Here’s a quick visual guide to visiting a Japanese shrine, shot at Meiji Shrine with model Marino.
Enter the shrine through the large wooden torii gate. There may be torii gates at each of the entrances at it marks the division between the outside world and a sacred space (Some shrines have a tunnel of torii gates such as Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto).
At the purification trough (chōzuya or temizuya) visitors traditionally wash their hands and mouth before entering the inner part of the shrine.
At the main hall (shaden) visitors say their prayers. Traditionally you throw a coin into the offering box, ring the bell, bow twice, clap twice, bow, pray, clap twice and bow.
You can buy an omikuji (fortune paper) to learn your future. Some shrines even have these in English. It will tell you if you’re going to be lucky or unlucky in the coming months. Usually there are trees or ropes to which you can tie your omikuji, but at Meiji Shrine I think you’re just meant to take it home with you.
Write your prayers on an ema (wooden prayer tablet) and then hang the tablet on the rack in the temple grounds so that your wishes will hopefully be answered.
Buy an omamori for protection. There are also omamori for specific needs, these include health, love, safe driving and passing school exams (these are often seen on the bags of school children).