Last year, I spent a weekend in Mie Prefecture, southwest of the city of Nagoya. One of my stops was in the city of Ise, where the ancient Ise shrine undergoes a significant renovation every two decades. This year was the year they unveiled the new construction, something I had seen the last vestiges of on my visit.
Old or new, Ise Shrine today draws pilgrims by the busload. The mode of transportation may have been different years ago, but as the manhole cover below shows, pilgrims are nothing new to this area of Japan:
Before the advent of buses, Ise Shrine was a tougher place to visit. due to the fact that the shrine is divided into two sections – the Geku and the Naiku. A distance of several miles lies between the two and, if pressed for time, head straight for the Naiku. This is the main shrine building (the Geku is the outer shrine ) and the grounds here are extensive. A walk through the towering trees leads to the main hall where the spirit of Amaterasu – the Sun Goddess and Japan’s main diety – is enshrined. Pay your respects but don’t miss a stroll outside the shrine’s precincts, where a cobbled street and numerous restaurants and galleries recreate the feeling of Ise in the Edo era (1603-1867).