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Ise Jingu Grand Shrine

Ise Jingu Grand Shrine

For anyone living in Japan or interested in Japanese culture, Ise Jingu is a must-visit. It is the most sacred shrine in Japan, with great spiritual and historical significance. The city of Ise, located in Mie prefecture, is about two hours from Nagoya.

With a population of only about 100,000, it isn’t a very busy place; but with more than 6 million people visiting Ise Jingu every year, it can become very crowded, especially around holiday seasons. The busiest time of year is oshougatsu (New Year), when people gather from all over Japan to pray at Ise Jingu.

Ise Jingu is actually divided into two large shrine compounds, containing over one hundred and twenty smaller shrines in addition to the two major shrines: Naiku (Inner Shrine) and Geku (Outer Shrine). The Inner shrine enshrines the sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami, kami of food, clothing and housing, who is also believed to be the ancestor of the Japanese imperial family. The Outer Shrine enshrines Toyouke no Omikami, the goddess of harvest, and was erected in 478 A.D

Legend has it that the imperial family descends in direct line from Amaterasu. Amaterasu’s mirror (’Yata no Kagami’), symbol of the kami, was kept in the Imperial Palace until the reign of the tenth emperor Sujin (first century B.C.E.), when Princess Toyosukiirihime no Mikoto moved it to Kasanuinomura. Thereafter, Amaterasu Omikami is said to have requested a more suitable site, and under the reign of the eleventh emperor Suinin (4 B.C.E.), Imperial Princess Yamatohime no Mikoto set off a journey around the Kansai, and finally settled for the present site by the upper Isuzu river, where Amaterasu Omikami would be enshrined for eternity.

For this reason, the Emperor visits this shrine when he assumes office, and on other important occasions.

 Due to the extreme sanctity of the shrine, no visitors nor pilgrims are allowed inside the four rows of wooden fences of the Geku and Naiku’s main sanctuary.

A particularity of Ise Jingu is that it has been continually rebuilt every 20 years since year 690. The ceremony is called Shikinen Sengu and is aimed at maintaining the purity and freshness of the shrine itself. This might have influenced the Japanese to tear down and rebuilt their houses almost as frequently.

Both Naiku and Geku have their respective auxiliary site where an identical copy is erected using the traditional method (without nails). In due time, a solemn nocturnal ceremony called Sengyo (transfer) is performed. 1085 sacred apparel ("onshouzoku") coming in 125 categories, and 491 sacred treasures ("goshimpou") made up of 189 kinds of objects, plus an additional 1600 acessories are transfered from the old to the new sanctuary.

The last reconstruction was in 1993 (61st time) for a total cost of no less than ï¿¥5 billion.

 It is customary to visit the Outer Shrine first, but if you don’t have much time on your hands a visit to the Inner Shrine is recommended


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