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Ise, Japan

Visited Ise today, the site of probably the most sacred Shinto shrine. There are actually two parts of this shrine, the Outer Shrine, near the station, and the Inner Shrine, a few km away.
The Inner Shrine is dedicated to (and enshrining) Amaterasu-no-omikami, the goddess of light in Shinto belief, as well as one of the imperial regalia, the sacred mirror (the other two being the sacred sword and the sacred beads --> Okami anyone?). There actually is a bit of a story behind that goddess and the mirror. Amaterasu once hid herself in a cave for the misbehaving of her brother, Susanoo, thus plunging the world in darkness. The other gods then used a mirror to reflect her own light (goddess of light --> sun) to herself and proclaimed that a new sun appeared and everything was fine. Raged the goddess stormed out of the cave and daylight thus returned to the lands.

The main halls/buildings of the two shrines are hidden from view behind fences, and only members of the imperial family and select priests are allowed near them. Of course, pictures are prohibited there as well. Jumping the fence is not a good idea either, as guards are nearby and you are constantly watched by cameras not so cleverly disguised as trees. That being said, many of the sub-buildings are exact replicas of the main one, so you can get a pretty good feeling what is looks like anyway.

I started off at the Outer Shrine, located in a lush forest. Pictures:

A nice walk along the premises later I was off to the Inner Shrine.

The area is bigger, the garden/park really impressive, the trees there are massive (and I mean, really, really massive), there are more people and larger buildings than in the Outer Shrine. You approach through two big Toriis on either side of a bridge over a clear river and walk either through the park with lots of open space and sun or the cool and beautiful forest.

There is a reason this shrine is also called the most impressive shrine of Japan, even though you can't see the main building (well, besides the roof). There is only one competing shrine, the Tosho-gu in Nikko, which is as gaudy as Ise-jinja is austere.

Oh, and due to Shinto tradition, the shrine is completely rebuilt every 20 years. For this, an empty lot is always kept next to the current one. The timber of the old one is then used for the Torii of the new one and sent to shrines all over Japan for repairs. This shrine has seen over 60 rebuilds by now! 2013 will be the next cycle take place.

The traveling time is really long from Kyoto, but I liked my visit here.

So long and stay tuned,

permalink written by  JuergenS on July 26, 2010 from Ise, Japan
from the travel blog: Two month of Japan
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