Ise Grand Shrine, a Holy Place in Japan —Part 2—
Chozusha: It is a custom to wash hands and mouths before approaching the shrine to worship.
This is the second in a series of articles about the Ise Grand Shrine that is thriving during Sengu*, which takes place once every 20 years. This time, we will focus on the conventional rules for visiting, as well as the highlights of Jingu** and the surrounding sightseeing spots.First, there are many shrines in the Jingu, and each of the enshrined gods are distinct. The basic etiquette is the same for each, so follow these rules when visiting the shrines.
1. Before entering the shrine gate, make sure to bow.
2. At the approach to the shrine, please be sure to proceed along either the right or left edge. The center of the approach is a path for gods to pass through, it is not for people. Keep to the left at the Geku, and keep to the right at the Naiku.
3. The chozusha (also known as temizuya, temizusha, or chuzuya) is the place you cleanse yourself as preparation for worship. Here, you should wash your hands, rinse out your mouth, and then proceed to the approach of the Seigu.
4. At the Seigu, the fundamentals are: “2 bows, 2 hand claps, 1 bow.” In other words: bow deeply twice, clap your hands twice, and bow deeply at the end to finish.The Naiku and Geku are approximately a 10 minutes’ drive apart. It is an old tradition when visiting the Jingu to go to the Geku first and then the Naiku. In the Geku, there are famous stone spots such as the “3 Stones” which are known for releasing strong powers, so be sure not to miss them. There are “Ne-Jizou-Ishi” which resemble a sleeping guardian angel, and a turtle-shaped “Kame-Ishi.” Also, in a museum called “Sengu-kan” that is set up for the Shikinen-Sengu, valuable information, votive offerings, and more, which will let you explore the secrets of the Jingu, are displayed. The highlight of this display is a life-sized replica of the main shrine in the Geku. In the sacred ground, especially in front of such a special main shrine, you can fully experience the heavenly atmosphere. The most popular “Main Shrine” in the Naiku is a shrine for showing appreciation and reporting of your visit to the Japanese Goddess of the Sun. The actual praying is supposed to be done in a separate shrine on the grounds, “Ara-Matsuri-no-Miya.”
Once you have finished your shrine visit, head to “Oharai Town,” an old-fashioned shopping district that expands in front of the Naiku. Starting from the super famous “Akafuku Mochi” store to the specialties of well-established stores which were passed down from generation to generation, stores are lined up one after the other. No matter where you go, you can eat tasty food that will make you say “Deeeeelicious!” The Akafuku main store opens at 5 o’clock every morning. For visitors who want to have an exceptional experience of the sacred ambiance at their leisure, get up early to savor an Akafuku and tea set. Your mind is purified by nature’s elegant scenery from the main store.
On a street in “Oharai Town” that is approximately 800 meters long, there is “Okage Alley”, a replicated town-scape of the once-bustling town from the end of the Edo Period to the early Meiji Period, where a nostalgic atmosphere can be enjoyed. Experience the holy ambiance, and after connecting with the gods, stroll around the old-style streets and shopping districts, and taste the delicious Ise specialties. Now, you have completed your “Ise Visit” which the Japanese strive to do at least once in their lifetime.
Kawara Haraisho, aka Mitsuishi became a popular power spot because people claimed to feel warmth on their hands at the stones.
Ise and Sake
Surrounded by abundant nature, the Ise Grand Shrine is connected to the Suzuka mountain range. From long ago, Mie Prefecture has been well-known for the production of delicious sake from its rich soil and pristine streams. Amongst them, Suzuka City has been a renowned sake cellar district since ancient times and was even mentioned in waka poems. In “Yamato Hime no Mikoto Seiki” where a record of the Ise Grand Shrine establishment is written, there are anecdotes of the “tasty sake Suzuka region,” and “Suzuka” became synonymous with “delicious sake.”
After World War II, about a dozen or so of Suzuka’s sake breweries that existed were pushed out of business due to mass production by large sake manufacturers. In the midst of this, Shimizu Seizaburo Shoten, which was established in 1869, is the only one still in business today. It is the sole remaining original brewery in Suzuka City to keep the traditions and tastes alive. The Kiyoshiro Shimizu store’s famous sake can be purchased in the “Hakutaka-Miyake store” in Oharai Town.
A liquor store in Oharai Town carries Ise region’s local craft sake.
Mr. Shinichiro Shimizu, the 6th generation of Shimizu Seizaburo Shoten holds their sake “Zaku”. *Sengu: Once every 20 years, the shrine pavilion that enshrines gods is re-built, and a ceremony to move the Shintai (Object of worship) takes place. This is called “Shikinen-Sengu.”**Jingu: Composed of 2 head shrines, Naiku (where the Goddess of the Sun, Amaterasu, is enshrined) and Geku (where Toyouke-no-omikami, supposedly a protective god of clothing, food, and shelter, is enshrined).