How to make your dreams come true: the Japanese Shinto ritual

Dear Reader,

I bet everyone you know would love to have a formula to make their wishes and dreams come true, and the sooner the better.
Well, Stanito, big Japan fan as she is, found the way to do it. The Shinto way to do it, to be more precise.
She found it for you in the outskirts of Tokyo in a mid-summer afternoon…

As I was walking down a lovely park in the periphery of Tokyo until I found a lovely Japanese couple. I honestly didn’t have a place in mind, I was just enjoying the park, but they were headed to the Shinto Meiji temple to pray.

Now, what I found adorable is that the couple instructed me and told me everything I need to know about Shinto. I love Japan in every way so anything I learn there is precious. What it is, how you pray, what wishes you ask for, how to bow, when to bow, how many times, etc etc until the dropping of the coin and hope for your wish/dream to come true eventually.
Shinto is the Japanese religion that pays particular attention to ritual practices that have to be done diligently as the final purpose of Shinto is to establish a connection between Past and Present (hence the symbolic entrance gate that marks the transition). Having said this, Stanito embraced the new found tradition with the sole purpose of the curious final ritual: make a wish come true.

To get there, you first you need to enter the shrine by walking under the torii, a torii is a big gate that you normally find at the entrance of Shinto temples (and Buddhist temples too sometimes) in a way to resemble the transition from the profane to the sacred, past and present.  These torii were traditionally made from wood or stone, colorless, but today they can be also made of reinforced concrete or metal, as you walk under it you begin the purification that is required in order to worship. In other words it moves the worshipper spiritually from the everyday world to a place of holiness and purity.

Stanito shinto temple torii

The path might be followed by a line of lanterns along the way

Shinto Temple lantern

At some point you will reach a water basin where you use a dipper to wash both your hands, starting with the right hand

Worshippers chozubachi Stanito

Worshipper chozubachi Stanito

The actual worship happens when you arrive at the main site of the temple, normally after climbing some stairs as the worship has to take place in a sacred higher room. This is the view from outside the room with the Shinto where the priest perform the ritual with the haraegushi, the purification wooden wand that is decorated with zig-zagging paper strings (on the right side).
As you can see the aesthetics play a significant role to the shrine and to the worship reminding us the setting of a play theater.

Shinto worship

While worshippers pray just in front of it

Shinto Worshippers praying

They throw a coin into the offering box, known as sasenbako. Then they take one step back, bow twice, then clap twice. Spend a few moments in prayer and then bow again.

While this is all a very Japanese way of worshipping, Dear Reader, it is not precisely the point I want to make here.
After the worshipping, I thanked my new friends for showing so kindly their tradition to a foreigner and I was ready to continue my adventure. But as I was about to walk away the girl said that after worshipping there is a tradition to write down a wish or dream onto a wooden plaque, called ema. I was curious so I followed them until I found this

Stanito ema shinto temple

Like in the photo, I was told that the Ema are often left hanging at the shrine where the Kami (Gods or Spirits) will come to receive them.
Wishes vary from wish for success in work, exams, love bliss, good health, etc. I can’t read Japanese so I asked the couple to read few ones out loud just to have an idea 🙂 (hoping that none of the authors was nearby during the reading).

The Ema come from an ancient tradition where people would offer a horse to a certain shrine in order to be granted good favors. Over time the tradition of the horse shifted to wooden plaques with horse drawings on them as a reminder of the ancient tradition. Today the Ema tradition still remains but with modern manga drawings

Rabbit Ema Stanito

Ema shinto wish 2

Ema shinto wish 3

Ema shinto wish 4

Ema shinto wish 5

Ema shinto wish

Oh, and for the 1980’s Manga lovers… The famous thief Arsenio Lupin

Lupin is everywhere!

Once again, Stanito embraced the Nipponic tradition and asked for a wish 🙂

The wish came true eventually, so I say this cute tradition might really have something to it.



2 thoughts on “How to make your dreams come true: the Japanese Shinto ritual

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