The Difference: Otera (Temples) vs Jinja (Shrines)

If you have a chance to stroll around a city in Japan, you will see 2 types of sacred spots scattered there, which are Japanese temples “Otera (お寺)” and shrines “Jinja (神社)“. Then, how is the Otera temple different from the Jinja shine?

4 Fundamental Differences between Otera and Jinja

According to the Japanese website,, there are following 4 fundamental differences between Otera temples and Jinja shrines.

1. Religion

A Buddhist Temple “Otera (お寺)”A Buddhist Temple Otera

The Japanese temple, Otera belongs to the Buddhist religion, while the Japanese shrine, Jinja belongs to “Shinto (神道)” that is recognized as one of the state religions of Japan.

The teachings of Buddhism and the ones of Shinto are completely different, which results in differences in outward appearance between Otera and Jinja. Besides, while at least one priest lives in the precincts of Otera, that doesn’t necessarily apply to Jinja.

2. Torii Gate

The Torii Gate of a Jinja Shinto ShrineThe Torii Gate of a Jinja Shinto Shrine

As a difference in outward appearance, while the Jinja shrine definitely has at least one gateway called “Torii (鳥居)” in its grounds, the Otera temple doesn’t have the unique-shaped gate (mostly red-colored) Torii.

3. Graves

Graves in the grounds of OteraGraves in the grounds of Otera

As another difference in outward appearance between Otera and Jinja, while there are graves, more or less, in the grounds of Otera, Jinja shrines don’t have any graves.

4. Name

The name of Otera Buddhist temples mostly ends with the word “寺”, like “Senso-ji (浅草寺)”, “Todai-ji (東大寺)”, and “Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺)”, while the name of Jinja Shinto shrines ends with either “社” or “宮”.


Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. For the purpose of enriching your life, I would like to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures, and facts and trivia.

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