Ise Grand Shrine

Spending time with our friends Miki and Sumi is always a treat. On this trip we planned to spend the weekend together in Mie visiting the Grand Shrine of Ise and other points of interest in the area. The hightlight of the weekend, though, was Sumi's invitation to spend the night at her parents house where we would enjoy a barbeque with other members of her family.

After a train ride from Osaka and a bus ride through the busy streets of Ise, we walked across Uji Bridge which spans the Isuzu River and entered the shrine grounds.

Ise Jingu is the most important Shinto shrine in the country. The chief priest or priestess of the shrine must always come from the Imperial House of Japan. You may recall that when we visited the Iwatayama Monkey Park and the bamboo grove in Arashiyama we had happened upon Nanomiya Shrine where the unmarried daughters of the emperor spent time preparing themselves to serve as high priestesses at the Grand Shrine of Ise.

We wandered through the grounds to the main shrine, Kotai Jingu. The entrance is pictured on the right below. At the top of the steps, there is a small courtyard where people offer prayers and monetary gifts, but the actual shrine is hidden behind a large fence. Photography is forbidden beyond the torii, and a guard strictly enforces this rule.

Every 20 years, in accordance with the precepts of Shintoism, the main shrine buildings, the Uji Bridge, and the torii gateway are rebuilt excactly like the structures they are replacing and pieces of the old structures are redistributed to other shrines across Japan. The rebuilding process takes 8 years and requires 12,000 cypress logs, most of them from 200 year old trees. All of the work is done using traditional tools and no nails. The belief is that this process re-energizes the power of the shrines.

This is Mishine-no-mikura, the storehouse for the rice of the goddess.

The grounds of the shrine are heavily forrested and the air was filled with the wonderful aroma of cypress. People would pause occasionally to place their hands reverently on the giant old trees.

We paused to take pictures before leaving the shady walkways of the shrine.

After a visit to the market street, we took a train to the town where Sumi's parents had lived. One of her sisters joined us along with her family. An extensive assortment of meat, vegetables, and seafood was grilled and much beer and wine was consumed. Although we lacked a common language, the evening was relaxing and fun.

When the sky darkened, we lit up the night with sparklers.

At the end of the evening, a very small kitten made an appearance. Sumi does a lot of work with stray cats and dogs. The kitten had been rescued at a very young age and Sumi's sister had been caring for it.

Walt took a final picture as the evening drew to a close. You can see his reflection in the glass.