Meet new & old JAPAN ~MIE Prefecture 1 Ise Jingu

Worship at least once in a lifetime

Since olden times, the Japanese have been attracted by the motto, issho ni ichido wa omairi o (一生に一度はお参りを),meaning “worship at least once in a lifetime”: at IseJIngu(伊勢神宮). Today, the shrines are visited by some 7,500,000 pilgrims every year. Ise Jingū, in English often referred to in singular form as the “Ise Grand Shrine”, actually is an extensive complex of the most sacred shrines in Japan consisting of as many as 125 shrines. In Nihon Shoki (日本 書紀, “The Chronicles of Japan”), Japan’s oldest historiography, dating back to 720 AD, it is written that 2000 years ago Amaterasu Ōmikami descended from the heavens and selected Ise in present-day Mie Prefecture with its abundant and beautiful nature as her place of enshrinement. Over 1500 festivals and rituals are being held throughout the year at Ise Jingū. For example, the ritual called higoto asa yū ōmikesai (日別朝夕大御饌祭), “offering repasts to the deities in the morning and evening every day”, has been carried out continuously for more than 1500 years. The largest ceremony held at Ise Jingū is called shikinen sengū (式年遷宮, “shrine relocation in ceremonial years”). Held every 20th year as a part of Shintō belief in a permanent renewal of nature, the main shrine hall (神殿, shinden) and the holy relics (神宝, jinpō or kamudakara) are completely reproduced to have the deity (神, kami) relocate to the neighboring property. Since the ceremony was first held in 690 AD, there have been some periods of interruption, but it has been continued for approximately 1300 years and will be held for the 62nd time in 2013. Furthermore, the old material replaced in the rebuilding process is sent to other shrines all over Japan for recycling, so there is no waste of material. Among the many important things that the shrine teaches and passes on throughout time is not only the impressive craft and techniques shown with the sacred treasures, but also what they symbolize: the importance of the forests that nourish the lands and the oceans, and feelings of gratitude towards nature which passes down to us her blessings year after year.


Text and photo are from MIE Prefecture. Supported by JETRO KUALA LUMPUR.