Ise Jingu, which has a history spanning 2000 years, is Japan's main shrine and has long been a popular tourist destination for the Japanese. Here is some information on how to see the shrine so you can make the best of your visit to Ise Jingu!
What is Ise Jingu?
Since the Edo Period, it has been said that one should visit Ise JIngu at least once in a lifetime. Ise Jingu is a shrine dedicated to Amaterasu-Omikami, the overall ujigami for all Japanese people (an ujigami is a deity that people living in the same area all worship). The official name of the shrine, which has a history spanning 2000 years, is Jingu. There are two big shrines, Kotaijingu (Naiku) and Toyouke Daijingu (Geku), at the center of the Jingu surrounded by an additional 14 associated shrines, 43 auxiliary shrines, 24 subordinate shrines, and 42 other shrines. It's a special shrine that's positioned above all the other numerous shrines around Japan.
How to Visit
The center of Ise Jingu can roughly be divided into Kotaijingu (Naiku), dedicated to Amaterasu-Omikami, and Toyouke Daijingu (Geku), dedicated to Toyouke-no-Omikami, the god of daily necessities. The traditional procedure is to visit from Geku to Naiku, stopping at the main shrine to each god first then at the next highest ranking associated shrine. As mentioned earlier, there are many shrines, so it is impossible to visit them all at once.
If you are visiting for the first time, the standard route is Geku Main Sanctuary→associated shrines such as Taka-no-miya→Ujibashi Bridge→Mitarashi→Naiku Main Sanctuary→associated shrines such as Aramatsuri-no-miya. The shrine is surrounded by nature and has a town built in front of Naiku, so there is much to see. Enjoy the shrine while adjusting the time and places to see based on your schedule.
・In both the Naiku and Geku, start at the Main Sanctuary.
・Bow once before passing a torii gate.
・Do not walk in the middle of the path - it is where the gods walk. Stay to the left in Geku and to the right in Naiku.
・Before worshiping, purify your mouth and hands at a Chozuya ablution font or just your hands at a mitarashi ablution site.
・When worshipping, bow twice, clap your hands twice, then bow once more.
How to Visit Geku
First, move into the sacred grounds from Hiyokebashi Bridge, which is the main entrance to Geku. There is a Chozuya ablution font on the other side of the bridge, so purify your hands and mouth and go to the Main Sanctuary to pay your respects. Once you have visited the Main Sanctuary, visit the associated shrines. First, go to Taka-no-miya, which is the largest of the associated shrines and has the highest standing. If you have time, it is recommended to go to Tsuchi-no-miya, Kaze-no-miya, and Geku-Kaguraden. There is also a museum called Sengukan where you can learn about the history of Shintoism and the shrine.
How to Visit Naiku
Once you've seen Geku, it's time to go to Naiku. First, cross Naiku's entrance, Ujibashi Bridge. There is a deep forest beyond the100m-long bridge, so with each step you take towards the sacred grounds, you should be able to feel a change in the air surrounding you.
When you have crossed the bridge, go to the Mitarashi ablution site on Isuzugawa River. There is a Chozuya ablution font nearby, but it's recommended to cleanse your hands in the river at the Mitarashi. Then go up the steps to the Main Sanctuary, and next to the Aramatsuri-no-miya, which is the associated shrine with the highest standing. If possible, go to Kazahinomi-no-miya that enshrines the god of wind and rain and to Koyasu Jinja, which is said to have the benefit of safe childbirth. When you're tired of walking, you can rest at the Sanshuden with a cup of tea.
Once you've finished visiting Naiku, you'll want to get some charms. There are various charms, such as to bring luck, for transport safety, and for health. Charms bought at Japan's foremost holy site, Ise Jingu, are perfect souvenirs. They can be purchased at Naiku-Kaguraden in the center of Naiku.
Stroll Around Okage Yokocho
All that walking in the shrine is likely to make you hungry, so next, go to Okage Yokocho, a charming tourist town located in front of Naiku that has recreated the townscape from the Edo and Meiji periods.
There are many souvenir shops and restaurants. Here, you can try gourmet dishes such as the Ise specialty, Ise udon noodles, and beef dishes. There are also snacks and sweets you can nibble on as you walk around the town. At Akafuku Honten, you can enjoy the Ise specialty sweet, Akafuku, in a place that feels as if you have slipped in time to the Edo Period. It's very popular, so be sure to stop by.
If you are visiting Japan, be sure to go to Ise Jingu. Once you pass the torii gate, you will be on sacred grounds. Be sure to abide by the etiquette and have a pleasant visit.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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