Ise Jingu Shrine, Ise

About Ise

Ise is located in the most eastern part of the region of Kansai, in Mie Prefecture, and overlooks Ise Bay.

Ise is known mainly for the Ise Grand Shrine (Ise Jingu Tera, or just “Jingu”) which is considered the holiest Shinto shrine in the whole of Japan. There are over 100 other Shinto shrines all over the city.

  • Ise Jingu Shrine
  • Sengu House
  • Mikimoto Pearl Island
  • Meoto Iwa (the wedded rocks)

Ise Grand Shrine

In Shinto, Japan’s indigenous religion, Ise Jingu is the most revered shrine complex of them all. Established in the 5th century in Japan’s Mie prefecture, it was built in honour of Amaterasu-omikami, the sun goddess from whom the Japanese imperial family is said to be descended. About 120 shrines make up the site, but the main ones are Naiku (inner shrine) and Geku (outer), Naiku being the most revered.

Though the grounds are ancient, the actual shrines are never more than a couple of decades old. That’s because all the shrines are rebuilt from scratch every 20 years – a process called “shikinen sengu” – using all new materials and fittings. The main shrine, Naiku, was last rebuilt in 2013 – for the 62nd time since its foundation in the year 690.

Close to the Naiku shrine and the Uji Bridge is Oharai-machi Street, and Okage-yokocho: a re-creation of Edo and Meiji era commercial quarters. Lining the streets are branches of long-established local shops and restaurants serving local cuisine. The Okage-za Museum, which displays exhibits about ancient Japanese mythology, is also a recommended attraction.

Sengu House

This traditionally-built house has a display and explanation of the process of Sengu, whereby the old shrines of Naikū (the Inner Shrine) and Gekū (Outer Shrine) are dismantled and new ones built on an adjacent site to precise specifications every 20 years.

 

Meoto Iwa

or the Wedded Rocks, are a pair of small rocky stacks in the sea off Futami, close to the Ise Grand Shrine. They are joined by a heavy rope of rice straw (shimenawa) and are considered in the Shinto religion as a sacred representation of the union in marriage of man and woman. The rope, which weighs over a ton, must be replaced several times a year in a special ceremony. The larger rock, said to be male, has a small torii gate at its peak.
The best time to see the rocks is at dawn during the summer, when the sun appears to rise between them. Mount Fuji can be seen in the distance.

 

Cultured pearls

Pearls have been cultivated here for centuries: Mikomoto Koukichi developed his famous pearl trademark, Mikimoto, in the nearby village of Toba. Here you can visit the commemorative pearl museum. You can also see women pearl divers (the Ama Divers) demonstrate how they have been collecting pearls using the same method from more than 2,000 years.

Practical information:

  • Ise is very accessible and takes approximately 1.5 hours from Nagoya and just over 2 hours from Osaka