200...i_inari/1_mz5/

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    Decommissioned ex-admin thomas's Avatar
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    Sorry for being such a smarty, Maciamo, just looked for an excuse to post a pic.


    Fushimi Inari Taisha tops my shortlist of places to see in Japan. I haven't been to Kyoto yet.

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    Regular Member moyashi's Avatar
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    I liked the Miyajima Jinja near Hiroshima the best. It's located off shore a bit ... too bad it get's hit by typhoons every so often.

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    shinto

    Machiamo-san's description is excellent...

    more about
    Shinto
    http://www.jinja.or.jp/english/
    http://www.jinjahoncho.or.jp/ja/index.html (japanese)

    more about torii
    http://www.jinja.or.jp/faq/answer/03-01.html(japanese)

    Please add tenmangu to Shinto.
    Tenmangu is the deification of Sugawara no Michizane(845-903).
    Tenmangu is also called 'Tenjin sama.'

    I am not clear about the difference between 'ji' and 'in.'
    I will try to check them out and tell you later.
    (I hope I can tell you later!)

    I am a Buddhist (Jodo shinsyu).
    Once I tool part in a funeral of Shinto.
    I was passed a branch with green leaves of sakaki å (note! –؁{_)
    called 'tamagushi' from Kannushi and offered it on a heiau.

    http://www.jinja.or.jp/faq/answer/11-04.html (Japanese)
    http://www.jinjahoncho.or.jp/ja/sosen_09.html (Japanese)

  10. #10
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Thanks for the information about Tenmangu, Miyuki. ;)

    You remind me that I forgot to tell you about my Japanese religion page on my site. The official homepage of some Buddhist sects are also there.

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    Regular Member Olivia's Avatar
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    Wow, I'm really impressed about the description, Maciamo-san.

    Very good, very interesting! Though I am nisei, hardly ever made any researches or even simple questions about Japan's history. I believe my interest has increased in the past few years and this kind of web site/descriptions/info and so on are extremely helpful!

    Thanx, one more time!

  12. #12
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    I am a Buddhist (Jodo shinsyu).
    Miyuki, as you're one of the first Japanese I know who claims to be Buddhist, I'd like to ask you if you eat meat, at least four-legged animals like pigs and cows. Before the Meiji restoration Japanese people didn't eat meat because it was contrary to Buddhist principles that you shouldn't kill 4 legged animals. Nowdays, I know that Buddhist monks still don't eat meat and have special tofu restaurants. My sister is vegetarian (she doesn't even eat fish) and I wonder what she'd eat if she comes to Japan. Most of the Japanese cuisine is no older than 50 years. Old people still eat traditional dishes like oden or hijiki, in addition of modern J-food. I guess gyuudon, katsudon, yakiniku, karee, etc. have all appeared after WWII (could anyone confirm this ?).

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    Regular Member moyashi's Avatar
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    wooo, that's interesting.

    I've never thought about digging into eating habits, although I've watched the off NHK drama about Heian Period food (circa 1000 AD) and found it interesting. I've always wrote off food before WWII as being simplistic lacking in white rice and various meats just to near poverty levels of many people.

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    Well...I think I am a Budhist although I eat meat or fish,
    alsthough I am not so earnest.

    Some of my relatives are Buddhist monk and
    my uncle studied Buddhism.
    When my relatives gather to hold a Buddhist service for dead,
    we call a priest but some can read a sutra by themselves.
    As I grow among them, I used to think I am a Buddhist.
    I'm sorry I haven't studied any doctrine.
    (It is not enough to say 'I am a Buddhist.' maybe...)

    I eat meat or fish.
    I think their lives make us live.
    I hate to kill small insects or living matters.
    (It is not enough to say 'I am a Buddhist.' maybe...)

    Zen Buddhists keep their principal strictly,I 've heard.
    They never eat meat or fish.

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    My father is Sotoh syu,one of Zen syu.
    He eats meat and fish.
    I don't know the principal of Sotoh and how preists do.

    I know to grow vegetables Japanese farmers to kill small
    insects.
    Have any meaning for me not to eat any meat nor fish? I wonder......
    Only I don't not belong such works.
    Only I don't know how others do.....

