Japanese “Spiritual Home” – Let’s visit Ise Jingu to worship

Ise Jingu, has more than 2000 years of history, is the shrine which is called Honsou - the center of all Shinto shrines.  Most important shrine in Japan where the Emperor and Empress visited after they enthroned. 

Its formal name is “Jingu” and is called “Ise Jingu” to distinguish it from other shrines. 

Jingu is a general term for 125 shrines located around Ise-shi, centered on two main shrines, Naiku and Geku. Also, called “Oise-san” friendly. 

Ise Jingu is the place a lot of Japanese people have been hoping they would visit once in a life. It has now over eight million visitors a year. 

About Ise Jingu 

Enshrined deities 

The shusaijin (main enshrined deities) for Ise Jingu are Amaterasu Omikami (Sun Goddess, the ancestor god of the Imperial Family) and Toyouke no Omikami (the guardian of three essentials of human life, cloth, food and shelter, and of the industries) 

History and features 

Amaterasu Omikami used to be enshrined next to the emperor. 

Approximately 2000 years ago, Yamatohime no Mikoto was traveling around Japan in search of a permanent domicile for Amaterasu Omikami. 

When he arrived at the upstream of Isuzu River, he heard a message from Amaterasu Omikami as “This place is beautiful. I’m going to stay here.” and so he built a shrine there. 

500 years later, Toyouke no Omikami was welcomed to Ise. 

A lot of famous busho (military commanders) such as Taira no Kiyomori, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and Oda Nobunaga have visited to Ise Jingu to worship. 

Especially Ashikaga Yoshimitsu has visited there eleven times in his life, and paid the utmost respect for Amaterasu Omikami. 

Amateras Omikami and other gods appear in Nihon Shoki and Kojiki. Some gods are said to have created Japan in the distant past. 

The precincts of a shrine

Highlights of the shrine grounds

Ise Jingu has two major parts, Naiku and Geku, and the visitors traditionally start their quests at Geku. If you want to visit both parts, you can visit Geku first, then Naiku. In order to visit both shrines efficiently, it is recommended to take a bus from Naiku to Geku, because it is a long way and takes 50 minutes on foot (Visiting both shrines takes about three - four hours if you go on foot).  

Well, we will introduce some recommended spots at Geku and Naiku. 

Geku

Firstly, we will introduce Geku. 

At Geku, Toyouke no Omikami (God who governs meal for Amaterasu Omikami) is enshrined. 

Hiyokebashi Bridge 

Hiyokebashi is an entrance of Geku. It is named “Hiyokebashi” (meaning the bridge to evade the fire) because the water of the Horikawa River has protected the sacred area from fire. 

Visitors should walk on the left side there. Although there are sines written only by Kanji, you can go with the flow of people. 

Crossing the Hiyokebashi, you can see Temizuya (a purification trough) on your left. 

Now, you can purify yourself before worshipping. 

*Read this article to learn how to use Temizuya 

After cleansing yourself at Temizuya, let’s go through this Torii Gate and walk along the Sando (the approach to the shrine). 

Walking straight on the sando which is abundant in nature, there is Kaguraden (hall of Shinto Music and Dance) on your right. 

At the Kaguraden, there is a place where you can ask someone to pray for you, and also buy some Omamori ( amulets). 

Also you can be given Goshuin (a letter bearing the shogun’s scarlet seal) which is proof that you have been to that place. 

Shougu 

Keep walking straight and you can see Shougu

This is the place where Toyouke no Omikami is enshrined. 

Shougu’s architectural forms are  quite similar between Naiku and Geku. 

The style of architecture called ‘Uiitsu Shinmei zukuri' conveys Japanese traditional architecture, and is said to be an architecture that emphasizes the beauty of a tree the most. 

Betsuku (other shrines) 

“Tsuchinomiya” - It enshrines the god of meritorious land of flood. 

“Kazenomiya” - It enshrines the god of wind. 

“Takanomiya” - It enshrines Aramitama (the spirit of a kami) of Toyouke no Omikami. 

It is placed up the 98 stone steps. 

Then, let’s Move on to Naiku. 

Naiku 

Uji Bridge 

Naiku includes Shougu, two Betsuku and a lot of other shrines. 

Amaterasu Omikami is enshrined in Naiku Shougu. 

Uji Bridge is an entrance of Naiku. Under the bridge flows the river Isuzu, extending for 102 meters long. 

This bridge is said that people move from the ordinary world to the sacred world. 

The visit to Naiku begins with a bow in front of the torii gate of this Uji bridge. 

You should walk on the right side of Uji Bridge. 

Autumn will be the perfect season to see beautiful autumn leaves. 

Crossing Uji Bridge and walking straight, you can see the beautiful pine like to see a Japanese garden. 

Following the road, you can find Temizuya. 

*Read this article to learn how to use Temizuya 

Apart from Temizuya, there is one more place where you can purify yourself before worshipping. 

The place is called Isuzugawa Mitarashi. Visitors have been purifying in this river from the old days. 

We recommend that you purify yourself here too, it is a very rare place to be able to purify yourself except for Temizuya. 

Although this is a river, you can purify your hands and mouth in the same way as Temizuya. 

Passing through Kaguraden where you can be given amulets and talismans, let’s walk straight to Shougu. 

On the way to Shougu, there are the centuries-old giant trees so that you can feel you are in the holy precinct. 

Shougu 

Finally, you arrive at Shougu in Naiku. 

Shougu is located up the steps. 

General visitors can worship only in front of the white Mitobari (a white cloth to keep the Shintai out of sight). 

As Ise Jingu covers a very large area and there are many tourist spots, we chose some spots and introduced them.  

Goshuin (a letter bearing the shogun’s scarlet seal)  

If you want, you can be given Goshuin both at Naiku and Geku. 

While artistic Goshuin has become common recently, Naiku’s Goshuin looks very simple. However, it is an original shape of Goshuin. 

You can have them at Goshuin-sho in Naiku and Geku, so please drop by there. 

Finally 

At Ise Jingu, an event called “Shikinen Sengu” is held once every 20 years. 

“Shikinen” refers to a fixed year, “Sengu” means building a new Shrine and transferring the Shintai.  So, this event is for God’s house-moving once every 20 years. 

This event has been going on for about 1300 years. By repeating this moving once every 20 years, the dignity of the shrine and roof is maintained, and the building technology is passed down to future generations. Because of that, we can visit beautiful Ise Jingu anytime, over the ages. 

Please visit Ise Jingu, our Spiritual Home that has been protected by Japanese.  

Access 

Address (Naiku)1 Ujitachi-cho, Ise city, Mie pref.
(Geku)279 Toyokawa-cho, Ise city, Mie pref.
Transportation (Naiku) 20min by bus from Kintetsu, JR Ise-shi station / Kintetsu Uji Yamada station
(Please take a “Geku Naiku Junkan bus” from Kintetsu, JR Ise-shi station / Kintetsu Uji-Yamada station / Isuzugawa station and get off at “Naiku-mae” )
(Geku)
・5 minutes walk from Kintetsu, JR Iseshi station ・8 minutes walk from Kintetsu Uji-Yamada station
Official website https://www.isejingu.or.jp/en/