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