Ise Jingu and the scenic coastline-city of Shima
Known as the sacred land of Japanese history and culture, and home to one of Japan’s most impressive Shinto shrines is none other than Ise Jingu, located in Mie Prefecture.
Words and Photography: Naoto Ijichi
Visiting Ise Jingu
Eight million people visit Ise Jingu every year. The jinja (Shinto shrine) has become even more of a talking point lately as this year saw it host a number of special ceremonies related to the changing of the Chrysanthemum throne from the former Emperor Akihito, to his son Emperor Naruhito.
Ise Jingu, built over 2,000 years ago, refers to a jinja in the Ise-Shima region comprised of 125 smaller jinja. Of these many jinja, the most famous are the Naiku (Kotaijingu) and Geku (Toyo’uke-daijingu), which are dedicated to Amaterasu-Omikami and Toyo’uke-Omikami respectively. It is the deity Amaterasu-Omikami that the emperors of Japan are said to be direct descendants of.
A visit to Ise Jingu can be as short as an hour or span over days depending on which jinja you choose to visit and how you plan out your course. Stopping by the Naiku alone can take up to two hours as you cross the 100-metrelong, wooden Uji-bashi Bridge and wander around the atmospheric grounds to soak up the sacred air within.
“Ise Jingu, built over 2,000 years ago, refers to a jinja in the Ise-Shima region comprised of 125 smaller jinja.”
What is Shinto?
Shinto literally translates to “the way of the kami” (the word kami refers to gods or deities in Shinto) and has no clear origins owing to the fact that it developed naturally with the country from ancient times. It is practiced in some form by the majority of Japanese people. The number of kami in Shinto is immense and they are said to take on various forms, from the elements that make up earth, to embodiments of nature, and even important concepts. Amaterasu-Omikami is considered to be the highest of them all.
The construction of Ise Jingu
The Naiku, Geku, and 14 other related jinja are a select few of the 125 jinja that are built in the exact same dimensions on adjacent sites every 20 years for sacred enshrining in a ritual known as Shikinen Sengu. A series of rituals takes eight years to complete, and was done so most recently in 2013. Drop by the nearby Sengu Museum to learn more about this ceremonial practice. Ise Jingu, known as “the most sacred construction in Japan”, may be a familiar journey into Shintoism for the average Japanese person, however, it continues to fascinate international tourists with its mystery upon every visit.
A stay on the Shima Peninsula
Staying a night or two in the area during your travels to Ise Jingu from Osaka, Kyoto, or Nagoya is highly recommended – and not because of the distance involved. A stay on the Shima Peninsula is justified by the great experience the Shima Kanko Hotel offers. It served as the venue for the Ise-Shima G7 Summit on May 2017 (an international meeting of world leaders from the G7 and EU). Ise-Shima was chosen to host the prestigious international gathering for its great location, the view of the islands, calm inlets, peaceful atmosphere, and the food served by the hotel utilising the abundant and fresh local seafood.
Shima Kanko Hotel
The hotel features 3 different buildings, “the Classic” featuring rooms with a cultural air; “the Baysuites” featuring suites in every room; and “the Club” which maintains remnants of the hotel’s early past. Over in “the Club” is a café and wine bar by the name of “Lien” with an interior design featuring Togo Murano’s (the hotel’s architect) take on a traditional Japanese house. Grab a seat in this bar to enjoy a drop of some rare Japanesedistilled whisky. Guests of the hotel can then enjoy the fine French cuisine that was served to the world leaders in attendance to the summit at the restaurant, La Mer, within the hotel grounds.
Shima Kanko Hotel also has a variety of facilities, such as a gym, spa, Japanese tea room (for tea ceremony experiences), and an observation deck. Gazing at the incredible Ago- Bay sunset on this deck is sure to give your mind the calm respite it deserves during your busy travels around Japan. Additionally, there are a range of activities on offer at the hotel, including: sea kayaking and cruises on Ago Bay; guided cycling tours; and traditional craft experiences. Ise-Shima has been an area for worshippers, sightseers, and people looking to escape the daily grind, to relax and enjoy themselves throughout the ages. For visitors from overseas, Ise Jingu and the Shima Peninsula offers travellers the opportunity to get up close and personal with the magical world of Shinto on their journey to Ago Bay. Discover the ancient traditions of Japan and have a unique experience at this resort locale surrounded by glorious nature.
GETTING TO ISE-SHIMA
Ise City is a two-hour train ride from Osaka, a onehour 30-minute train ride from Nagoya, and two hours and ten minutes from Kyoto on the Kintetsu Railway. Hop off at Iseshi or Uji-Yamada stations for easy access.
For a more luxurious journey, take the Kintetsu Railway Shimakaze Premium Express operating to Kashikojima Station from Kintetsu Osaka Namba Station, Kyoto Station, and Nagoya Station, one round trip daily.
ACCESSING ISE JINGU
Ise Jingu Geku
This shrine is a five-minute walk from Iseshi Station.
Ise Jingu Naiku
From Ise Jingu Geku, this shrine is ten-minute bus or taxi ride. To get to Ise Jingu Naiku from Ujiyamada Station you can hop onto a bus or taxi for a 25-minute ride over.
Shima Kanko HotelThe hotel is easily accessible from Kashikojima Station. A two-minute long Shuttle Bus ride will take you straight to Shima Kanko Hotel the Classic, the Club, and the Baysuites.