LWIF EP17: Visiting the Ise Grand Shrine (伊勢神宮 Ise Jingū)

Hello world! The Ise Grand Shrine is a Shinto shrine complex that is made up of multiple shrines (mainly in two locations). Legend has it that it was founded around 2,000 years ago, but the first known building of a shrine in the area occurred in 692, so still a long time ago! Although the grounds are ancient, the buildings are rebuilt every twenty years, “as part of the Shinto belief about the death and renewal of nature and the impermanence of all things (wabi-sabi) and as a way of passing building techniques from one generation to the next” (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ise_Grand_Shrine).

Of course, I knew nothing about this as I was visiting the Ise Grand Shrine. All I knew from Ojii-san (grandpa) was that it was an ancient site that you should make pilgrimage to at least once in your life.

I used the word “pilgrimage”, but “visit” may be more accurate for a number of visitors.

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Streams of visitors!

I’m sure the kids just saw as a place that they had to do lots of walking (and see some nature, like big trees, lizards, koi fish, and turtles).

The trees were big!
The trees were big!
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Butterfly!
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Lizard!

I don’t know if any of the Japanese people I know that visit Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples are actually practicing members of either religion. It’s not uncommon for Japanese people to practice both Shinto and Buddhist traditions (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Japan). For example, Shinto shrines are usually visited around the birth of a child, while Buddhist practices are usually followed for funerals. Members of our family have both Butsudan (Buddhist altar) and Kamidana (Shinto “god-shelf”) in their homes.

Where’s the footage of the shrines?

Regular people aren’t allowed to actually see the holiest of places in the Ise Grand Shrine, and I quote,

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 allowed to see little more than the thatched roofs of the central structures, hidden behind four tall wooden fences.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ise_Grand_Shrine

Restrictions are even more severe for people with cameras, as you’re allowed to get glimpses of structures with your human eyes that digital eyes cannot. I was told it was disrespectful (to the gods) to record inside these sites.

You can see people taking photos from outside the Torii gates. Once past the gates no cameras are allowed.
You can see people taking photos from outside the Torii gates. Once past the gates no cameras are allowed.

So, you really have to visit it in person to get the full experience.

These are miniature versions of what you can see when you step through the Torii gate.
These are miniature versions of what you can see when you step through the Torii gate.

While trying to escape the heat (it was August in Japan, which means temperature in the 30’s (that’s degrees Celsius) and high humidity) we stumbled upon a museum at Gekū, which is the less popular Outer Shrine. The museum was not only fantastic because it was cool, but it had miniatures of the shrine grounds as well as a real-life replica of the front of a shrine inside the building. It also gave a very detailed look into how the shrines were made, including videos, all the tools used, and the various wood pieces that are built and joined together. I would love to show you what the museum looked like inside, but cameras were not allowed. Sorry! But, if you do end up visiting Ise Grand Shrine, I would recommend visiting the museum at Gekū as it’s a modern facility that’s really well done.

Did I say there was a lot of walking?

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Walking!

Shrine etiquette

In the video, we showed a little bit about shrine etiquette, such as cleansing your hands and bowing as you enter and leave through the Torii gates.

Cleansing hands
Cleansing hands.
Bowing at Torii gate.
Bowing at a Torii gate.

However, there’s lots of little rules, so if you’re not familiar with them and you’re not with a Japanese person, I’d suggest searching about what the proper etiquette is around these holy areas.

How about you?

So that’s a little bit about what it’s like visiting a famous holy site in Japan. What’s it like visiting a holy site where you’re from? We’ll include some stories at the end of one of our future videos.

22 comments on LWIF EP17: Visiting the Ise Grand Shrine (伊勢神宮 Ise Jingū)

  • SEA monster

    Thank you for the gifts. Your videos are my morning delight. Keep them coming, please! You are such an adorable family.

    Was that Mrs Columbo? 🙂

    Warmest regards,

    SEA

    • lifewhereimfrom (author)

      There were glimpses of her, but I’m not allowed to shoot her straight on ?

  • David

    There is the big church in my city in Belgium
    Called “collegial St Gertrude” in Nivelles

    • lifewhereimfrom (author)

      Ah, that’s a real cool looking building. That spire looks like it would be neat to climb in!

  • SEA monster

    OK, I will chime in. The most note-worthy and mythical pilgrimage spot in my area – the eastern part of Czech Republic – is Mount Radhošť (1229 meters above sea level). The mountain is said to be home to Radegast, the pagan god of war, victory and hospitality. His statue (see below) stands just below the summit. Honestly, he doesn’t look terribly hospitable to me.

    Little closer to the summit, there is another statue, this time of Cyril and Methodius – two Byzantine saints, best known for introducing Orthodox Christianity to western Slavs in the early 9th century. They are believed to have visited Mount Radhošť while on their missionary pilgrimage, on which occasion they demolished the original statue of Radegast. But it was Radegast who had the last laugh, when he was served John Scotus – the bishop of Mecklenburg as a religious offering during the Wendish pagan uprising in the 11th century.

