At the entrance of the Shinto shrines, you will often see a small pavilion, four pillars and a roof covering a running water basin. It is called temizuya 「手水舎」 (from 手 te - hands and 水 mizu - water) and it is the place where the shrine’s visitors rinse their hands and mouth in a symbolic purification, before visiting the shrine.
In the old times, the purification was made by washing directly in a spring or river flowing close to the shrine. It is considered that the first temizuya was built at the Toshougu Shrine from Nikko, and the basin (in the photo) was donated by the Nabeshima clan in 1618.
Yesterday’s Japan Photo: