ISE & NARA
Ancient paths from mythology

The place of origin of Japan since mythical times. Ise Jingu, the pinnacle of Japanese Shintoism, Sumo, Sake, Shugendo, giant ancient tombs, etc. This is the path where you can feel the origin of today's politics and culture.Experience the "ancient Japan".

Overview

Since mythological times, this area has been known as the birthplace of Japan. It is the home of Ise Jingu, which sits at the apex of Japan's indigenous Shinto religion. The home of sumo, of sake, of Shugendo (mountain asceticism), of giant Kofun (megalithic tombs). This is where you can sense the starting point of the politics and culture of today's Japan.

This sacred place extends to the Kii Peninsula and encapsulates many sacred mountains. In these forests, populated with cedar trees many hundreds of years old, native "kami" (gods) have been worshipped for more than two millennia. Ise Jingu is one of the most sacred and respected places in Japan. For Japanese people, Ise Jingu is “the home of Japan's heart”.

Nara sits in the center of the Kansai region. It is known worldwide for being home to Japan's oldest Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. Nara became the center of Japanese politics and religion in the 8th century, meaning it is the site of many of Japan's most famous temples. The best known example, Hōryūji (Hōryū Temple), is a designated National Treasure and is also inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Of particular note is its five-storied pagoda: this is the world's oldest wooden structure and its beauty is an undoubted must-see.

Recommended Spots

  • The grounds of Hōryūji (Hōryū Temple) house the world's oldest surviving wooden structures, conveying images of Japan as it existed more than 1,300 years ago, during the Asuka Period (A.D. mid 6th - beginning of 8th c.).

    Hōryūji boasts an illustrious 14 centuries of continuous observance of tradition since established by Prince Shōtoku, the great statesman and founder of Buddhism in Japan.

    Hōryūji contains over 2,300 important cultural and historical structures and articles, including nearly 190 that have been designated as National Treasures or Important Cultural Properties. In December of 1993, Hōryūji, as a unique storehouse of world Buddhist culture, became the first treasure of any kind in Japan to be selected by UNESCO as part of the World Heritage.
  • Asuka culture is a fusion of Japanese, Chinese and Indian Buddhist culture brought together around 1,400 years ago in the Nara region. Many great temples were built in the area, including Hase Temple. The Yamanobe Road from Miwa to Nara is said to be Japan’s oldest ancient road.
    Hase temple was built in the second half of the 7th century. It stands halfway up Mt. Hase, a mountain considered sacred since ancient times. Its vast temple grounds are home to multiple historic buildings, as well as more than 1,000 precious cultural properties.
    Audio Guide
  • Asuka-dera was Japan's first official Buddhist temple, and is home to the oldest "daibutsu" (Great Buddha) statue in Japan. The original building was lost to fire, but the Great Buddha has been installed in the same location for some 1,400 years. The serene expression on the Great Buddha's face speaks to artistic influences from mainland Asia.
  • Symbolic of Mt. Yoshino, Kinpusenji is the head temple of Shugendo. Shugendo was developed by En no Gyoja in the late 7th century as a unique religion combining Shintoism, Buddhism, and Taoism with ancient Japanese mountain worship. The main Zaodo Hall is Japan's second largest wooden building after Todai-ji's Great Buddha Hall in Nara.
    Audio Guide
  • Omiwa Shrine is said to be Japan's oldest shrine. The deity is Mt. Miwa itself, a sacred mountain where the spirit of Omononushi no Okami, the god of nation-building, is said to reside. To enter the mountain, one must be dressed in white or wear a white sash. Except for rehydration, drinking, eating, taking pictures, and speaking of one's experience inside the mountain afterwards is prohibited.
    Audio Guide
  • Ise Jingu has a history of some two thousand years. It comprises Kotai Jingu, also known as Naiku (the inner shrine), which sits on the bank of the Isuzu River, Toyo’ukedaijingu, also known as Geku (the outer shrine), and some 125 other shrines of various sizes besides. Kotai Jingu is dedicated to Amaterasu-Omikami, and is held beloved in the hearts of Japanese nationwide. The grounds of the temple are home to vast swathes of untouched woodland. The approach to the temple, lined with ancient, giant trees, has an unmistakably sacred atmosphere. ​
  • The Saioh were unmarried royal princess or queens dispatched to Ise's Saiku as a representative priestess to Amaterasu each time an Emperor ascended the throne. The practice lasted for around 660 years, and 64 Saioh were appointed, each accompanied by around 500 attendants. There were five lodgings called Tongu in the cities of Seta, Koka, Tarumi, Suzuka, and Ichishi to accommodate them. Schedule: First Saturday and Sunday of June every year.
    Audio Guide
  • "Ama" refers to traditional women skin-divers who catch abalone, turban shells, seaweed, and other sea foods for a living. Ama fishing equipment has been found in Jomon period ruins from about 5,000 years ago. In the Heian period over 830 years ago, the Shima area was famed for providing the Heian period imperial family and imperial court with marine products such as puffer fish, abalone and turban shells. Enjoy the taste of freshly harvested, freshly grilled marine products at an "ama" hut, where the women rest between dives. You can also meet some of currently active divers. ​
    Audio Guide
  • Meoto Iwa, Futami Okitama Jinja (Ise-Shima)​
    A site of ritual purification since ancient times, this is a place where visitors to Ise Jingu came to cleanse both mind and body. On summer solstice, the sun rises exactly between the Meoto Iwa, or the Wedded Rocks, as does the moon on winter solstice. This is also a favored spot to enjoy sunrise and sunset.

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