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6-Temizuya 手水舎 (The Water Purification Basin)

You may notice that most people avoid walking in the middle of the path to the shrine. This is because this is reserved for the kami. Until you stand right before the main shrine, you may wish to avoid walking in the middle of the path.

As Japanese people move towards the main shrine, you may see them stop at the water purification basin and rinse their hands and mouths.

In every shrine in Japan on the path to the main sanctuary, there is a water basin for visitors to rinse their hands and mouth. Usually, the water basin is made of stone, and ladles are provided.

Purification by water on entering the shrine space is essential. The idea of purification or oharai is a fundamental part of the Shinto religion. You do not have to be Japanese or a Shinto believer in order to take part in this ritual, and to maintain the sacred atmosphere of the shrine precincts we would encourage you to participate in this ritual. This ritual purifies the mind and body before proceeding to the main shrine.

The shrine basin is made of granite and was donated to the shrine in 1667 by the samurai who was in charge of the building of the current shrine. The building above it is lacquered in red, and has four carvings one on each side, mostly related to water themes.

The carving on the front of the building is of a goose amongst reeds, which is paired with a carving on the far side of a Japanese quail amongst millet, which symbolizes wishes for a good harvest.

On the left-hand side of the building is a carving of a Japanese daffodil. The flowers have a sweet fragrance, which coupled with the name of the flower, suggest purification, and are thus a word play on the purification carried out under this building. The sounds of the Chinese characters for daffodil (suisen) are the same as the sound of the two Chinese characters for purification. These word plays are very popular in Japanese culture. On the right-hand side of the building you will see a carving of a Japanese flower called a three-leaf arrowhead, which is always found at the water’s edge.

 

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