While traveling across Japan, it is highly likely you will step into at least one temple or shrine. The architecture, history, culture, and natural beauty of temples and shrines make them great places to visit. There are a few rules you may not be familiar with that are common across the country. It is important to follow the rules to help preserve these religious sites and allow others to have a pleasant experience.
Take Shoes Off Before Entering a Building
This may seem basic, but it is not always obvious to visitors that you are expected to remove footwear before entering buildings. There is an area you can take shoes off and put them in a storage bin or leave to the side. Slippers are typically provided by the site for visitors to use while touring the interior. It is acceptable to walk around in socks if your feet are too big to fit into slippers. If you wear a men's size 10 or larger shoe, you should plan to wear thicker crew socks as a precaution.
Follow the Guide Arrows and Path
It is important to travel along the designated route inside buildings to help keep the flow of foot traffic moving. You may be asked to not stop along the way if the site is very busy and crowded. In addition, staying on pathways prevents damage to the grounds and floorboards not protected for visitors.
Do Not Take Photos Where Prohibited
There may be signs posted asking visitors to refrain from taking flash photos or pictures in general. One reason for this is to protect paintings and other art from damage and deterioration due to the intensity of a camera flash. Another is to prevent traffic from slowing down due to everyone taking a picture of the same thing. Third, temples and shrines want to prevent pictures taken of treasured artifacts and encourage gift shop sales. Regardless of the reasoning, you should respect the signs posted.
You Can Participate in Various Cultural Practices
When visiting a temple or shrine, you may see other visitors breathe incense or take a sip from flowing water with a wooden cup or other instrument. It is acceptable to follow their lead by saying a prayer and also partaking in these cultural practices.
Ask About Shuinchou Stamps Before Taking a Tour
You should ask how each temple and shrine stamps a shuinchou book or look for signs upon entering, The reason is because some places are busy and will collect them at the beginning of a tour to complete. Others may give a pre-made insert to put in a book. The most enjoyable experience is watching someone create the stamp, but this is not always the case. Keep in mind that not all temples and shrines provide stamp opportunities for a shuinchou.