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How to Properly Pray at a Temple

How to Properly Pray at a Temple

Translated by Shannon McNaught

Written by Mako Hayashi

2015.09.22 Bookmark

Everyone can freely pray at a temple when coming to Japan. Just follow these simple steps if you want to know how to do it correctly.

Let's Pray at a Temple


Much like shrines, temples are built in all shapes in sizes throughout Japan.

Even at temples, anyone can enter the temple grounds freely.

Today, we'll give you a lecture on the basics of praying at a temple. There are some slight differences between this and The Correct Way Of Praying At A Shinto Shrine; it could be interesting to compare the differences!

Related article: The Correct Way Of Praying At A Shinto Shrine
Related article: Temple or Shrine, What’s the Difference?

How to Properly Pray at a Temple

1. Bow at the Sanmon


They come in many different shapes, but this is an example of a sanmon at the entrance of a temple. Temples were originally built on mountains. That's how their entrances came to be called sanmon, or "mountain gates".

Bow here as a greeting. You should bow at at least a 45-degree angle.

2. Cleanse Your Body at the Chozuya

If there is a chozuya, or a space where you can wash your hands, do so here.

This is in order to purify your body and mind before prayer.

Don't worry if you can't find one; there are plenty of temples that don't have one.


The order is the same as at a temple. Fill up the spoon-like tool called a hishaku with water, wash your left hand, and then your right hand.


Next, cup some water in your left hand and wet your mouth with it. Wash your left hand one more time.


Lastly, hold the hishaku in front of you and pour the water so that it flows down the handle, thereby cleansing it. Now you're finished.

3. Make an Offer, in Front of the Main Building


Make a money offering, also called saisen in the box placed in front of the main temple hall. The amount of money you put in is up to you.

Depending on the temple, you can also ring a bell called bonshuu or light incense. These usually cost extra.

If you want to ring the bell or burn incense, do this before offering saisen money.

4. Before the Front of the Main Temple Hall


Press your palms together without linking your fingers and bow the upper half of your body.

Normally, you don't have to chant when praying. The words you chant vary depending on Buddhist sects. If you'd like to know the correct words to chant at a temple, try asking its priest.

The most important thing to note is that you don't clap your hands at a temple. This is perhaps the biggest difference between praying at a shrine and praying at a temple.


When you've finished praying, give one more bow and exit the main area.

5. Finally, Give One Last Bow at the Sanmon


When you exit the main grounds, bow once more at the sanmon.

Try and Pray at a Temple for Yourself!


There are many things to see at temples, such as this artistic Buddhist statue of Jizo (地蔵). Just viewing these things is enough to pay a visit.

But if you want to go all-out visiting a temple, try praying at them as well. It's a great way to experience authentic Japanese culture.

The information presented in this article is based on the time it was written. Note that there may be changes in the merchandise, services, and prices that have occurred after this article was published. Please contact the facility or facilities in this article directly before visiting.

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