Ise Jingu Shrine
Jingu is written 神宮 in Japanese and it means God’s Palace. When traveling around Japan, you find there are large numbers of jinja shrines (神・. Jinja which has a historical and honorable origin was given the name Jingu. There are only several Jingu in Japan. In addition, when you say only “Jingu” without proper name, you indicate Ise Jingu. Ise Jingu is in the class of its own.
Ise Jingu consists of 125 shrines including Toyouke Daijingu (usually called Geku), Kotai Jingu (usually called Naiku) and Betsugu. When visiting Ise Jingu, first visiting Geku is a custom from ancient times.
Geku is five minutes from Ise-shi Station on foot and has two approaches which lead to the precincts after crossing bridges. After washing your hands and mouth at the water fountain (chozuya), you head to Goseigu (main building) through the approach, which is surrounded by trees. The ancient building stands against a backdrop of lush greenery, and there is Magatama-ike pond in the garden. Irises are in full bloom in June and a flock of wild ducks can be seen in winter.
After visiting Geku, next you go to Naiku. It is 15 minutes transit time from Kintetsu Ujiyamada Station by bus. It enshrines Amaterasu Omikami, who is the noblest and supreme God in Japan. Crossing Uji Bridge, which is said to be a bridge separating the world and the spirit world, you walk along an approach that is surrounded by mountains. On the way you pass by the Isuzu River and this place is called Mitarashi where you can wash your hands and mouth using the river water if the weather is fine. Passing the Torii gate, you find stone steps on your left hand side and solemn Seigu (main building) on the steps.
To maintain purity of the buildings and hand down skills, all buildings and torii in both Naiku and Geku are reconstructed every 20 years. This custom is called “Jingu Shikinen Sengu.” More than 10,000 Hinoki cypress trees are needed for the reconstruction process and various types of events related to Sengu are held. The next Sengu will be conducted in 2013. (Note: Woods of the old buildings are recycled in the construction of other shrines in the country.)
Ise Jingu is surrounded by abundant nature. Taking a stroll in the woods and along the riverside will leave you refreshed. Please enjoy the relaxed and pure atmosphere of Jingu.
Oharai-machi / Okage-yokocho
Oharai-machi has prospered as a cathedral town of Naiku. Oharai Dori Street is 800 meters long from Uji Bridge along the Isuzu River. Souvenir shops, well established confectioneries, restaurants and inns line the street and attract visitors all round the year.
Ise-udon noodle is Ise’s specialty dish and there are many udon restaurants in Oharai-machi. It is simple to make cuisine, simply put green onion as a condiment on thick and soft noodles and pour black thick soy sauce. Originally, this dish was eaten by local farmers and if you are hungry, eating this type of udon is recommended. Okage-yokocho is located in the middle of Oharai-machi and home to shops which resembles ones from the late Edo era (1603-1867) and the early Meiji era (1868-1912). You can enjoy hands-on activities from making konnyaku and fish sausages, shooting in a shooting gallery and eating delicious local cuisine. This area is full of the charm that Ise has to offer.