At the end of the Oharaimachi shopping street is the entrance to the Inner Ise Shrine. Also known as Naiku, the Inner Shrine was founded over 2,000 years ago and is the most important Shinto shrine in all of Japan. Visitors to the shrine first cross the Uji Bridge and then walk a gravel pathway that leads deeper in to the shrine grounds. Along the pathway I passed by a collection of ceremonial sake barrels, which reminded me of similar barrels I had seen at other shrines in Japan.
Before reaching the shrine’s central complex the pathway forks and visitors have the opportunity to go down to the Isuzugawa River. It is traditional for people purify themselves by cleansing their hands in the river and since I was there I figured I’d participate in this old tradition. As it turns out, the river water is very cold.
Near the shrine’s main sanctuary is a cluster of buildings called the Kaguraden. The shrine’s main prayer hall is located here and visitors can purchase charms and other trinkets.
At the heart of the Inner Shrine is the main sanctuary. The buildings here enshrine Amaterasu, the sun goddess and the most important deity in the Shinto religion. Normally the public is allowed to climb a set of stone stairs up to the outermost of the sanctuary’s fences but on the day I visited the shrine a wooden staircase was being built over the stone steps and no one was allowed to make the climb. Later I would learn that the wooden staircase was being specially built for Japan’s emperor, who would be visiting the shrine a few days later.
Though it was disappointing that I wasn’t able to get closer to the main sanctuary I was able to explore most of the shrine grounds and see the various other auxiliary shrine buildings. It definitely helped that the weather was really nice that day, making for pleasant experience as I wandered around the forest and took pictures of whatever caught my eye.
As it started getting later into the afternoon I slowly made my way back towards the Inner Shrine’s entrance to begin the trek back to Nagoya. The shrines of Ise can be a little tricky to visit because of the town’s location on the Shima Peninsula but in my opinion are worth the effort.