    These days, the mountain is a popular day-trip destination, partly due to its mythical past and partly for its unique fauna and rugged beauty.

    • lifewhereimfrom (author)

      The view looks amazing! And I’m siding with you, Radegast doesn’t look very hospitable. – The Dad

  • SEA monster

    Radegast

  • SEA monster

    Cyril and Methodius

    Note: For some reason I don’t seem to be able to upload more than 1 image per post/

  • Jeilyn Moses

    Hello! My name is Jeilyn, and I’m from Spokane, WA, USA. We followed the link to your friend’s youtube channel and we thought that the roller slides were really cool! I love them! We have a little roller slide in one of our parks. It goes really fast, and it hurts my butt when I go down.

    My aunt says that when she was little, they used to have more roller slides, but some of the rollers would get broken, and kids would get stuck in the gaps, and sometimes break their arms or legs. So they took them out. But now there is one in our park that isn’t as wide, and it doesn’t get broken.

    Those ones in Japan were much much longer, and we’ve never seen the kind with two sets of rollers. It looked like fun! We wish we had long roller slides like those ones.

    • lifewhereimfrom (author)

      Yeah, the ones I’ve seen in Canada are very small (maybe like 10 feet or something). I know there are roller slides that are 100 or 200 feet over in Japan. When you’re heavier like me, your bum does get hot going down them. – The Dad

  • naciye

    Dear Aiko, Shin and their parents,

    I am Naciye from Izmir, Turkey. First of all, I must say taht you are such an adorable family I have ever seen! It is making me feel to come to Japan as soon as possible to see this wonderful places and experience the culture. I am sending you one of the most sacred places in Izmir, where I’m from, named Ephesus. The photo has the view from theatre, but the site is amazing at all. Hope you can travel around the world and stop by here, too.

    With my best wishes,
    naciye.

    • lifewhereimfrom (author)

      Ah, that’s a nice photo! Is it completely a historical site or do they ever hold events there. It would seem like such an interesting spot to attend some type of cultural event like a play or musical performance. – The Dad

      • naciye

        It is completely historical site. The first findings are from 6000 BC and the biggest part of the settlement is alive, including Hadrian Temple, Library of Celcus, Temple of Artemis, etc . It is an area of Unesco World Heritage Site and very important with examples of Greek and Roman architecture. House of Virgin Mary is also located close to this area. There are concerts and operas organized at the theatre rarely, maybe once in a year. If you would like to join an event here, the best time is on June when the International Izmir Festival is organized. Most probably they perform a concert or an opera at this amphitheatre.
        Hope you can see 😉

        • lifewhereimfrom (author)

          Ah, thanks for enlightening me. That would be really cool to see a concert or opera in the amphitheatre.

  • Franziska

    Hi there from Germany,

    Titus (my 7-Year old son) and i want to show you a bit of Celle, Niedersachsen (lower-saxony). There is our Castle and our historic city (at the picture you see our farmers market).

    We love your show, especcialy my little daughter [2]. We like to see more from you and japan!

    Thanks, your

    Franziska

    • lifewhereimfrom (author)

      Cool, the town looks very scenic! And your daughter looks lovely! – The Dad

      • SEA monster

        Chuckle, chuckle. I think it’s Franziska’s 7 year old son Titus in the picture. Still – a lovely kid. 🙂

        • lifewhereimfrom (author)

          Oops! My little brother used to get mistaken as well when he was young. Nonetheless, very photogenic kid. Sorry for the mistake.

          • Franziska

            Hihi, most people get it wrong. But we have all long hair and he looks very feminine.
            Hope to show you more pictures of Celle soon.

            Greetings
            Franziska

  • Jeilyn

    Hello, this is Jeilyn again! I wanted to tell you a little bit about two of my favorite temples! I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and build temples that are very sacred to us. In our temples we perform sacred ceremonies. Temples are kind of like Shinto shrines because only some people are allowed to go in. We aren’t allowed to take pictures of the inside either, but there are pictures you can see online. There are lots of temples around the world (there is one in Fukuoka, and on in Tokyo. My uncle says they are building one in Sapporo too). There are big temples and very small temples. We usually go to the temple that is closest to us, but there are very big and very beautiful temples that a lot of people like to visit. Everyone is welcome to walk around the grounds, but not everyone can go in. You can take pictures of the outside though. I really want to go inside the temples when I’m old enough. They are very special to us. I would like more people to go and look at our beautiful temples.

    Thank you for making such a good video about shrines in Japan!
    Jeilyn, Spokane, WA, USA

    • lifewhereimfrom (author)

      Thanks for sharing again Jeilyn. I removed one of the pics as it was from Jarvie Digital and I didn’t want to use his photo without permission. – The Dad

  • gauri

    Hey aiko and her family.. Beautiful video. ^-^ This is Gauri from India.. Here we have many holy places.. Like Hindu temples, churches and mosques and masjids. I.e.religious places for everyone.. We don’t have shrines though there are some pagodas.

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