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Keeping Cool at the “Water-Splashing Festival” (Japan in Photos)

Participants carrying a portable shrine get drenched in Tokyo’s Fukagawa Hachiman Festival on August 13, 2017. The liberal dousing of teams with water by spectators is all part of the traditional summer fun at this event, also known as the mizukake matsuri (water-splashing festival). It continues until August 15. (© Jiji)

Huge Crowd Gathers to Perform Yoga at Kyoto Shrine (Japan in Photos)

A crowd of 1,300 people performing yoga in front of a large torii gate at Heian Shrine in Kyoto. The June 18 gathering of aficionados, planned by a local organization and the Indian consulate for Osaka and Kobe, came three days ahead of International Yoga Day. “It gave me a feeling of peace to spend this period of calm together with so many other people,” said Takashima Misa, a Kyoto resident …

An Ancient Shintō Ritual with a New “Sense” of Cleanliness (Japan in Photos)

Customarily, visitors to Shintō shrines use a hishaku dipper to scoop water and ceremonially cleanse the hands and mouth before praying. But the four-century-old Maebashi Tōshōgū in Gunma Prefecture has simplified the process by trading its traditional temizuya, where worshippers conduct the cleansing ritual, for an updated version equipped with automatic sensors. This photo from April 20, 201…

Shintō’s Sacred Forests and Japanese EnvironmentalismToya Manabu

Toya Manabu explores the historical and spiritual connections between Shintō shrines, the sacred forests that surround them, and environmentalism in Japan.

Nature Worship in Old ShintōToya Manabu

Before Shintō came to be practiced in constructed shrines, it was centered on the direct worship of nature itself. Toya Manabu surveys the various objects of worship that formed the original focus of Shintō belief.

“Shōzoku”: The Shintō VestmentsToya Manabu

The 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 OfficeToya Manabu

When 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 TreeToya Manabu

At 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 StructureToya Manabu

The 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 SpaceToya Manabu

A 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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