The difference between “Shrines” and “Temples”, The history of them

仏教(ぶっきょう): Buddhism

Japanese article is here;

At first

Hello everyone! This is MIKA.

Now, I have a question for you whether you’ve been to Japan or not.

What is this illustration, a shrine or a temple?

The answer is a shrine! Because there is the gate called “Torii” in Japanese.

Like that, shrines and temples are similar but they have some different points so it’s easy to distinguish!

Then, let’s learn about the difference of them and their history!

What is “a shrine”?

The basic information

A shrine is the place to deify Japanese Gods; some of them are Gods in Japanese mythology, and others are the local Gods and so on.

For details, please read these articles.

“What is Shinto?” ①:

“What is Shinto?”②:

“What is Shinto?”③:

“What is Shinto?”④:

“What is Shinto?”⑤:

The people who works there

In shrines, “Kannushi”(men) and “Miko”(women) works. “Kannushi” is a generic name of the men who works there, and the leader of them are “Guuji”.

They work for a wedding in their shrine, a purification, “Hatsumoude”(The first visiting in that year), and “Shichigosan”.

What is “a temple”?

The basic information

A temple is the place for Buddhism. There are some priests who practice Buddhism and they hold a funeral.

The people who works there

There are some Buddhism priests who hold a funeral, tell about the Buddhism for the people, and manage their temple and graveyard.

There are graves in a temple

Some temples have a graveyard. On the other hand, there is no grave in a shrine because it’s a not religious facility. It’s one of the difference between a shrine and a temple.

That’s why people visit a temple on the Vernal Equinox Day and the Autumnal Equinox Day, Obon, and the deathday of their ancestors and relatives.

There are Buddhist statues in a temple

And, there is some Buddhist statues definitely as the object for an admiration.

In addition, there are the statues of the Gods of Buddhism.

For example, this is the illustration of “The statue of ASHURA” in Koufukuji-temple, Nara prefecture. “ASHURA” was originally one of the Indian Gods, but it will be the God of Buddhism. It was very popular and the figures were so sold.

The history of Shintoism and Buddhism in Japan

The syncretization of Shintoism and Buddhism


Buddhism has come to Japan in Asuka era, from 592 to 710.

At first, some powerful families opposed whether we accept Buddhism or not. This is the dispute over the worship or abolishment of Buddhism.

After the civil war, the family which worship Buddhism won, and Japan accepted Buddhism. And people built a temple and put a Buddhism statue in shrines. We call it “The syncretization of Shintoism and Buddhism”.

Houryuji-temple in Nara prefecture, which had been built in 607, is the oldest building in Japan.

Buddhism has spreaded from Asuka era【592~710】to Nara era【710~794】. And Toudaiji-temple in Nara prefecture had been built in 751, and the emperor ordered to build a big Buddism statue to save people from an epidemic and a starvation.

The separation of Shintoism and Buddhism

In Edo era【1603~1868】, Norinaga Motoori created “Kokugaku”, the study of Japanese classical literature.

Japan has been influenced by China, India, Portugal, and Netherlands, so Norinaga thought “What is Japan?” and he found it was the important theme to study.

And the main theme of ”Kokugaku” is “Shintoism”.

By the appearance of that, the idea to distinguish Shintoism and Buddhism had been separated because Buddhism came from other country; we call it “The separation of Shintoism and Buddhism”.

The ordinance to distinguish Shintoism and Buddhism

In Meiji era【1868~1902】, Meiji government said “The emperor is the descendant of Japanese Gods from the mythology, and also he is the God of us”. And the government decided Shintoism was the state religion of Japan, and ordered people to remove Buddhism from shrines. This is “The ordinance to distinguish Shintoism and Buddhism”.

Because of that, temples and statues were destoroied, and shrines and temples were completely separated. This social phenomenon is called “Haibutsu-kisyaku movement”.

However, after WW2, the thought that “The emperor is the God” was abolished by GHQ. And in 1946, “Constitution of Japan” was established in 1946; it approves a religious liberty and a popular sovereignty.

Final comment

How was it?

Shirines and temples are very similar, but you can distinguish them from today!

And please tell to someone the difference and the history of them.