The Spiritual Majesty of Ise Jingu: It’s the soul of Japan.

The Spiritual Majesty of Ise Jingu: It’s the soul of Japan.

Ise Jingu is the most important Jingu in Japan. It’s here, among gigantic, old trees that Amaterasu-Omikami, the greatest of the kami(Shinto-deities), ancestor of the Imperial family, is permanently enshrined. It is a very spiritual place and the goal is for you to emerge feeling refreshed and relaxed.

Written by ChadMartin

-Author's Introduction
My otaku side brought me toNagoya, Japan in 2012, but I stayed for the food, countryside towns, andgorgeous mountain scenery. I was born and raised on the east coast of theUS, but I dare say I never grew up. I never shut up about Japan.

Every single Japanese person knows Ise Jingu. It is the most important Jingu in Japan, so as the center of Shinto, the ancient Japanese religion worshipping the spirits or kami that live within everything, Ise Jingu is the soul of the country.

 It’s here, among gigantic, old trees that Amaterasu-Omikami, the greatest of the kami, ancestor of the Imperial family, is permanently enshrined. 

Coming to Ise Jingu is very important during your visit to Japan, but please do be respectful of the grounds’ sanctity.

It may be a bit confusing to see that there are two Ise Jingu, but they are actually just two major parts of the massive whole. 

You should begin your quest at Ise Jingu “Geku”, which means “outer Jingu”. You can walk there from Iseshi Station. I recommend going early in the morning. You can’t beat the calm of the morning at the Jingu.

All jinja have a small fountain where you’re expected to rinse your hands and mouth.

Be sure to rinse your hands at the fountain before the entrance. 

You’ll be awkward about it at first. Don’t worry. You’ll impress people if you simply give a short bow toward the fountain when you approach, get one big scoop of water and pour some over each hand before cupping some to your mouth with your left hand. Rinse your left hand again and spit out the water. Oh, and don’t spill the water inside the clean water pool! Replace the scoop, give another bow, and you’re now purified! Congratulations. You’re off to the divine realm.

Breathe deep and take your time walking the trails. Yet another etiquette point: it’s best not to walk directly through the center of the torii gates because that path is for spirits. Walk a little to the left or right, but definitely be sure to pass between the gate’s posts.

Geku is a nice leisurely walk culminating in a visit to Toyo’ukedaijingu, in which is enshrined a kami of food, shelter, and clothing. 

Before long, you may find that you’re ready for the main attraction. Naiku, the “inner Jingu” isn’t far, but I definitely wouldn’t walk it. From Geku, you can take a bus, hail a cab, or go back to Iseshi Station to take the train a little closer (to Isuzugawa Station), but the bus is really the easiest.

Naiku draws many more visitors due to its greater importance, scenery, and proximityto Okage Yokocho.

The entrance to Naiku is through a large torii gate and then crossing a bridge spanning a shallow river. It’s a stunning sight in any season, and you’ll see a lot of people taking pictures around there.
But keep in mind that inside, you probably shouldn’t take pictures of the Jingu, or of anyone praying.
Man, all these rules and finger-wagging! Don’t stress about it too much.
It is a very spiritual place and the goal is for you to emerge feeling refreshed and relaxed.

Once across the bridge, you’re bound to see another purifying fountain before too long. Continuing along, you’ll find what appears to be a place staffed by Jingu maidens. 

They sell many kinds of Shinto ritual-related goods, but most tourists find the omamori the most appealing. Omamori look like little colorful pouches that you can tie on or hang on something. There are many different designs and they each have different meanings. They can give you luck with anything from safe childbearing to automotive safety to studies . They make great souvenirs.

With your handful of omamori, it’s time to head to a Jingu and say a prayer. There are some enormous trees on the way. Consider the powerful Shinto nature spirits that dwell within. Look around for a Jingu and do as the Romans do. You’ll see them approach, bow, clap twice, bow again, and leave. People are here to thank the kami, not make requests.

You’ll likely see a site like this. Either previous divine palace of Jingu was here before, or the area is being prepared to host new divine palace of Jingu. The divine palace of Jingu is moved and rebuilt every twenty years.

The approach to the main place of Jingu.

The main place of Jingu is in a beautiful corner ofthe grounds with a wide stone approach. You might be surprised that you can’tgo inside, but only the shinto priests are allowed within this sacred area.Still, you can approach the front to say your prayer, and hopefully catch aglance of some or priests in the middle of some arcane task. 

Centered, lungs full of fresh air, wisdom of nature spirits in your head, it’s time to head back into the mortal realm. Be sure to stop by Okage Yokocho, the traditional street just outside the Jingu, before you head off to your next destination. You’ll find all kinds of tasty treats there.

To get to Ise Jingu, take a Limited Express Kintetsu Line train from Nagoya (1hour 20min), Osaka (1hour 40 min), or Kyoto (2 hours)

Tourist attractions covered by this article