Translated by Nicola
Temple and Shrine Charms: What's the Difference?
People who visit shrines or temples often buy a charm. These charms are said to be infused with the power of the gods to bring you luck.Let's learn more!
Written by OsawaKimie
People who visit a temple often buy a charm. These charms are said to be infused with the power of the gods to bring you luck. There are various different types of charms, from protection against misfortune, to bringing good luck, and, depending on the gods of the temple, there are different divine favors each charm brings.
Actually, did you know that there’s a big difference between charms from a Buddhist temple and those from a Shinto shrine? Let’s take a look at Asakusa Shrine and Sensoji Temple to uncover the secrets of these charms.
Temple Charms (Sensoji Temple)
Sensoji Temple, which boasts a long 1400-year-old history, is known as the place where the statue of Kannon Buddha, the Buddha of Mercy, is enshrined.
At their display, you can see they have especially potent charms for the prevention of traffic accidents and the prevention of academic problems. Generally, amulets are sold in small bags, but there are also pendants unique to Sensoji known as gold charms. There are also some shaped like lotus with an image of the Kannon on them, known as lotus charms, and many more. Each charm's appearance changes the way that its luck works. Charms such as these, which come directly from the temple, have had sutras chanted and incense burned over them, which is referred to as “the gift of prayer”.
Not only charms, but copied sutras themselves are also sold, as well as images of the Kannon. Because the temple’s purpose is “for monks to live and study the doctrine”, such copying of the sutras may be considered a form of study.
Shrine Charms (Asakusa Shrine)
Shrines are scattered everywhere in Japan as places where gods live. Asakusa Shrine, located just near Sensoji Temple, is a place where three gods, referred to simply as the Three Gods, are enshrined. These gods are known to give their divine favour to earnest prayers. If you’re interested in the history of Asakusa shrine, please refer to this article:
The shrine offers an English translation of all their displays, even their charms. It allows even foreign travellers to buy a good luck charm confidently.
Among a number of charms, there’s an especially noticeable one called the Don’t worry. Everything will be okay charm. Such a simple and reassuring message has attracted attention online as well as in the shrine. The charms, containing god’s spirit, are created by performing rituals over them and they can only work when carried next to the skin.
Over here are amulets for longevity, fortune, and good luck. The sweet charm with its rounded design is popular among women. By the way, there has been a recent development with charms in Shinto shrines that if it becomes just a little unclean or old, it should be replaced in order to retain purity.
In addition to all of this, you can get a paper charm, known as Mishio, placed into your hand. In Shinto, it is believed that salt has the power to clean the mind and body of evil thoughts and spirits. Therefore, these envelopes contain some salt taken from rituals for events like festivals or sumo competitions.
So these are differences between charms from “Temples” and “Shrines”. It may be hard to tell the difference from appearance alone, but the religions reflected in the charms are very different. If you’re going to a temple or shrine, why not stop a while at the charm display?
Address: 2-3-1 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Wi-Fi environment: None
Other Language Guides: English, Chinese, and Korean
Nearest station: each line Asakusa Station
Access: 5-minute walk from Tobu Sky Tree Line Asakusa Station
5-minute walk from Tokyo Metro Ginza Line Asakusa Station
5-minute walk from Tsukuba Express Asakusa Station 5 minutes
5-minute walk from the A4 Exit of Toei Asakusa Line Asakusa Station
Religious Orientation: Buddhism
Official Website: Sensoji Temple
Address: 2-3-1 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Hours: Free to walk around anytime
Shrine Time: 9:00–16:30
Regular holiday: a week
Nearest station: a 7-minute walk from Toei Asakusa line Metro Ginza line and Tobu Isesaki Line Asakusa Station
Religious Orientation: Shinto
Official Website: Asakusa Shrine