Understanding Shinto: Part I, Cleansing before entering

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Certainly, any traveler to Japan is bound to visit at least one shrine during their sojourn.  Whether it's the giant Meiji Shrine in the heart of Tokyo or some modest establishment in the inaka, or countryside, the practices and traditions at Shinto shrines are universal.  In this article, I would like to explain how to purify yourself before entering any shrine in Japan.
As you approach the shrine, there will typically be a covered fountain off to the side with ladles resting atop some sort of latticework.  The water from this fountain is used for cleansing prior to entering the Shrine for worship.  Do not fret if you are not a practicing member of Shinto--all are welcome and encouraged to partake in the traditions.
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Step 1: The first step is to pick up the ladle in the right hand.  Scoop some water and use it to cleanse your left hand.  Make sure the runoff falls onto the ground or the drainage area at the base of the fountain, and not back into the fountain itself (it has to stay clean for the rest of the cleansing!).  
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Step 2: Next, transfer the ladle to the left hand, scoop some water, and cleanse your right hand.
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Step 3: The next step is to return the ladle to the right hand, pour some water back into your left hand, and then bring the water from your hand to your mouth.  As uncouth as it may seem, give a quick swish or gargle and then spit (do not drink it) the water back into the drainage area at your feet.
Step 4: Now for the final step, scoop some water in the ladle and tip it up so the water drains down the handle of the ladle--you have to make sure that is clean for the next person in line, of course!

And that's it--you're ready to enter the shrine for worship (or sightseeing!).

Mike B