Ise Jingu, the Ancestral Kami of the Imperial Family and the Tutelary Deity of the Japanese People – part 2

The real reason for conducting such a huge reconstruction every 20 years is unknown, but there could possibly be the following:
- Since the buildings have been built in a style following the ancient arrangement of 1,300 years ago, pillars and other parts tend to deteriorate quickly and need to be replaced.
- While the Kanname-sai ceremony, which is conducted to pray for good harvests, is an annual ceremony in the Ise Jingu, Shikinen Sengu culminates the annual event as a larger edition of the ceremony.
- For generational transition where old carpenters pass construction methods on to their successors.

Who on earth found a way to repeat reconstructions so money-consuming and so ineffective? That is really strange. Who has been covering the cost throughout history?
Unlike Roman Catholicism, the Japanese Emperors have always been positioned as national symbols except during the particular period (from the Meiji period to prior to World War II) in which they had their own property. So generally they didn’t cover the cost for Shikinen Sengu ceremony. It was the powers-that-be and wealthy merchants who covered the cost. Now is the time when we find most difficult to ask for donations from the public, and that is a dilemma
More than half of Japanese people have little interest in knowing about their own country and don’t even know what Sengu is.

This year Ise Jingu, where the Shikinen Sengu ceremony is being held, is the place worth visiting. Especially during summer and autumn months, there will be various ceremonies held related to the Sengu, and you will be able to see a large number of worshippers visit the shrine.
Since 10,000 hinoki (Japanese cypress) logs are used for the Sengu reconstruction, the Jingu is supposed to be infused with the fragrance of cypress.
Why not visit the Ise Jingu, the guardian deity of Japanese people, as it is lovingly reconstructed? The cypress fragrance that fills the air creates an atmosphere of solemnity.

Indeed, preserving the creation over the past 1,300 years is a miracle of history. Traditional technologies have been handed down from person to person. It is as if there existed a time capsule that to tell Japan’s future generations how people in the past were so ecologically minded. You could say the time capsule waits with bated breath for a time when we have the scientific capability to figure out the details of their ecological lifestyles.

Regarding the hinoki cypress required for the Shikinen Sengu ceremony; so far, the timber has been collected from forests all over Japan. However, Mr. Tsuneyasu Takeda mentions that there is a project for reforestation of the Jingu’s sanctuary forest, which will provide all the whole timber required for the Sengu a few hundred years from now. The story makes us happy and dizzy at the same time. That’s the very reason for the Shikinen Sengu ceremony. Ecological living is about making sustainable systems responsible for the next few hundred years. The Sengu reconstruction doesn’t produce waste; the old lumber used for the current Jingu will be shared with subsidiary shrines all over Japan where they use the materials for torii and more. The secret of Ise Jingu is filled with unknown profiles which attract those who are charmed by the shrine, but whether you open the door or not is up to you.

Ise Jingu Official Website:

Reported by Yukari Aoike and Akiko Sugahara, Sugahara Institute

Ise Jingu, the Ancestral Kami of the Imperial Family and the Tutelary Deity of the Japanese People – part 1

According to certain statistics, the total number of Shinto and Buddhism believers in Japan is about twice that of the country’s total population. Are the statistics wrong? No, no. The statistics mean that many Japanese people really believe in both Shinto and Buddhism. From other nationals’ perspectives, we appear to have strange religious views.

In Japan, when babies are born, parents take them to the local shrine. At the festival, people carry mikoshi (a portable version) of their local shrine. We exchange wedding vows in front of a shrine. Shinto-style weddings started in the Meiji period, and the majority of Japanese couples made vows in the Shinto style until the 90’s. However, it is believed when people die, they become Buddha and are buried in Buddhist cemeteries or temples. Therefore, in most cases funerals and memorial services are held in temples, not shrines. This system is quite natural to Japanese people, who take to it as everyday Japanese custom from the time that they are born. In this way, Japanese people are profoundly connected to kami and hotoke, shrines and temples, in various aspects of their lives, including ceremonial occasions.

Japanese people tend to be in awe of the nature, the surrounding environment, and spiritual things that they can’t see. We believe kami are the spiritual beings everywhere in the universe, and are always with us. Yaoyorozu no kami, which means “eight million gods,” are what we worship. Such belief has to do with a social structure in which the Japanese have lived as rice cultivating communities since ancient times. Maybe we have disciplined ourselves by worshiping nature and spiritual beings.

There are about 80,000 shrines in Japan. Among them is Ise Jingu in which Amaterasu Omikami, the ancestral kami of the Imperial Family and the tutelary deity of the Japanese people, is enshrined, and it is the most important shrine representing Japan. The shrine was constructed as Jingu, a prestigious shrine, about 1,300 years ago during the Aska period. The whole of Jingu covers an area of 5,500 hectares (ca. 13,600 acres).

Above all, the religious institution has kept its sacredness and has been protected by the powers of the day for 1,300 years without being attacked, burnt, or disgraced. It can only be called a miracle by historians or foreigners that the institution, a small and simple wooden house, has existed over the long history of Japan. In other words, Japanese people who believed the Jingu would be there forever should be the ones who lived in a paradise on earth, totally free from the history of killings and destruction the world has experienced. We lived in such a peaceful world even taking into account the distressing experience we had during World War II.

At Ise Jingu, there is a major event which has been ongoing since the Jingu was constructed. It is called Shikinen Sengu ceremony, a big festival held every 20 years. Shikinen Sengu is a large-scale and important event where all the buildings in the sanctuary, including the main buildings of the Jingu, treasure houses, fences and torii are reconstructed and relocated once every twenty years and the sacred apparel and treasures are renewed and carried to the new buildings. 2013 marks the 62nd Shikinen Sengu ceremony which will be held in October. Preparations for the big festival started eight years ago and the total cost will be 55 billion yen. Wow!

After World War II, State Shinto came to an end, and since then only a part of national taxes has been invested in the cost for Shikinen Sengu ceremony. Surprisingly, public donations cover most of the cost. Mr. Tsuneyasu Takeda, a lecturer at Keio University, who comes from the Meiji Emperor’s bloodline, has been making all-out efforts to ask for donations by holding free lectures all over Japan around 300 times a year.

Ise Jingu Official Website:

Reported by Yukari Aoike and Akiko Sugahara, Sugahara Institute

Soybean in ground radish

Soybean in ground radish (94 kcal)

Soybeans: Soybean isoflavone for relief from menopausal disorders

Soybeans contain cholesterol-reducing saponin, aging-retarding vitamin E, B-group vitamins for improving your skin and calcium. However, it is their isoflavone, whose molecular structure resembles that of the female hormone oestrogen, which is particularly effective against menopausal disorders. Being a vegetable substance, isoflavone treats symptoms gently, and because it stops calcium from dissolving out of the bones, it can also prevent osteoporosis.

Ingredients for 2 servings: 100 grams steamed soybeans 5 cm Japanese radish 1 teaspoon salted kelp Preparation: 1. Peel then grate the radish. 2. Lightly wring the grated radish then mix it with the steamed soybeans and salted kelp.