Ise Jingu is the biggest Shinto Shrine in Japan which enshrined the Amaterasu Oomikami (Goddess of Sun). The name Ise comes from where the shrine is located which is in Ise City, Mie Prefecture and Jingu means shrine in Japanese.
I went to Ise Jingu on January 2nd with my friends to observe the worship activities of Japanese people during the New Year which I thought should be interesting. We went there by car from Nagoya in the early morning to avoid the traffic but it the end we still were trapped in the traffic jam in Ise. I saw many cars and buses from many cities throughout Japan and it was the first time for me to see such a huge number of Japanese people going to the same place. My friends decided to park the car in AEON Mall which was still quite far from Ise Jingu but it was the best decision rather than waiting inside the car which barely could move. As I walked, I enjoyed the panorama of the city. If it was not the New Year day, Ise city must be a really peaceful place to live because I could see a lot of nature with no tall buildings around.
When I arrived at the entrance gate of Ise Jingu, there were already so many people that I had to queue to enter the area. To enter the Ise Jingu area, we have to cross the Uji Bridge, which pass over a river.
The river is called Isuzu River and people do the purification by washing their hands and mouth before doing the prayer. After crossing the bridge, there is also a place where we could do the purification which is called Temizusha.
Ise Jingu is a complex of shrines that is located inside the forest and until now the natural authenticity of the place is still preserved. Besides the main shrine, there are also many other shrines inside the complex. Because it is really deep inside the forest, there are many huge trees and I could see that some of these trees are also objects of worship.
When I walked further into the shrine complex, I found a big gold shrine which I thought was the main shrine because I saw many people praying there. But it turned out that it was a prayer hall and not the main shrine. I had to walk further to reach the main shrine. Unfortunately, in the end I could not reach the main shrine because the queue was just crazy. It was really a very long queue and it was impossible to wait since I had to go back to Nagoya.
Based on this experience, going to Ise Jingu on the days following New Year might not be a good choice for those who want to enjoy the beauty of Ise Jingu calmly. But it is definitely a unique experience.
Photo : ken on FlickrIse Jingu website: http://www.isejingu.or.jp/english/index.htm