Ise (伊勢市 Ise-shi) is a city in Mie prefecture (三重県 Mie-ken), Japan, with a population of 100,144. Ise is best-known for its Shinto (神道 Shintoo) shrines; these are collectively referred to as the 'Ise Shrine' (伊勢神宮 Ise-jinguu) and are considered the centre of Japan's native religion.
Ise Shrine (伊勢神宮 Ise-jinguu)
Ise is home to a large number of shrines, the most important being the 'Inner Shrine' (内宮 Naikuu), actually located on the outskirts of the city, and the more central 'Outer Shrine' (外宮 Gekuu), near the railway station. Tourists and worshippers tend to visit the Outer Shrine first, before making their way to the much larger grounds of the Inner Shrine.
Outer Shrine (外宮 Gekuu)
Shinto involves worship of spirits that are believed to inhabit the natural world: trees, rocks, rivers and so on. One of these kami (神), Toyouke Omikami (豊受大御神 Toyooke Oomikami) is the goddess of agriculture and industry. She is worshipped at the Outer Shrine, which is therefore also known as Toyouke Shrine (豊受大神宮 Toyooke Dai-jinguu). Toyouke dwells at the Shrine in order to offer sacred food to the Sun Goddess, who occupies the Inner Shrine.
Inner Shrine (内宮 Naikuu)
The Inner Shrine is reputed to be home to the Yata no Kagami (八咫鏡), the 'Sacred Mirror' associated with the Japanese Imperial Family; however, it is not possible to see this. This mirror represents the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu Omikami (天照大神 Amaterasu Oomikami), who is said to have inhabited the area for 2,000 years; it is claimed that the Family are divinely descended from her.
Every twenty years, the shrine is pulled down so that the site can be ritually repurified; following this, a new shrine is built. This will occur for the sixty-second time in 2013.