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Japan’s Most Important Shrine: Ise Jinja

Posted By on Oct 29, 2014

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In the Shinto religion, the most important deity is Amaterasu, goddess of the Sun. After all, the sun is very important to the people of Japan and its symbolism is very prevalent, such as the nickname “Land of the Rising Sun.”  It is believed that Amaterasu helped shape ancient Japan with her siblings Susanoo and Tsukuyomi, and that the Japanese emperors are direct descendants of Amaterasu.

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It is no wonder that the shrine dedicated to such an important figure in Shinto is one of the most magnificent in Japan. Located in Ise, the Ise grand shrine is a shrine complex dedicated to the sun goddess. Aside from the two main shrines, over 120 additional shrines call this area home.  The two main shrines are known as Naiku (Inner Shrine) and Geku (Outer Shrine). The inner shrine is dedicated to supreme deity Amaterasu and the outer shrine is dedicated to Toyouke, the deity of agriculture and industry.  It is believed that Toyouke would provide sacred foods to Amaterasu.

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The two shrines are several kilometers apart and are separated by dense forests of over 13,000 acres. Separating the two shrines is the Isuzu river, and visitors to the inner shrine must cross the river via the Uji bridge.  It also serves a symbolic gesture with leaving behind the filthiness of regular life. The rich forests, sparkling river, bridge, and proximity to the Ise shrine sparks many poems and songs about this area.

With its religious importance of Ise shrine, many people have made the pilgrimage to visit – called an O-ise-mairi. It was a popular pilgrimage site since the Edo period and remains popular today.  With over 7 million visitors per year, many have made the trip to see this grand shrine.

With the sacredness of this shrine, it is rebuilt every twenty years in a Shikinen Sengu.  The last time Ise shrine was rebuilt was in 2013.  Adding on to the importance of this shrine is the rumor that one piece of Japanese imperial regalia, the Yata no Kagami, is housed in the Ise shrine.  Symbolizing wisdom and honesty, this artifact is one of three imperial regalia pieces.

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With such importance given to this shrine, over 600 priests and priestess keep the grounds top condition. It is also with the sacredness of this site that the central buildings in Naiku and Geku are not open to the public and no photos can be taken in close proximity of the main shrines.  However, visitors can stop by the Sengukan Museum by the entrance of the outer shrine to see a partial 1:1 replica of the main building and a 1:20 replica of the main sanctuary.

Address:1 Ujitachicho, Ise, Mie Prefecture 516-0023, Japan

[post by Beth]

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Beth Williams

Originally from Chicago, Beth got her first true taste of travel when she studied abroad in Japan during her final year of university. She ended up loving Asia so much, she found herself moving right back upon graduating and is currently teaching English full-time in Hong Kong. Armed with her camera and a passion for travel, she is currently on a mission to photograph the world-- proving that you can work the normal “9-5” and still find time to travel on her blog Besudesu Abroad.

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