Views Insider’s Guide to Shintō Shrines
“Haiden”: The Hall of Worship

Toya Manabu [Profile]

[2016.08.02] Read in: 日本語 | 简体字 | 繁體字 | FRANÇAIS | ESPAÑOL | Русский |

At last we come to the haiden, where visitors pray or pay their respects to the kami, or gods of the shrine. Here worshippers put money into the donation box, ring the bell, and perform the prayer ritual described in this article.

We have reached the haiden, where visitors pray or pay their respects to the kami, or gods of the shrine. The prayers offered up outside the haiden are what we call ryakushiki sanpai, or simplified worship. A more complete prayer ritual, referred to as seishiki (formal) sanpai or jōden (in-hall) sanpai, is conducted inside.

To offer a prayer outside the hall, put some money into the donation box (saisen-bako), ring the bell, and perform the prayer ritual described below.

Those who wish to complete the formal jōden sanpai pay a fee (called the tamagushi-ryō) to have a ritual purification rite (oharai) and chanted prayer (norito) performed by a priest. The worshipper then offers up the tamagushi—a sakaki branch with shide streamers attached—at the altar and performs the prayer ritual below.

The prayer ritual at most shrines consists of two bows, two claps, and a final bow. Exceptions to the rule are Izumo Taisha and Usa Jingū, where priests clap four times, and Ise Shrine, where they bow and clap eight times.

Takachiho Shrine, Takachiho, Miyazaki Prefecture

Ōmiwa Shrine, Sakurai, Nara Prefecture

Kanasana Shrine, Kamikawa, Saitama Prefecture

Suwa Taisha, Nagano Prefecture

Nogi Shrine, Minato, Tokyo

Naminoue Shrine, Naha, Okinawa Prefecture

Shintō Shrine Prayer Ritual

1. Carefully drop some money into the donation box.

2. Ring the bell.

3. Stand straight, then bow twice deeply, bending from the hips with a straight back.

4. Clap your hands twice.

5. Offer your prayer.

6. Bow deeply once more.

(Banner photo: Haiden at Suwa Taisha, Nagano Prefecture. Video produced with the cooperation of Nogi Shrine, Tokyo.)

▼Further reading
Your Virtual Guide to the Shintō Shrine Torii: Gates to the Sacred Spaces “Sandō”: The Worshipper’s Path
“Shimenawa”: The Sacred Rope “Temizuya”: The Cleansing Ritual “Komainu”: The Shrine’s Guardian Figures


  • [2016.08.02]

Writer and Shintō priest. Born in Saitama Prefecture. Graduated from the Department of Shintō Studies at Kokugakuin University. Author of Shintō nyūmon (Introduction to Shintō), Fuji-san, 2200-nen no himitsu (Mount Fuji’s 2,200-year Secrets), and other works.

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Other articles in this report
  • “Shōzoku”: The Shintō VestmentsThe clothing worn by priests and priestesses at Shintō shrines is unlike anything you will see elsewhere in Japan. Here we describe the styles of traditional vestments that are part of the Shintō experience.
  • “Shamusho”: The Shrine OfficeWhen not engaging in religious rites, priests and shrine personnel may rest in the shamusho, or shrine office. Here visitors can also obtain talismans to protect their homes and selves with the blessing of the shrine’s kami.
  • “Shintai, Shinboku”: The Divine Object or TreeAt the heart of the shrine, never viewed by visitors, is the shintai, the “divine body” of the kami. At some shrines this is an object, like a jewel or sword; at others, it is a natural feature like a mountain or shinboku, a divine tree.
  • “Honden”: The Main Sanctuary StructureThe structure called the honden is the heart of the Shintō facility, where its kami is enshrined. Observing the details of honden architecture can tell the visitor much about the nature of the shrine and its deity.
  • “Tamagaki”: Fence Around the Sacred SpaceA fence called the tamagaki encloses the shrine's innermost sanctum, setting it off from the outside world and marking a border between the sacred and the profane. Some shrines feature more than one tamagaki, which in its earliest form was a living hedge surrounded by a brushwood fence.

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