This Awase Shrine was built around 1938. All visitors are welcome. When you enter the shrine you will either enter from one of its two sides (north or south). You will see a big structure to the east that is called a "Torii". It is an entrance telling you that you are going into a sacred place. To the west, you will see the following building.
This is the office/store at the Shrine. Here you can ask for a guide or pamphlet. Unfortunately, they did not have one in English. It was only in Japanese. Hold on to it though. On the map it shows 8 other places of interest in Awase.
Here you can also purchase "Omamori" or good luck charm. Omamori stands for "protection". They cost about 500 Yen. You can take it with you and put it in your car or something.
As a note, visitors should be aware that the people who work at this office are volunteers from the town of Awase. They may not speak English and may not have detail knowledge of the Shrine itself.
NOW YOU ARE ABOUT TO ENTER THE SHRINE...
This is the main Torii (traditional Japanese Gate). You will enter here before you go into the main part of the shrine. Some people do a slight bow before they cross the Torii.
|The Main Torii or Japanese Gate|
When you enter the gate, you will see on both the left and right, a rope with ornaments tied to it.
You will see that people tie "Omamori" or "Good Luck" charms to it. There are also wood placards that people tie on it with the current Chinese Zodiac animal. In 2011, it was the "Year of the Rabbit". People write there annual wish for that year and tie the placards on the rope.
THE PURIFICATION FOUNTAIN
Next you are about to approach the "Purification Fountain". Now before you do this, I think most Okinawans understand that not all foreigners understand this custom of purifying one's body before entering a sacred place. When I first went I did not do it, mainly cause I did not understand the custom. From doing research and asking around I will lay out the steps for you (below the picture). The whole idea is that you are about to enter a very sacred portion of the shrine and that one must cleanse him or herself before entering.
Steps to Purification...
(Note: this fountain is different some of your traditional fountains. Here, the water pours from a modern looking faucet where you have to push a button. Some more traditional fountains have a pool of water as the water source).
1. Approach the fountain and with your right hand, pick up the ladle and with the faucet, pour water into it.
2. Pour the water to clean your left hand. NOTE: In traditional fountains where you have to scoop the "pure water" you do not let the water fall back into the "pure water basin". Let the water fall on the surrounding outlet so you are not letting the 'Dirty' water fall back into the "pure water basin". Dirty as in remnants of the world you just came from. Here at the Awase Shrine, there is no "pure water" basin. Just let it fall into the water drainage.
3. Next, take the ladle with the left hand and pour the water over your right hand cleaning it as well.
4. (Optional) Next, you are to clean the body by taking the ladle with the right hand and making a cup with your left hand. Pour water into your left hand and with your left hand pour the water into your mouth. DO NOT SWALLOW IT or GARGLE LOUD. Just rinse it quietly in your mouth for a few seconds and quietly spit it out. Try to do this in a very respectful manner. I wouldn't spit it out like you would toothpaste from your mouth after you have just brushed your teeth. (As a note, I have heard that some people skip this step, or that it was considered an option).
5. Finally, you will take the ladle with your right hand again, pour some water into it and the tip the ladle up so that the water pours down the ladle. You are cleaning the ladle.
Going to the Altar...
Now you are about to approach the main altar of the shrine. You are going to enter another, but smaller Torii or gate before you get to the altar-like structure. Again, some people do a slight bow just before crossing the Torii.
In front of the structure you will see a offertory box. Here you can give some yen (10 yen to 100 yen should be okay).
After you give your offering, you bow twice then clap twice (quietly), then bow once again. Some people just bow and clap twice. Different sources may vary.
Here is one source you can read (Source 1) when going to a Purification Fountain and the offertory box. This source was based on the Shinto Shrine in Kyoto. The pamphlet they issue does not give any formal instruction on how to purify your body or to pay respect to the shrine.
Recommendations: Bring some water and a camera. There is a kid's park right next to the shrine, so bringing a lunch box may not be a bad idea. There is also a tall yellow building next to the kid's park. It has a large Buddhist-like temple bell at the top.I don't know what that is....yet. I definitely want to find out. I'll save that for another time. But for now, enjoy the shrine!
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