The Senguukan is a museum that opened in April 2012. The museum is dedicated to educating people about the Shikinen Senguu. This is an extremely important Shinto ceremony that culminates when the new Ise Shrine is complete every 20 years.
The Shikinen Senguu obviously includes the final opening of the rebuilt shrine, but there are many more ceremonies leading up to that which are all part of it. Ceremonies are held throughout the rebuilding process from going to the sacred forest to cut trees and branches, blessing the wood, blessings and dedications of various structures, etc.
The museum has displays and videos that explain both the process of rebuilding and the ceremonies that coincide. It also showcase holy objects used in some of the ceremonies. There is a nice life-size replica of the main inner shrine so that visitors can see how it looks up close. Currently there are no English translations.
Entrance is 300 yen.
I have to rank this as my favorite part of going to Ise. When I travel, one of the biggest things that I enjoy is good food and Ise has lots of it. It's just fun strolling through here looking at one souvenir shop after another enjoying lots of different food stuff. It is best to visit during less busier times (like not New Year's) so as to avoid the crowds. While roaming around, I recommend the following indulgences:
-try the Mango soft ice cream.
-go for Ise ebi (ÒÁ„Ýº£ÀÏ) these are either shrimp and I heard from one of my students lobster, too. Anyway, I had it and it was delicious. The tempera fried shrimp, rice, miso-soup and radishes weren't so expensive (700 yen or so) but, they were very delicious.
- Ise udon - white thick noodles with a sauce & onion. Cheap
-**super favorite**: akafuku (³à¸££© mochi (pounded rice) covered with anko (purple bean paste). Very delicious when served with a nice Japanese cup of green tea. It's best here on the spot, nice & fresh.
This museum is houses artifacts and relics historically relevant to Shinto. To name just a few of the objects on display, there are drawings, written scrolls, paintings, weapons (old katanas), Shinto priest uniforms, and a large old Ise Shrine model that can be viewed overhead from the second floor or horizontally on the first floor.
-Big Pro! Visitors can pick up a very high quality photographically illustrated book near the front entrance for FREE. A good portion of the book is in English and helps provide non-Japanese readers with information pertaining to what they are looking at.
-Note for foreigners, this museum is really for Japanese history and Shinto buffs. The museum could be highly improved by providing more explanations for exhibits in English (there were none). Without knowledge of Japanese history, culture, and Shinto, visitors could be at a loss for any meaning behind what they are looking at.
-Absolutely no photography is permitted inside the museum.
Ise Shrine (Ise-jingū 伊勢神宮) is made up of 2 separate parts each being 6 kilometers or so from each other. The inner main shrine of Ise Jingu is known as Naikū (内宮) shrine or Kotaijingu. Like the otter shrine, the inner shrine is also situated within forest.
It is also said that the shrine houses the spirit of Amateresu Omikami and one of the artifacts of the Shinto and the Japanese Royal family (the sacred mirror).
At Naikū, there is a large main gate (torri) from which as of December 26th, 2 bridges, The Uji Bridge and the new one, cross over the Isuzu river. We were lucky enough to be at the opening of the new bridge on December 26, 2008.
Visitors to this Isuzu river ritually cleanse their hands at the steps of the river bank below.
Note: Only the best dressed can get accessed to the most holiest of portions of the shrine. If you wish to do so then dress your best (in other words, men need to wear a suit). Women need to dress appropriately as well and not to be showing too much (i.e. skin).
Ise Shrine is the holiest Shinto shrine in the world, with Naiku, the inner shrine, dedicated to the supreme goddess Amaterasu (Geku, the outer shrine is dedicated to Toyouke Omikami, the goddess of clothing, food and housing. She provided the sacred foods for Amaterasu, and sacred food is offered twice a day at Geku).
Both shrines are located amidst forests, which are also part of the holy grounds. Originally, the trees from this forest were used in the rebuilding of the shrine, which has been done every 20 years for the past 1300 years! New trees have been planted in hopes of once again using the trees within the sacred grounds in the rebuilding of the new shrines.
Ise Shrine is an interesting contrast to Izumo Shrine (the second holiest Shinto Shrine, located in Shimane Prefecture). Izumo Shrine is more open and visible than Ise Shrine, which is hidden both in the surrounding forests, as well as behind walls. Ise is considered to be a feminine shrine, because it is hidden and dedicated to a female goddess, while Izumo is considered to be masculine, because it is boldly visible and dedicated to a male god. I felt this was an interesting contrast, and it helps to better appreciate the asthetic value of the shrine.
