New Year Visit to Ise Jingu Shrine
For anyone living in Japan or interested in Japanese culture, Ise Jingu is a must-visit. It is the most sacred shrine in Japan, with great spiritual and historical significance.
Ise-jingu in Mie prefecture is the holiest Shinto shrine in Japan - so holy in fact that its official name is simply 'Jingu'. In contrast with the gaudy colors and Chinese flavor of Nikko, Ise's complex of more than one hundred shrines presents a plain and solemn face to its six million annual visitors. But it is far from dull, and the fact that the most sacred areas are off-limits to the public adds to its tangible sense of mystique.
The Inner Shrine, said to be more than 2,000 years old, is a different matter. The jewel in Shinto's crown, it is dedicated to the most important figure in Japanese mythology, the sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami, the original ancestor of the imperial family and effectively mother of Japan. The kami (god) of the Outer Shrine is Toyouke Omikami, the god of harvest, responsible for providing food for the more important Amaterasu Omikami.
Shinto's principle deity, Amaterasu- Omikami, was born out of the left eye of Izanagi, father of many of Japan's land-masses, deities and forebears, while he was purifying himself in a river. We don't know when that occurred but about 2,000 years ago, Yamatohime-nomikoto, the daughter of the emperor Suinin, embarked on a twenty-year quest to find the proper location for a shrine to venerate Amaterasu. She set off from Mt. Miwa (itself the site of an important shrine) in Nara and when she eventually found herself in Mie, she heard Amaterasu speaking to her saying this was a nice, appropriately secluded spot. That's how God's home, Ise Shrine or Ise Jingu was founded. The word shrine is an overly simple term for this vast complex, which is home to two major shrines and at least 91 associated shrines (or 123, if you count all those in Ise).
New Year's Eve, New Year's Day and the days immediately following, peace is not in it, as tens, if not hundreds of thousands of visitors throng the shrine for hatsumode, the first visit to a shrine to give thanks and to pray for luck and health in the coming year.For a visitor or expatriate seeking a real Japan experience, New Year at Ise must come high on the list, or if the mind-boggling crowds are too much, then a visit at some other time is a must.
Cool Spots in Japan
Address: 1 Ujitachi-cho, Ise , Mie Prefecture