The Sacred Ise Grand Shrine

With a history that dates all the way back to the 3rd century, the Ise Grand Shrine (also known as Ise Jingu) is one of both Mie and Japan’s oldest sites and considered to be Japan’s most sacred Shinto Shrine. It’s the home of Japan’s predominant Shinto religion and draws an astonishing six million pilgrims and visitors per year. If you do find yourself in Mie, you really can’t miss the opportunity to visit this serene site.

The Sacred Ise Grand Shrine

Ise Jingu is actually a complex of 125 shrines dotted throughout Ise City. However the two major sites are Naiku (the inner shrine) and Geku (the outer shrine). The inner shrine holds an enshrinement of the sun goddess Amaterasu, and was once said to have held the Sacred Mirror of the Emperor, one of the three sacred treasures of Japan. It’s said that the mirror known in Japanese as “Yata no Kagami” was gifted to Japan’s first emperor by the goddess herself. For this reason it’s considered one of the holiest sites in the country. Located six kilometers from the inner shrine sits Geku, which is equally impressive in terms of nature and architecture.

The Sacred Ise Grand Shrine

One of the most fascinating aspects of both the inner and outer shrines is that every 20 years they’re both rebuilt from scratch, as well as the nearby Uji Bridge. Though from an outsider’s perspective it seems like a rather strange action, the rebuilding is part of an ancient Shinto tradition built around the Shinto ideologies of rebirth, and the rejuvenating qualities of the impermanence of nature. The exact recreated shrines are built offsite using only traditional techniques, and then later transported to their new location.

The Sacred Ise Grand Shrine

Once their replacements are in place, the wood from the old shrines is repurposed, crafted into the torii (shrine gate) you see standing tall at the entrances of the shrines. All the leftover wood is then dispersed between a number of other smaller shrines throughout the area and wider Japan. It doesn’t take very long to walk through the grounds as access is limited, but do take your time to really explore the main shrines and their surrounds, as there is a lot to take in. The main pathway leading through the area is flanked by hills densely populated with a large collection of Japanese cypress trees.

The Sacred Ise Grand Shrine

Most people begin their exploration of Ise Jingu from the nearby Uji Bridge, which stretches across the Isuzu River. From the bridge to the inner shrine the journey typically around fifteen minutes. The main shrine is only partially exposed to the public, as its inner sanctum is strictly reserved for a select few shrine priests and the imperial family. Taking photos of the main shrine buildings are also prohibited, adding to the sacred and mysterious atmosphere of the area.

The shrine grounds are home to a huge number of spiritual rituals and celebrations all year round many of which are based on the cycle of rice cultivation. Kanname-sai is the most important ceremony on the shrine’s calendar. Held in October it’s a celebration of gratitude for the first rice harvest of the season.

The Sacred Ise Grand Shrine

Sitting a few kilometers outside of central Ise, the main inner shrine area is best accessed via bus from Ise-shi Station, or Ujiyamada Station, it takes about 10 minutes and costs around 430 yen each way. If you’re traveling from Isuzugawa Station you can also take the bus, the ride takes about six minutes and costs 230 yen. If you have the time and energy it may also be worth walking from Isuzugawa Station, the journey will take around 35-45 minutes and allows you to walk through the main pilgrimage street which is certainly worth it.

