by Toru Yasui
When I was a young child, I used to play on Shinto shrine grounds. I went there to catch cicadas in summer and gather nuts in autumn, in the thick woods surrounding the shrine buildings. I became a Christian in 1989, and since then have seldom gone to Shinto shrines. However, I happened to enter the grounds of a shrine in April 2016, when I was hiking down a mountain. Looking around, I was surprised, because I realized the structure of the shrine resembled Israel’s tabernacle despite the fact that it looked very Japanese.
Figure 1 is the photo I took then of the Amada Shinto shrine. Figure 2 is a bird’s eye view picture which was displayed at the entrance of the front building, from which we can learn about the structure. The peculiar gate (Fig. 3) which stands in front of the shrine represents the first border which separates the holy place from the secular world. Those who come to pray usually have to come through the gate and then wash their hands and mouths at the water place on the right hand side, called ‘Temizuya’ (Fig. 4). This reminded me of a verse in the Old Testament.
He put the washbasin (laver) between the Tent and the altar and filled it with water. …. his sons washed their hands and their feet there whenever they went into the Tent or the altar, … (Exodus 40:30-32)
The front building is the worshiping place called the ‘Haiden,’ and the building behind the Haiden is called the ‘Honden’. Honden is the god’s throne, and a curtain separates the Honden and the Haiden. People are not allowed to enter the Honden.