Ise Grand Shrine

Ise Grand Shrine
The Inner Naikū Shrine

Ise Grand Shrine

The Ise Grand Shrine (伊勢神宮) is a Shinto Shrine dedicated to Amaterasu, located in Mie Prefecture. It is supposedly the resting place of the Sacred Mirror and was established by Yamatohime.

Mythological Origins

Ninigi

During the reign of Emperor Suinin, the jinnō shōtōki states that Ise Grand Shrine was mentioned during the time of Ninigi’s descent to Earth by the kami Sarudabikona when he stated that he would head to the headwaters of the Isuzu River at Sanagata in Ise.1

Establishment

It was Yamatohime who eventually chose the area for the shrine. The care of Amaterasu was passed to her from Toyosukiiribime and so she went searching for a place to enshrine the kami, travelling through Sasahata in Uda, then Mino until finally reaching Ise.4

The jinnō shōtōki says that she toured the provinces at Amaterasu’s command, further saying she chose the headwaters of the Isuzu River in the Watarai District of Ise in the 26th year, 10th month of Suinin’s reign. Here the kami communed with Yamatohime saying she wished to dwell in Ise and so a shrine was built. When the shrine was first built Amaterasu made a descent from Heaven.1

She made enquiries about where she could establish this shrine and advice from Ōtanomikoto helped her choose the place it currently resides. He tells her that here there were 50 bells arranged in the shape of the shrine of Heaven and that that these items here had been worshipped for 80,000 years1

First Priests/Priestess’

In the jinnō shōtōki, Ohokashima is said to have been the first High Priest (saishu) with Ōhatanushi stated to have been the first Head Priest (ōkannushi).1

In the kojiki it is stated that Toyosukiiribime was High Priestess.5
6

Sacred Regalia/Sacred Spear

An interpretation of The Sacred Regalia.

After a site was chosen it is said Emperor Suinin placed the Sword and Mirror into the Naikū Shrine.3 The jinnō shōtōki differs slightly saying it was Yamatohime who placed them inside the shrine, this document also says that there was a legend stating the Jewelled Spear of Heaven was kept in the area later chosen for the site of Shrine.1

Reign of Emperor Keikō

In the Emperor’s 40th year Yamato Takeru is sent east to deal with the rebelling Eastern Barbarians (tōi) accompanied by Kibi no Takehiko and Ōtomo no Takehi. Going via the Ise Grand Shrine he is given the sword kusanagi by his aunt Yamatohime.1

Reign of Emperor Tenmu

During the reign of Emperor Tenmu the tradition of rebuilding the Shrine once every twenty years was established as a symbol of rebirth.2

Footnotes

1. Varley, H.P (1980) “A Chronicle of Gods and Sovereigns: Jinnō Shōtōki of Kitabatake Chikafusa.” New York: Columbia University Press.
2. Martin, P. (1997) ”The Chrysanthemum Throne”. Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing Limited.
3. Ponsonby, F. (1959) “The Imperial House of Japan.” Kyoto: Ponsonby Memorial Society.
4. Aston. W.G. (1896) “Nihongi Volume 1: Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to AD697”. Tuttle Publishing.
5. Yasumaro. O, translated by Gustav Heldt. (2014) “Kojiki. An Account of Ancient Matters”. New York: Columbia University Press.
6. Chamberlain, B. H. (1932) “Translation of the Kojiki.” Kobe: J.L. Thompson & Co.

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