A country whose food recipes span over a longer timespan than the history of some modern nations, Japan is one place where traditional heritage and modernity exist side by side in everyday life. Japanese culture is well known for its food, polite and hardworking people, as well as its beautiful blend between the old and the new.
For those who are lucky enough to visit the country, Japan’s shrines and temples offer a glimpse into the country’s unique history and modern traditions. Japan is riddled with literally thousands of temples and shrines; some are very famous touristic destinations where visitors flock to in thousands each year, especially during festival times.
But what exactly is the Difference between Japanese Shrines and temples?
The main difference between the two structures is that shrines are Shinto, and temples are Buddhist, which are the two main religions in Japan. The Shinto religion was founded around 500 B.C; its primary tenant is the Japanese devotion to invisible spiritual beings and powers called kami and to various rituals. Kami could be ancestral spirits; gods that are associated with natural elements, such as mountains, seas, lakes; or gods with specific attributes such as the Japanese god of war Hachiman, or the god of death Shinigami.
A Shinto shrine gate is called torii; and while they have 15 different styles, they are all commonly made from wood, and look much simpler than Buddhist temple gates, which are called Sanmon. For Buddhist temples, gates usually have three entrances. Each gate is thought to represent an aspect of Buddhist training needed to achieve enlightenment: emptiness (mu; 空), formlessness (muso; 無相), no-action (musaku; 無作).
For today, I wanted to visit the Yasui Konpira-gu Shrine.
Most of us have one or two things we are unhappy about in our lives. Did you ever look back at a period in your life, where you felt overwhelmed by complicated and harmful relationships, health issues, career mishaps, etc. etc. and many other problems that drain your energy on a daily basis.
Sometimes you feel the need for a fresh start, away from all the melodrama, the sadness, and pain you experience in life. At that moment, when you say “enough is enough” to your past mishaps, and strive to find a new way of telling your life story, the universe might just send you a signal for what exactly you need to do. Or, you can get a signal for how to start.
For me, the realization of the need for a fresh start came in the form of inspiration from Japan.
But wait, what does Japanese culture have to do with breakups and new beginnings?!
Remember the Kami I mentioned above? They are believed to reside in shrines. However, since shrines house different kami’s, each one is frequented for a different reason; you could visit one shrine to ask for good luck in your business, another one to bless your love life, and a third one to pray for good health and vitality.
Tucked away in the Gion geisha and entertainment district of downtown Kyoto, Yasui Konpira-gu is a small Shrine off the beaten track where women flock to pray for breaking off bad relationships and initiating good ones. Also, the shrine enables visitors to pray for ending disease, bad habits, and harmful associations.
A ritual is performed where the visitor crawls through a hole in a large stone, known as the enkiri (separation) or enmusubi (marriage) stone. Afterward wishes written on a white, paper amulet, called katashiro, is pinned on the stone along with the thousands of others covering it. Older charms are removed and burned over time.
So while you might not be able to go all the way to Japan to visit such a temple, its story renders inspiration for the need to cut ties with harmful associations holding you back from fulfilling your highest potential. Whether you choose to take immediate action to change your life or pray your way out of it in a method unique to your particular faith, let’s take a page out of Japanese culture and let go of bad things.