The Difference: Otera (Temple) vs Jinja (Shrine)

If you have a chance to stroll around a city in Japan, you will see 2 types of sacred spots there; one is the “Otera (お寺)” temple and the other is the “Jinja (神社)” shrine.

But how does Otera differ from Jinja? This article will explain that.

4 Fundamental Differences between Otera and Jinja

According to the Japanese website,, there are the 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)” which is recognized as one of the state religions of Japan.

The teachings of Buddhism and Shinto are completely different, which results in differences in outward appearance between Otera and Jinja.

Further, while at least one priest lives in the precincts of Otera, that doesn’t necessarily apply to Jinja.

2. Torii Gate

Torii Gate of a JinjaThe Torii Gate of a Jinja Shinto Shrine

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

3. Graves

Graves on the grounds of an OteraGraves in the grounds of Otera

As another difference in outward appearance, there are graves on the grounds of the Otera temple, whereas the Jinja shrine doesn’t have any.

4. Name

Lastly, the name of Otera 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 shrines usually 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.

2 Responses

  1. Tanmay タンマイ says:

    Thank you for the information; it was very helpful!

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