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3-Day Model Trip Day1

3-Day Model Trip Day1 / Tokai / Ise - Ise Jingu - Toba

The formal name of Ise Jingu is "jingu"("Shrine to the Gods"), and it is an overall tutelary deity representing the tutelary deities that guard over all parts of Japan. It is affectionately called "O-Ise-san". According to an old Japanese myth, about 2,000 years ago, Emperor Suijin's Princess Yamatohime-no-mikoto chose Ise as the place to enshrine the sun god Amaterasu- Omikami and let him live eternally. The reason was that Ise had mountains, sea and clear streams, as well as a warm climate. In the past, only the imperial family and a few other people could visit the shrine. But from around the 12th century, the warrior class began to worship there because the god was the god of victory, and this eventually spread to all people. In the Edo Period (1603 - 1867), going to worship at Ise Jingu Shrine was a great wish for the mass of ordinary people - so much so that they used to sing: "I want to go to Ise, I want to see the Ise Road - at least once in my life." (See the inserted article)

Ise Jingu Shrine is divided into the inner shrine (Naiku) and outer shrine (Geku). The inner shrine deifies the sun god Amaterasu-Omikami, while the outer shrine deifies Toyouke- no-Ohkami, the god that rules over food. The inner shrine by itself has an area of 5,500 hectares. The shrine as a whole is big: the inner and outer shrines are separated by a distance of 5 km (measured as a straight line), and when the shrines outside the inner and outer shrines are included, there are 125 shrines in all. Because it has long been traditional to visit the outer shrine first, so we have set off from Ise-shi Station to the outer shrine.

When visiting the shrine, it is customary for worshippers to wash their hands in the temizusha hand-washing hut by the entrance before heading towards the gods. After crossing Hiyoke-bashi Bridge and entering the shrine precincts, we will be surrounded by a large cedar forest with a chilly atmosphere. It is surprising that not a single piece of rubbish has been dropped on the pathway, in spite of the large number of visitors. It feels just like a holy area should.

Shogu shrine in the outer shrine area deifies Toyouke-no-Ohkami, the god that rules over the food of the gods - or, in a wider meaning, the guardian god of industry. Most visitors proceed from in front of the Tonotamagaki Minami Gomon Gate, which is draped in white silk, and they cannot directly see the main temple. But we have been a little naughty and taken a look from the wall at the side of the gate. The architecture is an original style called Yui-itsushinmei-zukuri, and is the oldest style of shrine architecture in Japan. It has a magnificent appearance, and creates a mystic atmosphere that seems to transcend human knowledge. One of the reasons this oldest architectural style has been preserved up to the present day is a ceremony called Shikinen Sengu, in which the shrine is rebuilt every 20 years. This has been going on for 1,300 years. Even though this is the oldest style of architecture, it does not feel at all "old". The reason may be that this ceremony and the buildings are not part of "past history", but are still carrying on today.

In the outer shrine there are also shrines to various other gods, such as Kazenomiya, the god of abundant grain harvests and national security; Tsuchinomiya, the guardian god of dikes and levees; and Taganomiya, a god known as the god of industry, of whom it is said to be good to pray to when starting a fresh challenge. If there is something you want to ask for, visiting the appropriate shrine may make your wish come true.

After visiting these shrines, we will go to the inner shrine. We will go by bus from the outer to the inner shrine. The Can Bus that links Ise, Futami and Toba is convenient because it is colorful and easy to recognize. Many tourists use the main bus stop, so there are announcements in English. It is best to buy a "Free" ticket, which allows you to take as many rides as you like. Free tickets are on sale at, among other places, Mie Kotsu (Transportation) ticket offices at Ise-shi and Ujiyamada Stations, and the Ise Tourism Association Information Office (Ise Kanko Kyokai An'naijo) in front of Geku, the outer shrine.

When we arrive at Naiku, we will first stand in front of Uji-bashi bridge and look at Otorii, the large shrine gate. The balance between the bridge and archway is exquisite, and forms a beautiful scene that often appears in guidebooks. Towards winter, the sun rises just in the center of the archway, and many tourists come to see this. The path to Shogu shrine is surrounded by a thick forest of large trees several hundred years old. By the side of the path runs Isuzu-gawa River, where carp swim in the clear waters. Following ancient custom, I have washed my hands here before going to Shogu Shrine. The smell of the forest wafting among the fresh, high trees seems mysteriously to cleanse the heart. Visiting a shrine seems to be a form of healing that has continued from ancient times.

The center of Ise Jingu Shrine is Shogu, in the inner shrine, and the sun god Amaterasu-Omikami is enshrined here. Shogu is the main temple, and is built in the Yui-itsushinmei-zukuri style. It is on top of a steep stone flight of steps, behind four walls. The same as with Geku, visitors proceed from the Tonotamagaki Minami Gomon Gate, and here too the main temple can be seen between the walls from the side of the gate. I think you will look in wonder at the nobility of the shrine's construction.

Now we've been round the large Geku and Naiku, it's time for a rest. Just in front of the Naiku is a street called Oharai-cho, which is lined with souvenir shops and restaurants. It has been busy with visitors to Ise-jingu Shrine since old times. Through the efforts of local people, the traditional look of Ise-jingu has been wonderfully preserved. Even the bank and post office buildings have an air of the past, giving this shrine town a rich atmosphere.

Ise-jingu is also a treasure chest of delicious food. As well as being blessed with seafood, there are countless other local delicacies - like akafuku, a Japanese-style candy that has remained popular for 280 years, and Ise udon (noodles), which are eaten with a small amount of tsuyu, a kind of soup. Maybe there was a good reason why the gods chose this place to live for eternity.

One part of Oharai-cho has been rebuilt by moving historic houses there, and it has a side street containing 31 buildings, including famous old shops and restaurants. It is enjoyable just to walk and look at the town. One especially eye-catching building is the "Okage-za", which looks exactly like a small theater from the Edo Period. Here the history of visiting Ise-jingu is explained with images and models. The models resemble people from the Edo Period so closely that visitors have the impression they have strayed into the old Ise Road. The manners and customs of the time have also been recreated, so the enthusiasm of Ise visitors is communicated. The popularity of visiting Ise from old times seems to come from tasting local delicacies and praying at the shrines for prosperity and profit granted by the powers of the gods and Buddhas. It also comes from tourists' desire to see rare sights.

Time has passed quickly while we've been looking at the shops in Oharai-cho, and it's time now to get on the bus for Toba.