Ostara (The spring equinox) dawned grey and wet. Not that that deterred long time Puget Sound residents like us, who have traffic problems when the sun actually comes out because everyone is so busy gawking. First stop?
Before reaching the temple you walk through this lovely open air market. We went through before 10am so not everything was open yet but between that and the rain while I didn’t get many photos, we also weren’t super crowded. I kept getting confused about whether this was a Temple or a Shrine, because Tori gates mean shrines. The answer is that the temple shares the grounds with the Asakusa Shrine. (Temples are Buddhist and shrines are Shinto religion, but they often keep company in Japan)
The proper way to show respect if there is a place of water with ladles is to pour water on your left hand, washing it. Switch hands and pour water on your right. Then pour water in your cupped hand and rinse your mouth before lifting the ladle straight up so the water runs down the handle rinsing it off before setting it back.
I saw it as both practical and respectful. Having the opportunity to clean my hand was one I found myself appreciating, especially as many shrine and temple paths are lined with food vendors selling tempting things on sticks.
There is also a wafting of incense smoke, and one can buy incense to light and add to the bowl to carry a prayer. Some places have candles to buy and light (some pre-purposed, some blank). There are fortunes (if you get a bad one you tie it up to change your luck), and lucky charms. Those I found varied with the focus of the shrine or temple. Some focused on health, others learning, or safety. There was some overlap, but you couldn’t, say, buy a charm to pass exams at the Inari Shrine. If a charm is in a bag you never open it, and after it has worn out you can return it to where it came from to be properly burned and get another. You wear them outside rather then kept safe in a bag, and the wear they get is good. It means they are taking the bad instead of you.
To people who don’t even believe in the power of belief, I suppose it could be seen as a way to part people from their money, but most of these places have no entrance fee to visit. As beautiful as they are, they must take work to maintain. Wood and bamboo age easily, moss needs to stay wet, gardens carefully shaped and tended. I tried to get a little something at each place that stole a piece of my heart to say thank you. And if you do believe? I bought only those charms that made my hands tingle, or in one case felt like picking up lightning. And only once did I truly buy for myself. It seemed better somehow holding something I could feel was real, to not keep it for myself but to gift it to someone who needed it more than I. Even the Ofuda (house charm) I thought I bought for myself at Mt. Inari let me know quite soon that it was meant for another. Who am I to argue with a Fox spirit?