Facility Name
Ise Jingu
Address
Mie Pref. Iseshi Ujitachichou 1
Phone
0596241111
Hours
[Oct./Nov./Dec.] 5:00-17:00
[Jan./Feb./Mar/· Apr./Sep.] 5:00-18:00
[May/June./July./Aug.] 5:00-19:00
Introduction
This shrine in Ise City is the Honshuji of the Jinja Honcho (Association of Shinto Shrines). Its official name is simply Jingu, and it has been familiarly called O-Ise-san since long ago. The name “Jingu” is actually used as a general term to refer to 125 jinja (shinto shrines) including the two shogu of Naiku, dedicated to Amaterasu-Omikami, and Geku, dedicated to Toyo’uke-no-Omikami as well as other betsugu (associated shrines) and setsumatsu-sha (auxiliary or subsidiary shrines). When making a pilgrimage to Ise, the official order of the pilgrimage is to enter the Naiku from the Geku. Once every 20 years the shaden (the main building of a Shinto shrine) of the Naiku, Geku and 14 other betsugu are reconstructed and the enshrined objects are transferred from the old to the new structures.
Information Sources:
NAVITIME JAPAN
Facility Name
Ise Jingu Naiku
Address
Mie Pref. Iseshi Ujitachichou 1
Phone
0596241111
Hours
[Oct.・Nov.・Dec.]5:00-17:00
[Jan.・Feb.・Mar.・Apr.・Sep.]5:00-18:00
[May・June.・July.・Aug.]5:00-19:00
Introduction
This is the other one of Ise Jingu’s shogu, officially called Kotaijingu. It is considered to have begun when the imperial princess Yamato-hime-no-miya determined that Amaterasu Omikami would be enshrined on the banks of the Isuzugawa River. Crossing over the Ujibashi Bridge and proceeding along the long gravel path that approaches the shrine over which Japanese cedar trees tower, one will arrive at the o-seiden (main building), which is enclosed by multiple layers of fencing. The vast grounds include a kagura hall, betsugu (an associated shrine), and free rest areas for worshippers, and the entire area is enveloped in a sacred atmosphere. Visitors can take a bus from Isuzugawa Station or Ujiyamada Station and get off at the Naiku-mae stop.
Information Sources:
NAVITIME JAPAN
Facility Name
Ise Jingu Geku
Address
Mie Pref. Iseshi Toyokawachou 279
Phone
0596241111
Hours
[Oct.・Nov.・Dec.]5:00-17:00
[Jan.・Feb.・Mar.・Apr.・Sep.]5:00-18:00
[May・June.・July.・Aug.]5:00-19:00
Introduction
This is one of Ise Jingu’s shogu and enshrines the deity Toyo’uke-no-Omikami, who provides companionship and sacred food to Amaterasu-Omikami. The official name is Toyo’ukedaijingu. Toyo’uke-no-Omikami is revered as the guardian deity of industry related to the necessities of life (food, clothing & shelter) as well as various other types of industry. In addition to the Shogu, the premises of which are covered in white gravel, is the Magatamaike Pond where there is a Kiyomori camphor tree related to Taira no Kiyomori and where Japanese iris and bloom, and the Mimaya where sacred horses were kept, as well as four betsugu (associated shrines). It is customary to worship here first before moving on to the Naiku. The closest train station is Iseshi Station.
Information Sources:
NAVITIME JAPAN
Facility Name
Ujibashi Bridge
Address
Mie Pref. Iseshi Ujitachichou
Introduction
This bridge near the entrance of Ise Jingu’s Naiku (Kotaijingu) in Ise City spans across the Isuzugawa River. It has been selected as one of Japan’s 100 most famous bridges, and is a popular place to take commemorative photos as it is a symbol of the Naiku. There are torii gates on both sides of the bridge, and the outer torii is made from the old pillars of the Geku-seiden (outer shrine main hall) and the inner torii is made from the old pillars of the Naiku-seiden (inner shrine main hall). When the bridge is rebuilt every twenty years as a part of Shikinen Sengu (a periodic transfer of the divine symbol to a divine palace which is newly constructed every twenty years), these are dismantled and reconstructed, and the outer torii becomes the torii of the Shichiri-no-Watashi in Kuwana City and the outer torii becomes the torii of the Seki-no-higashi Oiwake in Kameyama City. For several days before and after the winter solstice the morning sun rises directly above the torii, and this area is bustling with many visitors during that time.
Information Sources:
NAVITIME JAPAN
Facility Name
Iseshi
Address
Mie Pref. Iseshi Fukiage 1-chome
Information Sources:
NAVITIME JAPAN
Facility Name
Ujiyamada
Address
Mie Pref. Iseshi Iwabuchi 2-chome
Information Sources:
NAVITIME JAPAN

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PLACES IN THIS ARTICLE

  • dummy image

    Iseshi

    Station
    Mie Pref. Iseshi Fukiage 1-chome
  • dummy image

    Ujiyamada

    Station
    Mie Pref. Iseshi Iwabuchi 2-chome
  • Ise Jingu image

    Ise Jingu

    Shrine (Inari/Gongen)
    Mie Pref. Iseshi Ujitachichou 1
  • Ise Jingu Geku image

    Ise Jingu Geku

    Shrine (Inari/Gongen)
    Mie Pref. Iseshi Toyokawachou 279
  • Ise Jingu Naiku image

    Ise Jingu Naiku

    Shrine (Inari/Gongen)
    Mie Pref. Iseshi Ujitachichou 1
  • Ujibashi Bridge image

    Ujibashi Bridge

    Temple (Kannon/Fudo Myoo)
    Mie Pref. Iseshi Ujitachichou
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