THE ORIGIN OF JAPAN – ISE JINGU (ISE GRAND SHRINE), MIE PREFECTURE

The spiritual home of Japanese people – “ISE JINGU”.

 

Japan has a long history. Among its long history, KOTAI JINGU (NAIKU, the Inner Shrine of ISE) has been the spiritual home of Japanese people from 2000 years ago. It’s the place to worship AMATERASU OMIKAMI (Sun Goddess) who is said to be the earliest ancestor of Japanese Emperor’s family as well as grand Shinto deity for Japanese people.

 

GEKU (the Outer Shrine of ISE) worships TOYO’UKE-no-OMIKAMI who is the guardian of industries and provided sacred foods to AMATERASU OMIKAMI. This GEKU also has a long history of over 1500 years.

 

This is also mentioned in the KOJIKI (Records of Ancient Matters) which is Japan’s oldest historical record. After crossing UJI BASHI Bridge which is the entrance of NAIKU followed by a long graveled path, you will finally reach to the sacred place. Japan’s original scenery and spiritual home of Japanese people are spreading out right in front of you.

 

Visit GEKU first, then NAIKU.

 

There’s an old custom called “GEKU SENSAI” that GEKU precedes in religious service over NAIKU. This is because TOYO’UKE-no-OMIKAMI worshiped at GEKU is the one to provide foods to AMATERASU OMIKAMI worshiped at NAIKU, thus people place food offerings (called SHINSEN) to GEKU first. Following this customary practice, people visit GEKU first, and then visit NAIKU.

 

A lot of legendary people in the long history also visited ISE JINGU.

 

According to the record, a lot of legendary people such as KIYOMORI TAIRA, YOSHIMITSU ASHIKAGA, NOBUNAGA ODA visited ISE JINGU. KIYOMORI TAIRA visited here three times, YOSHIMITSU ASHIKAGA did eleven times, and NOBUNAGA ODA did once. None of SHOGUNs (Generals) of TOKUGAWA family had visited here by themselves but instead they had ordered their vassals to visit here to dedicate a lot of swords and horses every year.

 

Thinking about those well-known legendary people in the history also visited here, I can’t stop feeling incredibly long history of this place. The existence of this ISE JINGU which has always been there from ancient times seems connecting us to the past.

 

Now, let’s go inside NAIKU.

 

 

The bridge which connects Shinto Gods and us.

 

UJI BASHI Bridge which is across ISUZUGAWA River located at the entrance of NAIKU is said to be the bridge connecting Shinto Gods and human beings, which leads us from our daily lives to the sacred world. When you see a huge TORII (a gateway of Shinto shrine) standing right in front of UJI BASHI Bridge, you will feel like your mind is cleansed, and you will feel the importance of your mental attitude of having your mind and body clean to move toward inside the sacred area. It starts from bowing once in front of UJI BASHI Bridge and cross the bridge with feeling beautiful scenery of the four seasons of mountains and forest.

 

 

 

ISUZUGAWA River where you cleanse your mind.

 

Once you pass TORII, you will reach to the place for TEMIZU. TEMIZU is the place where every shrine has and it’s the place for people to wash their hands and mouth before they go to worship Shinto God. In the past, people used to wash hands and body at nearby river or ONSEN before worship. Of course, ISE JINGU is not an exception. People used to wash their hands and body right here at ISUZUGAWA River from long long time ago. Although most people at the present day do it at TEMIZU place where is beautifully equipped, but I would dare to recommend to purify your mind and body with natural clear-blue water at ISUZUGAWA River just as people from ancient times used to do.

 

 

 

Walking on a long graveled path and spiritual forest.

 

There’s a long graveled path from the gateway toward inside ISE JINGU. Even the sound of your footsteps on the gravel path can be felt as the sound of prayer.

 

The forest called KYUIKI RIN is located at the upper stream of ISUZUGAWA River and the total area of this forest is 5500 hectares. It’s also called JINGU RIN generally.

 

Every 20 years since 690, ISE JINGU has continuously kept conducting SHIKINEN SENGU (construction of new shrines right next to the old ones and transfer of the enshrined objects from the old shrines to the new shrines which occurs every 20 years). Since 1923, considering the sustainability of future SHIKINE SENGU which requires a lot of resources of forest, they started conducting the plan to plant necessary amount of HINOKI (Japanese cypress) for their long-term self-sufficient system of this SHIKINEN SENGU. This plan is still going on well even after 90 years have passed since started conducting.

 

“If we need to use resources of forest, plant more than we use”. That’s the spirit of the forest of ISE. What ISE JINGU surrounded by nature tells us is a circulation of nature and lives.

 

 

 

 

The main shrine covered by white curtain.

 

After walking on a long graveled path deep inside the forest, you will finally reach the stairs that leads to SHOGU (Main shrine). SHOGU where AMATERASU OMIKAMI is worshiped is covered by white curtain called MITOBARI, and this MITOBARI is in place in order that inside of this main shrine (the exact place where AMATERASU OMIKAMI is worshiped) becomes invisible from people outside when the gate opens. There’s an old history in Japan that people were not allowed to look at the sacred things, and this MITOBARI might be coming from this custom. Not looking at it, but feel it and share the air with it peacefully. Such spiritual mindset is something you might feel here.

 

Praying calmly and peacefully, suddenly a gentle wind breezes through this white curtain. Through this sacred MITOBARI, feeling the softness of the wind flowing here and there at the spiritual forest of ISE JINGU. It is as if God comes closer to me. This spiritual moment is incredibly touching and inspiring and beyond description. Why don’t you visit and experience this spiritual place, the origin of Japan, ISE JINGU?

 

 

Related article: A shrine town where you feel Japanese tradition and history – OHARAI MACHI, MIE Prefecture

 

 

 

 

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