Temples and Shrines

The differentiation between temples and shrines refers to the two main religions in Japan: the traditional Japanese religion Shinto, according to whose legends the Japanese emperor Tenno is a direct descendant of the Sun Goddess Amaterasu, and Buddhism (Bukkyo), which was imported from China in the 6th century.
You can distinguish Shinto shrines (Jingu or Jinja) from temples mainly by the Torii, a wooden gate, often vermillion, with two crossbeams on its jambs. In the entrance there is also a basin with fresh flowing water for purifying hands and mouth – a ritual before entering the shrine. Sacred trees or rocks are marked by a thick rope of straw (Shimenawa). Shinto-priests always wear their traditional robes, that go back to the official dress of the aristocrats in the Heian period.

However, in most periods of Japanese history there was no clear separation between the two religions. The most influential Buddhist lines, Tendai and Shingon, in particular, regarded the Shinto god (Kami) as incarnations and manifestations of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Most Shinto shrines did not even have Shinto priests of their own but were looked after by Buddhist monks. Only very significant Shinto institutions such as the Ise Jingu have always been headed by hereditary dynasties of priests, who originally reported to the Imperial Court, but later also came under the authority of a Buddhist temple.

Ise Shrine

The Ise Jingu is the highest Shintoist place of worship in Japan. It has an Inner Shrine, the Naikuh, that is devoted to the Sun Goddess Amaterasu, who is the first ancestor of the Japanese Imperial family, and the Outer Shrine, the Gekuh. Every 20 years, the shrines, in which the Insignia of the Japanese Empire are kept, are constructed of wood and burnt down and completely rebuilt in the identical style. The next rebuilding is due in 2013.


Yasaka Shrine

The Yasaka Jinja in Kyoto’s Gion District was built in 656. In addition to hosting the Gion Matsuriit  is also very popular spot to celebrate Hanami, the traditional cherry blossom festival in spring.


Tôshôgu Shrine - Nikkô

The most magnificent Shrine of the Edo period is a mausoleum of the first Shogun of Tokugawa, Tokugawa Ieyasu. Usually, shrines are designed very simply – the Tôshôgu Shrine in Nikkô, with its sumptuous decorations and wood-carvings is quite an exception. Famous above all are the three monkeys of Nikkô see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.



A Mikoshi (literally: sedan-chair for the gods) is a portable Shinto-Shrine, by which the Gods (Kami) travel. It has a curved, richly decorated roof and is carried through the town during Matsuris, Japanese Shrine festivals, by young men and women shouting loudly and rhythmically.



Eihei-ji is one of the two main monasteries of Soto-Zen-Buddhism. Its name means “Temple of Eternal Peace” (“ei” = eternal, “hei” = peace, “ji” = temple).



Kinkaku-ji (literally: Golden Pavilion), a Buddhist temple in north-eastern Kyoto, is actually called Rokuon-ji (Temple of the Deer Garden). “Kinkaku” designates only the most known pavilion of the temple, which is completely coated with gold leaf.


Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Kinkaku-ji.jpg (Stephane D'Alu)
For more information please visit: http://www.sdalu.com/



Kiyomizu-dera, the Temple of Clear Water, is to be found in Eastern Kyoto. It is named after a waterfall within the Temple grounds (Otowa-no-taki), whose water is said to have healing power and to bring health, eternal life and success. The Temple’s terrace offers an impressive view of the city of Kyoto.



Todai-ji (literally: Eastern Great Temple) in Nara accommodates the hugest Buddhist statue made of bronze and is the largest building in the world to be built entirely of wood. The statue of the sitting Buddha of Nara is 16.2 meter high. The Todai-ji was built in 751 and is an UNESCO World Heritage site.

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