Customs & Manners

Customs in Daily Life


Basically, it is good manners to finish your meal without leaving any leftovers. In restaurants, order only the amount of food you can eat. When Japanese people say “Itadakimasu” before starting to eat and “Gochisōsama” after finishing eating, they are expressing their gratitude for the lives of the plants and animals that went into the meal and to the person who prepared the meal.


Each locality has its own detailed rules on how to sort and dispose of garbage. Check the type of garbage before disposing of it.

Taking Off Shoes

There are many occasions when you need to take off your shoes. If there is a raised floor (like tatami flooring) or a shoe box at the entrance of the inn, guest house, temple, clinic, or someone’s house, it is a sign to take off your shoes.


Even if you have taken off your shoes and changed into the slippers provided, you need to take off your slippers when entering a tatami room. Slippers are usually used only for wooden floors.


In Japan, service charges are usually included in the price, so tipping is not required.
Although it is not required or expected, if you feel inspired to tip your guide or ryokan or inn, it will likely be appreciated and accepted.

Pilgrimage Customs

Culture of Hospitality (Osettai)

Culture of Hospitality (Osettai) In Shikoku, it is customary to call pilgrims “ohenro-san” and to look after them by offering them food or driving them to their next destination. For the locals, this is a volunteer activity, but at the same time, the pilgrims have religious value as they visit distant temples on their behalf. Because of this, it is considered good manners not to refuse osettai. Politely thank them for their hospitality, and give them a name slip (osamefuda) if you have one with you.

Manners at Temples

No Photos

In some temples, taking photos or videos is prohibited. Especially for Buddhist statues and altars, there are often restrictions. Please check and follow the posted signs.

Walk on the Left Side

When in the temple grounds, it is considered respectful to keep to the left when approaching the temple, entering the gate and climbing the stone steps. The name slip box and offering box are located up one step.  Go up from the left side and down from the right side in a clockwise direction.


Before entering a restroom, remove your monk’s stole (wagesa), sedge hat (sugegasa), sutra books, prayer beads (juzu), etc. Failure to do so means you will be bringing the Gohonzon and Odaishi into impurity. The white robe (hakue) usually has “南無大師遍照金剛 Namu Daishi Henjō Kongō” written on the back. If the white robe has nothing written on it, it is fine to keep it on.

Worshipping Procedure at the Temples

While it is not necessary to follow all of the steps below, here are some general procedures for making a visit to a temple.

Main Gate


Upon arriving at the temple, stop in front of the main gate, and take off your hat as this is the boundary between the secular world and the sacred area. Bow once in the direction of the main hall. Be sure that you step over and not on the threshold between the outside and the temple grounds.
Water Purification Stand 手水舎
Just inside the main gate you will find the water purification stand .
Using one of the ladles provided, wash your hands and rinse your mouth to purify your body inside and out. The order of doing this is as follows:
1. First pour water over your left palm.
2. Switch hands and pour water over your right palm.
3. Switch hands once more and pour water into your left palm, then either sip a little water from your palm and spit it out or just bring it up to touch your lips.
4. Finally, tip the ladle so that the handle points towards the ground and allow any remaining water in the cup to run down the handle and onto the ground. This cleans the ladle for the next person to use.
Bell Tower 鐘楼
Strike the bell once. This is to let the main deity know that you have come to visit the temple. (In some temples, visitors are not allowed to ring the bell.) It is considered bad luck to ring the bell on the way out of the temple as it will take away any wisdom you might have found while worshipping.
Main Hall  本堂
1. Proceed to the main hall and offer one candle and three sticks of incense, one each for the past, the present and the future.
2. In front of the main hall, place your name slip and a hand-copied sutra in the offering box.
3. There is a bell called “waniguchi” with a long string hanging down. Gently ring it once.
4. Gently drop your coins into the monetary offertory box. Do not throw them in, but drop them in the box with gratitude.
5. After giving a donation, clap your hands together and begin chanting the Heart Sutra. The procedure is to chant the Heart Sutra while looking at your sutra book, as well as the sermon of the principal image and the Gohōzō sutra, but it is also acceptable to simply join your hands in prayer.
Daishi Hall 大師堂
Perform the exact same ritual as at the Main Hall.
Stamp Office 納経所
At the temple office, a calligrapher will stamp your book with the temple’s vermilion seal, and add the date and temple name in skillful ink strokes in your nōkyōchō (stamp book). You will also receive a separate miei (a piece of paper with an image slip of the temple’s deity).
Temple offices usually open from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., but if you arrive at the office just before closing time, you may be able to receive the stamp before visiting the temple.
Main Gate 山門
Turn around and bow deeply once more.

Trail Etiquette

Stay on the course.

Do not enter private property or farmland without permission.

Cherish nature.

Rare and endangered species of plants and animals may live there. Be careful not to damage the ecosystem.

Cherish historical sites and cultural assets.

When doing the Shikoku Pilgrimage, please follow the respective rules of worship.

Take all garbage with you.

Do not throw away paper, plastic, food and drinks on the ground or in the rivers.

Stay overnight in designated areas.

You may camp in campgrounds and in areas where it is permitted to pitch a tent, but do not camp anywhere else.

Be considerate of others.

Be considerate toward others.

Greetings are basic good manners.

Please be considerate of both other visitors and locals so that everyone can spend their time in a pleasant environment.