    So what I can do is tying to know many things and
    to notice other many lives make me live.

    Sorry I can't explain what I think well.

  16. #16
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Hello Miyuki. I understand very well what you mean. You can say you're Buddhist even if you haven't studied Buddhism. Christian, Muslims and Jews have to learn the Bible, Coran or Talmud, but few Christians have studied theology. Usually only the ones who want to become priest do.

    That's a bit what bothers me about religion. I was baptised because my family is Christian, but since very young I have rejected the idea of despotic Christian rules and values as a whole. Having studied in Christian schools (because once again I didn't have the choice), I know a lot about this religion. I had to learn it more deeply than most ordinary people in order to criticise it better (eventhough my grandfather had studied theology). So knowledge about a religion has no connection with your faith in it.

    Likewise, Christian people are supposed to go to church every Sunday, pray, etc. but, in Europe, the majority of the people who call themselves Christian don't (that's quite different in the US where people are still quite fanatical, as you can see in their crusades against Islam).

    Having stayed 5 months in India, I've had the opportunity to learn more about Hinduism, Jainism, Zoroastrism and Islam. No Hindu people would ever eat beef (or kill a cow), nor would any Muslim eat pork. Most Hindu are strict vegetarian and Jainist always are. Jainist respect all life beings so much that they would never kill even a mosquito. They don't wear leather (and you can't enter a temple with any either) and they care not to crush any insects as they walk. Some go as far as wearing a mask (like the one in Japan when you've a cold) to make sure they don't swallow a mosquito when they speak or breathe. I have never heard of non practising Janinist and scarely any Hindus or Muslims take religion lightly. So, for some people you are religious only if you respect all the rules of your religion. But how can you pretend being shinto then, as there are so to say no rules ? How comes so many Europeans claim being Christian but never attend a church, even at Christmas.

    The most ironical thing aout religions is that they aim at peace and harmony, but usually degenarate in wars, fightings, massacres. terrorism (something new), etc. Everybody claim having the truth, but they are all as stupid as their neighbours. That's particularily true for monotheism. Buddism and Shintoism don't claim or impose anything, neither do they proselytism (=try to convert people). Hinduism has no proselytism either (you acn't become Hindu even if you want, you must be born of Hindu parents; so you'll not find Hindu Westerners or Japanese).

    I believe that being Buddhist has 2 meanings. The first, is to have been raised as a Buddhist or in a Buddhist country (and maybe do a sutra or go to the temple once in a while). That's the same as being Christian and not go to church, go to confession, etc. You have the feeling a belonging to a community, be it a Buddhist sect or a branch of Christians (catholic, protestant, orthodox...).

    The second meaning, is to understand the deep meaning of the philosophy behind the religion. Try thinking like Buddha and reach the enlightment. It's perfectly acceptable to find your own way, as each sect has had to invent their own, radically different, and forget the original teachings of the Buddha anyway. I don't know if there are any such people. What I am sure is that they are very few.

    Following a sect, like following any religious group, is being prisoner of other people's ideas. That what it means to have a religion. So for my part, even if I learn and understand one or more religions, I'll never want to be recognised as a member of any of them. I probably have a too strong personality allied to an utterly independant spirit. I always find something wrong somewhere. Religions have all the defects of the humans that created them.

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    Maciamo

    I just want to say how grateful I am for much of what you have posted both here and on your website regarding Buddhism. I have studied "philosophies" and practices of the many different traditions of Buddhism for nearly two decades. The "prisoner" aspect of being a religious person appears to have some validity, yet I have found that Buddhism is the one religion that attempts to assist the adherent to the point where non-attachment, even to the religion itself, is experienced. It is a "religion of no-religion," as Alan Watts has stated.

    Over the years I have studied and practiced with Sri Lanken and Thai Theravadin Buddhists, Korean Chogye Son Buddhsts, Vietnamese Ch'an Buddhists and Tibetan Karma Kagyupa Buddhists. For the past decade, I have settled into both Shin and Zen Japanese Buddhist traditions, and have been ordained as a bhikshu (bosan) in Chinese Ch'an Buddhism practicing in Taiwan, then I traveled to Japan practicing with the Soto-shu at Daiuzan Saijoji (Odawara) and the Nishi Hongwanji Honzan (Kyoto).

