Shrine and Temple, basic difference and how to distinguish them when you find either of them in Japan?
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Now you understand very basics of Shinto and Buddhism. But as a tourist, how shall you distinguish shrines and temples?

The easiest way is to check the entrance. If it has a gate made from either wood or stone, it should be a shrine. Originally the gate was the entrance of a spiritual zone which separate human world and holy zone.

Stone shrine gate

If it has an incense burner (jokoro), it is a sign of a temple. At the incent burner, people clean themselves with the smoke and its aroma before moving forward. Also, if you find grave stones inside or around, that place is a temple.

Incense burner

Incense burner

Other objects, such as offertory box (saisen bako), a place for ritual cleansing of hands and mouth with water (temizu-sha), fortune slips (omikuji), stone-carved guardian dogs (koma-inu) and wooden votive tablets (ema) can be found in both shrines and temples. This happens as Shinto and Buddhism was not sharply divided during ancient times.

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