【Japan Travel Advice】 Let’s Go and Worship at Shrines!

【Japan Travel Advice】  Let’s Go and Worship at Shrines!
Japanese Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples are well known as popular sightseeing spots, and many travelers tend to visit more than one on a trip.Shrines, which are dedicated to the gods of Japan’s native Shinto religion, attract an especially large number of travelers from abroad. So, we’d like to provide a brief overviews of Shinto shrines one topic at a time.

1. Wait, Gods Have Specialties !?

It is pretty common for people around the world to pray to a god or gods to grant their wishes. Well, in Japan there are more than 80,000 shrines and many more Shinto gods and goddesses, which are called Kami-sama. And each has a specialty, sort of like people do, with some that are talented at speaking, or arts, or studying, or something else. Usually, most Japanese people visit shrines to pray to a specific god and wish for assistance in that god’s specialty, so make sure you know the specialty of the shrine’s god before visiting. Below are some examples of some popular gods and their specialties.

・God of Scholarship

Tenjin-sama (as he is commonly known) is the God of Scholarship. He is usually enshrined in shrines that have -Tenmangu or -Tengin in their name. People pray to Tenjin-sama for improving their grades at school passing school entrance examinations, or getting qualifications. Kitano Tenmangu in Kyoto, Dazaihu Tenmangu in Fukuoka, and Hofu Tenmangu in Yamaguchi are known as the Three Great Tenjin Shrines, and a great number of people visit them year-round.
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・God of Commerce

Ebisu-sama is a popular god whose specialty is commerce. Many merchants and shopkeepers pray to Ebisu-sama for prosperity in business. He is one of the well-known Seven Gods of Fortune (Shichi-fuku-jin) and is shown holding a big red snapper(fish). Because his hearing is poor, it is better to worship not only in front of the Main Hall (Honden), but also from behind by ringing a gong (Dora). Nishinomiya Shrine in Hyogo, Imamiya Ebisu Shrine in Osaka, and Kyoto Ebisu Shrine in Kyoto are known as the Three Great Ebisu Shrines.

・God of Good Harvests

The most famous god of the harvest is O-inari-sama, who was a originally god of agriculture. Because in ancient times the Japanese were an agricultural people, they loved O-inari-sama and built a great number of Inari shrines throughout the country. Many of them are small shrines called Hokora, and are common in rural areas. Regardless of size, most Inari shrines have one or more red Torii gates at the entrances, so it is easy to find them. Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto is the head Inari shrine and is famous for its thousands of Torii gates.

While these three are among the most well-known, there are also gods for Traffic Safety, Marriage, Medicine, Victory , Wealth, and much, much more.

When praying at a Shinto shrine, the most important thing is to make a great personal effort because if they see someone trying very hard they are more likely to lend a helping hand!

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