Ise Grand Shrine: Japan's Top Power Spot

A Shrine For The Bucket List 

Since days of old, there has been a saying about the Ise Jingu, or Ise Grand Shrine: isshoni ichido wa omairi o, meaning one should worship there at least once in a lifetime. Or, in modern-day speak - a shrine for the bucket list.
 Indeed, since the Edo Period (1603-1868), 1 out of 6 people in Edo (former name for Tokyo) had traveled to Ise at least once. And that was before the days of the Shinkansen (which now takes around 4 hours), when it took 15 days to cover the 470 kilometer distance from Edo to Ise, and the same to return.


DSC08870
An image of the old day pilgrimages


Consisting of 125 shrines centering around the naikū ("inner shrine"), which is dedicated to the Shinto sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami and the gekū ("outer shrine"), which is dedicated to Toyouke no Omikami, the goddess of agriculture and industry, it reminded me of Cambodia's temple complex, Ankor Wat, which also has many temples centered around the main temple.


Why is Ise Shingu so sacred? In Nihon Shoki ("The Chronicles of Japan"), Japan's oldest historiography, dating back to 720 AD, it is written that 2,000 years ago, Amaterasu Omikami descended from the heavens and selected Ise in present-day Mie Prefecture with its abundant and beautiful nature as her place of enshrinement.

DSC08884
Toyouke no Omikami was enshrined with the purpose to offer sacred food to Amaterasu, which shows how important Amaterasu and the Naiku are to Shinto religion. Naiku is said to be the home shrine for all Japanese, and while the younger generation is losing interest, it is still a once-in-a-lifetime destination to visit for many people of the nation.


DSC08939

There is a 6-kilometer distance between Naiku and Geku, so be sure to take the local bus unless you want to try out Edo-style pilgrimage, or have a comfortable pair of walking shoes. Both Naiku and Geku are in densely-wooded hills with the Isuzu river coursing through the complexes.

DSC08935

Next to Naiku is Okage-yokocho, an old-fashioned shopping street with traditional wooden houses that transports one back to the Edo era. 

DSC08968
The streets are full of charming restaurants, food stalls and souvenir shops. With the broad variety of products available here you might want to call it the Harajuku of ancient times!

okageyoko

10.Ise14
Although I had little time to visit all the other shrines, I did pass a few on the way. Going around town by bicycle and discovering all these gems would be an interesting activity for those who plan to stay in Ise for a longer time. 


Ise Grand Shrine

Location: Ujitachi-cho 1, Ise, Mie

Access to Ise: From Tokyo Station, take the shinkansen to Nagoya, then transfer to the Kintetsu Express and get off at Iseshi Station.

Other Articles

HOT ENTRIES

Know Your Kimono: 9 Different types of Kimono
Kimono literally means "something that is worn" - but there are many types of kimono worn on ...
Akafuku, Mochi Heaven
The inside out mochi It is not exactly known when Akafuku - one of the oldest mochi (Japanese ...
Cheap all-you-can-drink Umeshu
If you're a lover of Umeshu, Japanese plum win, you MUST visit Puedo Bar in Tokyo. For the mere s...

CATEGORY RANKING

Know Your Kimono: 9 Different types of Kimono
Kimono literally means "something that is worn" - but there are many types of kimono worn on ...
Know Your Kimono (2): The Obi
Last time we talked about the different types of kimonos. Now we will look at how you tie them. ...
Know Your Kimono (3): Footwear
Japanese traditional footwear was invented by the Chinese and then came over to Japan. Nowadays y...