A Shrine or a Temple?
In Japan, shrines serve the Shinto tradition, while temples serve Buddhists. Shrines have an entrance gate, called torii, to separate the holy ground from the secular world and a water pavillon, called the temizuya, to purify the body. At their altar, people ring a bell to greet the deity, throw coins as an offering, and clap their hands twice to express their appreciation. Prayers are written on small wooden plaques, named ema, which will rattle when the wind blows. Buddhist temples always house a statue of Buddha and display pagodas, those multi-tiered towers associated with Asian culture, and they smell of incense too.
That is the theory. In practice, you will find water pavilions in many Japanese temples as well as votive tablets and small torii gates. In Japan, both religions coexist peacefully. It is more than a coexistence: many Japanese people believe in both religions. Shinto and Buddhism were naturally mixed together for centuries. It was only in 1868, after the Meiji Restoration, that the government ordered the separation of Shinto from Buddhism. However, syncretism – the mixing of different traditions – is present in Japan. Buddhist-style fire rituals, shintoist prayers, and indigenous mountain mysticism are often amalgamated. This soundscape has been recorded in different temples and shrines around Kyoto, during my sampling session in Japan, in spring 2017.