The Jinja, or shrine, has been an integral part of Shinto in both modern and ancient times. It is a place where humans gather to worship and kami gather to be worshipped. It is a sacred place that both marks and bypasses the boundaries between the mundane and spiritual worlds, allowing mortals to enter the domain of the gods.
Shrines are usually located in wooded, natural areas. In front of a shrine is the torii, a sacred gate between the land of mortals and the sacred land of the gods. Passing through this gate, which has come to stand as an internationally recognized symbol for the Shinto faith, marks the transporation into a holy space.
Statues of guardian spirits are often placed at the entrance to the shrine as protection against evil spirits and the like.
Upon entering, visitors to a shrine wash their hands and mouth for purification. Altars are set up to various kami, as well as the highly revered ancestors. Visitors to a shrine will often leave gifts and offerings to honor the powerful spirits honored within. They can also purchase small scrolls of paper and wooden plates. Wishes are written on these and tied to trees as a means of sending the wishes to the kami.
To see some beautiful pictures of Shinto Shrines, click here.