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Ise Jingu (Grand Shrines of Ise)
Ise Jingu (Grand Shrines of Ise) Review
The shrines are rebuilt every 20 years in accordance with Shinto tradition. To begin a new generational cycle, exact replicas of the previous halls are erected with new wood, using the same centuries-old methods, on adjacent sites. The old buildings are then dismantled. The main halls you see now—the 61st set—were completed in 1993 at an estimated cost of more than ¥4.5 billion. For the Japanese, importance is found in the form of the buildings; the vintage of the materials is of little concern. You cannot enter any of the buildings, but the tantalizing glimpses of the main halls that you catch while walking the grounds add to the mystique of the site. Both Grand Shrines exhibit a natural harmony that the more-contrived buildings in later Japanese architecture do not. If you are pressed for time, head for the more impressive Naiku first.
Deep in a park of ancient Japanese cedars, Geku, dating from AD 477, is dedicated to Toyouke O-kami, goddess of agriculture. Its buildings are simple, predating the influx of 6th-century Chinese and Korean influence. It's made from unpainted hinoki (cypress), with a closely cropped thatched roof. You can see very little of the exterior of Geku—only its roof and glimpses of its walls—and none of the interior. Four fences surround the shrine, and only the Imperial Family and their envoys may enter. 279 Toyokawa-machi, 516-0042.
The same is true for the even more venerated Naiku. Naiku is where the Yata-no-Kagami (Sacred Mirror) is kept, one of the three sacred treasures of the imperial regalia. The shrine, said to date from 4 BC, also houses the spirit of the sun goddess Amaterasu, who Japanese mythology says was born of the left eye of Izanagi, one of the first two gods to inhabit the earth. According to legend, Amaterasu was the great-great-grandmother of the first mortal emperor of Japan, Jimmu. Thus, she is revered as the country's ancestral goddess-mother and guardian deity. The Inner Shrine's architecture is simple. If you did not know its origin, you might call it classically modern. The use of unpainted cypress causes Naiku to blend into the ancient forest encircling it. To get to Naiku, take Bus 51 or 55 from Uji-Yamada Station or in front of Geku to the Naiku-mae bus stop, which is right in front of the shrine. The ride takes about 20 minutes. Geku is a five-minute walk southwest of Ise Station or a 10-minute walk west of Uji-Yamada Station. 1 Uji-kan-machi, 6 km [4 mi] southwest of Geku, 516-0023.
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We are back, and I am jotting down a few things quickly while my mind is still fresh.
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