Ujiyamada Station is the closest station to Naiku, Ise Shrine's inner shrine however, it is also a point of interest in Ise City. Ujiyamada Station is known as one of the oldest train stations in Japan, dating back to the Meiji period, and shows Western architectural influences. Also, during that time, it was used by many people making their pilgrimages to Ise Shrine, since trains had become the fastest form of transportation. Perhaps foreign tourists are less able to appreciate this station than the Japanese, and it's certainly not a place to hang around as a tourist, but it's not a very well-known fact, especially among foreign visitors, and if you pass by the station or use it, it's worth noting.
Meoto Iwa is known as the Wedded rocks, and these rocks represent union between Izanami and Izanagi, the two Shinto gods who are said to have given birth to the Japanese archipelago. Meoto Iwa is not simply simbolic; It is a Shinto holy site.
Pictures of the rocks are often deceiving, making it looks as though they are huge, towering boulders however, in actuality, they are large but certainly not immense. I say this so that visitors do not become disappointed when they visit, because I personally feel that Meoto Iwa is quite beautiful! Although there are many stones and trees in Japan considered to be sacred, none of them are quite like Meoto Iwa. It's a truly unique sight. Meoto Iwa is a strong iconic sight with great spiritual meaning. It's well worth the visit!
Visiting Meoto Iwa is free.
The Okage Yokocho area is where the pilgrims took rest after their long journey to visit Ise Shrine after completing their visit. "Okage" is used in expressions of gratitude in Japanese, and the name was chosen, because the travellers were extremely grateful to be received by the people of Okage Yokocho. Each person was given rice and new shoes for free by the locals upon arrival and here they would rest before making their way back home.
In the center of the area, there is a small stage where taiko drum performances are held. It is well worth a visit, if you can stay for the show. I bought the famous Ise Udon at the restaurant beside the stage and watched the taiko performance. It's quite well done!
There is a museum at Okage Yokocho where you can learn more about the significance of the area. The museum costs 300 yen to enter, and the video and tour are in Japanese, but there is a brochure in English. The video is difficult even for the Japanese, because they use speech from the Edo Period. The museum recreates Okage Yokocho using mechanical dolls. It's a small tour, but it's well put together and fun to walk around. One point of interest is the woman standing on the bridge. She was created to show the average height of Japanese people back in the Edo Period. Although the Japanese are known today for being short, but this woman is about 2/3 the height of modern Japanese! I think this museum is worth a visit, even if you don't know Japanese.
Ise Shrine (Jinguu) is made up of 2 separate parts each being 6 kilometers or so from each other. The outer main shrine of Ise Jingu is known as Gekū(外宮) shrine or Toyoukedaijingu. Overall, the shrine is situated within forest and this provides for it a great feeling of serenity and connection with nature. Shinto often seems to have reverence for nature and Gekū shrine is no exception to this concept.
Gekū shrine is usually the staring point for any Japanese who are making their at least once in a lifetime pilgrimage to Ise, Japan's Shinto cultural/historical religious center.
Have you heard of a wedding on the rocks?
These are the two famous mythological rocks named "Izanagi" and "Izanami. Both rocks are
linked by a sacred straw rope.
The rope is changed at a special ceremony every January 5th.
For a Japanese photographer, it is a must-take photo of these two rocks tied in matrimony with the sun rising over the sea in the background.
When at Ise Shrine, it is serene to walk on the gravel road shaded by tall pine trees.
Observed that part of the tree trunks are covered by a wooden bracket to protect the tree trunks from nature and damage from people.
Pleasant introspective atmosphere adds to the holy aura of this holy site.
Coming from Kyoto-Nara, I visited Ise to see the Naiku(Inner) and Gekku(Outer) Shrines.
Interesting fact is the shrines are built from unpainted cypress wood with thatched roofs. And they are rebuilt every 20 years. So the current shrine is located next to the new one being built. As soon as the new shrine is ready, the old one is removed and rebuilding starts again.
The shrines are dedicated to the Shinto sun goddess Ameterasu Omikami. There are three treasures - mirror, jewel and sword.
I walked over the bridges into the wooded area of the shrines. Quite and solemn and spiritual experience. Great way to better understand Japanese psyche.
Ise Jingu are the main attractions of Ise City, Shima Peninsula and perhaps the most important shrines in entire Japan. Traditionally worshipers visit Gekku shrine first and then contiue their prayers in Naiku, where ancestral goddess of the Imperial Family is enshrined.
Naiku is an amazing place, but don't expect to tromp around too much or get any incredible pictures inside the shrines/temples. I highly recommend reading up on the place prior to visiting, or else you will miss much of the background and history of this sacred land. The picture is of the main shrine, just about as close as you can get to the artifact.
These two large rocks in the sea, fastened together by ropes, have long symbolized marriage in Japan.
In summertime, the scene of the sun rising between the rocks is spectacular and should not be missed.
The frog is part of Okitama-jinja (Frog shrine).