    Recently I found another American about my age, who is working at Tsuburaya Productions and practicing with a Zen Master in Tokyo. His name is Brad Warner, and has a website with several papers he had written about Buddhism on it.

    Have a look: http://www2.gol.com/users/doubtboy/index.html

  18. #18
    The Phoenix Swordsman Musashi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    No Hindu people would ever eat beef (or kill a cow), nor would any Muslim eat pork. Most Hindu are strict vegetarian and Jainist always are. Jainist respect all life beings so much that they would never kill even a mosquito. They don't wear leather (and you can't enter a temple with any either) and they care not to crush any insects as they walk. Some go as far as wearing a mask (like the one in Japan when you've a cold) to make sure they don't swallow a mosquito when they speak or breathe. I have never heard of non practising Janinist and scarely any Hindus or Muslims take religion lightly. So, for some people you are religious only if you respect all the rules of your religion. But how can you pretend being shinto then, as there are so to say no rules ? How comes so many Europeans claim being Christian but never attend a church, even at Christmas.
    Complete obedience to the religious rules is indeed a rarity in the Western/modernized world. I've recently been to Malaysia (Muslim) and Thailand (Buddhist) and the difference was striking. Muslims are very strict on their rules and in a way I find that admirable. Thailand was totally different. Although Thailand's Buddhism is Hinayana, which means quite monastic and ergo strict on the rules (at least for monks), I saw a monk smoking cigarettes! Anyway, an interesting topic...
    In the words of the ancients, one should make his decision within the space of seven breaths. It is a matter of being determined and having the spirit to break through to the other side. - Hagakure

  19. #19
    Omnipotence personified Mandylion's Avatar
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    Great thread guys! Just thought I would add a few things...

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    I have only heard of one temple that also had a torii.
    While torii at temples might be rare, I was under the impression that quite a lot of mixing goes on at many temple and shrine grounds - more so at smaller, less important sights.

    Isn't the whole washing the hands and mouth a Shinto inspired practice? You can find those at many Buddhist temples as well. Sometimes you will find smaller shrines on the grounds of large temples. If you look in this image, it has been awhile since I went, but I think the red and white building in the background is shinto. It is on the grounds of temple 38. Both practice often involve shaking the rope attached to a noisemaker at the hodo and smaller sub-buildings (no clapping in Buddhism but you do for Shinto gods). The list goes on.

    Do I have this all mixed up?

    Also, if you see a Buddhist temple on a mountain or large hill, chances are it is Tendai. Other sects can use hills, and you do find Tendai temples on the flats, but Tendai folks like their mountains (links to Hiezan etc.). Just a bit of trivia.

  20. #20
    Danshaku Elizabeth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandylion
    Great thread guys! Just thought I would add a few things...



    While torii at temples might be rare, I was under the impression that quite a lot of mixing goes on at many temple and shrine grounds - more so at smaller, less important sights.
    The neighborhood temple near where I stay in Tokyo has a torii as well as a ceremonial wash font area as does Sensouji of course. I'll be fascinated to attend more closely next stay to any other mixed symbolism that might be there. A very interesting thread everyone.

  21. #21
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandylion
    While torii at temples might be rare, I was under the impression that quite a lot of mixing goes on at many temple and shrine grounds - more so at smaller, less important sights.
    If you look in this image, it has been awhile since I went, but I think the red and white building in the background is shinto. It is on the grounds of temple 38. Both practice often involve shaking the rope attached to a noisemaker at the hodo and smaller sub-buildings (no clapping in Buddhism but you do for Shinto gods). The list goes on.
    Yes, I noticed the buddhist statues in front of the shinto shrine on your pic. That is true that Japanese do not always have a clear separation of the 2 religions, and that is even more obvious once you ask someone whether this or that temple or ritual is shinto or buddhist. Most don't have a clue. Sometimes I feel that Japanese can't combine the old and the new. Either they are traditional minded, know well about history, religion, etc. but little about modern "pop" culture, technology or even katakana words, or the opposite. As a European I find this rather queer.

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