Ise Shrines

The central, and supposedly the oldest, of all Shinto shrines in Japan. The Ise shrines are located near the town of Ise in the Mie prefecture of the southern Japanese island of Honshu. Shinto believers commonly make pilgrimages to the shrines, which, as tradition dictates, are rebuilt every twenty years. The last rebuilding took place in 19931994.
There are two Ise shrines separated by four miles.

The inner shrine, known as Naiku, was supposedly established in 4 B.C. by the emperor Suinun, who claimed descent from the sun goddess Amaterasu, to whom the shrine is dedicated. It contains the sacred mirror supposedly given to the shrine by Suisun; the mirror is one of three sacred Shinto relics, the others being a sword and a jewel.

The outer shrine, or Geku, is dedicated to Toyouke, a goddess of grain and the harvest. It was established in 475 by the emperor Yuryaku. It is the conjunction of these sky and earth goddesses, as well as their age, which has allowed the Ise shrines to become the main Shinto centers.

Although this is no longer the custom, for centuries Japanese emperors sent an unmarried daughter, or princess, to serve as the chief priestess of the shrines; as such she outranked any of the shrines' priests.
SEE ALSO: Amaterasu; Shinto; Yasukuni shrine
Japan: Japanese Architecture Travel088

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