Ise Grand Shrine: Naiku 内宮
Saint of all Saints
Officially called Kotai Jingu, the inner shrine Naiku is imbued with a mystical atmosphere, which reaches its peak when you climb the steps to the Shoden pavilion ...
Once past the Uji bashi bridge and the large torii, one progresses through a dense forest on a gravel road, and sinks in what remains the most sacred area of Japan: the inner shrine of Ise - or Naiku - where is honored (and fed) the goddess Amaterasu.
It is common here to cross high Shinto dignitaries, and like them, you will need to go purify yourself at the pavilion of ablutions (the Misogi-kan, but beware: the ladle on the left is reserved for priests, and on the right, Temizusha, is open to all visitors) before continuing.
Dreaming in the inner shrine
Further along, the forest full of cedars and kami (gods) houses a number of secondary temples. The Kazahinomi no miya for example, dedicated to the god of the wind, or the Aramatsuri no miya, which allows you to closely admire the Shinmei architecture, rare and typical of Ise, of which you will only see a some elements of it on your approach to the Shoden .
It is here, on top of a flight of stairs, that we have reached the Saints of all Saints. Or rather that you can catch a glimpse, as no visitors are allowed beyond the entrance of the shrine, which is also the official residence of the goddess of the sun. It is forbidden to take pictures of buildings, or any officiants. But you are allowed to dream, to imagine the secret ceremonies that take place daily, the old rituals of dozens of centuries that are perpetuated here.
Ancient rice granaries
This Shoden is destroyed and rebuilt every 20 years, according to a unique architectural model called Shinmei zukuri. While most Shinto shrines of the country were built after the arrival of Buddhism in Japan (fourth century), and are inspired by Chinese temples style, the main Ise pavilion is built on the model of the old Japanese rice granaries: a raised floor, a gabled roof of which the beams extend, forming a "v", and a roof covered with thatch.
Sacred to the highest degree, the Shoden also houses the mirror Yata no kagami, one of the three imperial emblems, with the jewel Magatama (at the Tokyo Imperial Palace) and the Kusanagi sword (at Nagoya Atsuta Jinja ).