Ise Jingu Shrine 伊勢神宮

The Ise Grand Shrine (伊勢神宮 Ise Jingū), located in the city of Ise, Mie Prefecture of Japan, is a Shinto shrine dedicated to the sun goddess Amaterasu. Officially known simply as Jingū (神宮), Ise Jingū is a shrine complex composed of a large number of Shinto shrines centered on two main shrines, Naikū (内宮) and Gekū (外宮).

The Inner Shrine, Naikū (also officially known as “Kotai Jingū”), is located in the town of Uji-tachi, south of central Ise, and is dedicated to the worship of Amaterasu, where she is believed to dwell. The shrine buildings are made of solid cypress wood and use no nails but instead joined wood. The Outer Shrine, Gekū (also officially known as “Toyouke Daijingū”), is located about six kilometers from Naikū and dedicated to Toyouke-Ōmikami, the god of agriculture, rice harvest and industry. Besides Naikū and Gekū, there are an additional 123 Shinto shrines in Ise City and the surrounding areas, 91 of them connected to Naikū and 32 to Gekū.

Purportedly the home of the Sacred Mirror, the shrine is one of Shinto’s holiest and most important sites. Access to both sites is strictly limited, with the common public not allowed beyond sight of the thatched roofs of the central structures, hidden behind four tall wooden fences. However, tourists are free to roam the forest, including its ornamental walkways.

During the Edo period, it is estimated that one out of ten Japanese conducted an Okage Mai-Ri pilgrimage to the shrine. Accordingly, pilgrimage to the shrine flourished in both commercial and religious frequency. Because the shrine is considered sanctuary, no security checkpoints were conducted, as it was considered sacrilege by the faithful. The two main shrines of Ise are joined by a pilgrimage road that passes through the old entertainment district of Furuichi.

The chief priest or priestess of Ise Shrine must come from the Imperial House of Japan and is responsible for watching over the Shrine. The current high priestess of the shrine is Atsuko Ikeda, assisted by former imperial princess Sayako Kuroda.

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