“Where is the best shrine in Japan?” is a difficult question to answer.
Why? Because there are 80,000 shrines in Japan and everyone in Japan has their own personal favorite shrine.
For example, the famous Japanese architect, Tadao Ando, likes the Itsukushima shrine. As an architect, he was impressed by the grandeur of the design.
Japanese people often make wishes to the Gods (Kami), so they sometimes select a shrine depending on what they want. Each shrine is believed to bring a specific benefit, for example: good fortune in regards to prosperity, love, studying, art, etc.
However, the most sacred shrine in Japan is generally considered to be Ise Grand Shrine (Ise Jingu) in Mie prefecture.
It’s dedicated to the sun goddess, Amaterasu. It celebrates over 2,000 years of history. It is considered the central shrine of the Shinto religion and stands above all other shrines.
With its origins in the worship of nature, Shinto regards the seas, mountains, and woods as sacred objects of worship.
At Ise shrine, you can experience the worship of nature first-hand.
It’s more a forest than a shrine.
Entry to the divine palace is forbidden, and you can only view part of it from a distance. Also, every 20 years, a new divine palace with the same dimensions as the previous one is constructed at an alternate site that is adjacent to the main sanctuary.
It turns out that forests and rivers are more eternal than human constructs.
During the Edo period, making a pilgrimage to the Ise Grand Shrine was a very popular thing to do, with 4 million people visiting the shrine annually.
Many inns welcomed the pilgrims, many guide books were published, and many salesmen sold package tours.
Having said that, there are still many other amazing shrines in Japan.
If you are headed to Tokyo, looking at the Tokyo Jissha(a group of ten shrines in the Tokyo metropolitan area)will give you a good idea of where to start.
They’re all easily accessed and celebrate long, rich histories.
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