Apr 25, 2011

A day-trip at the most divine land in Japan

Once a year, the imperial family and the Prime Minister of Japan will religiously come to this sacred paradise to pray - 伊勢神宮 (Ise Jingu). It is believed to be the oldest temple/ shrine in Japan.

I had been to a few of temples/ shrines in Japan during my visits to Kyoto, Nikko and Nara. However, 伊勢神宮 is very different from the temples and shrines I have been too.

Once stepping foot there, just at the first tori gate which we spotted, I observed that visitors would bow first before entering. I have never seen this in other temples or shrines before. 伊勢神宮 is divided into 2 sites, the inner palace and the outer palace. Both are huge. There are many old trees in the premises, and there are a few powerspots too.

I tried out 2. The sacred rock and tree.

We are not allowed to touch the rock, but we can hover our hands above it. It is said to be able to emit heat. I tried, it worked! I could feel the warmth, though it was a pretty windy and cool day that day.

Next is the sacred tree. It is believed that by hugging the tree, positive energy from the tree will flow to us. This spot was always crowded. Hence it is very easy to recognise which tree is the powerspot.

For the main shrine, photography is only allowed at the bottom of the steps, before another tori gate. And we pray in front of the shrine, which is an old-fashioned thatched hut. Right outside the main gate. We are unable to see what is in the shrine/ hut, as we are separated by a veil, a garden and finally the house itself.

Here is a look at how the hut looks like from another shrine (not the main one).

Interesting Fact
Do you know that the main shrine has to be torn down and rebuilt at a different site every 20 years? They alternate the sites every 20 years since AD 690. And the ceremony is known as Shikinen Sengu. This renewal of clothing, food and shelter maintains Japan's vibrant and pure state. The next Shikinen Sengu will take place in 2013.

The river which is near the shrine is also believed to be sacred. It is a very clear and clean stream, named after the sounds it makes, 五十鈴川.

After the refreshing visit at 伊勢神宮, we took a leisurely stroll along the streets. They are all old wooden buildings. It felt very much like Kyoto. :) I loved the place a lot!

As for their 名物, it would be Ise Udon and Ise Lobsters.

The Ise Udon are fatter and softer than usual udon, and it is only eaten with spring onions and soya sauce. Very delicious!

Another mode of transport will I highly recommend would be the Ise Ferry. We took the ferry from Ise to Toyohashi, all the while, on the car. This is the first time I took a ferry that loads cars, so imagine my excitement. What's more, we took the last ferry, which is just in time for sunset. The sunset was gorgeous!

Beware however, the winds can be really strong. It was so strong, I had to take a few steps back at times. It is definitely very very cold, even though I wore 3 layers that day.

Nevertheless I strongly recommend you to take the ferry once during sunset, just for the experience. Totally worth it. :D