Discover the 2000-Year-Old Hidden Gem: Ise Grand Shrine

Discover the 2000-Year-Old Hidden Gem: Ise Grand Shrine

Hi, I’m Naomi, the Customer Service Manager & Digital Social Media Creator for The Japanese Shop! I just came back from Japan at the end of May and I travelled to a really interesting place that I had never been to before called ‘Ise’, which is known to most Japanese people for ‘Ise Jingu’, one of the most sacred Shinto shrines in Japan.

Ise offers a profound glimpse into Japan’s spiritual heart, blending natural beauty with deep cultural heritage. Let me share with you a brief history of Ise and my travel tips!

Where is Ise and How to Get There?

Ise is located in the Mie Prefecture and about 2 hours southeast of Kyoto. From Tokyo, take the Shinkansen to Nagoya and change to either the JR line or Kintetsu line. The same applies if you're coming from Osaka, with both JR and Kintetsu lines available.

I chose the Kintetsu Line from Nagoya because there is a special train called Shimakaze that runs from Nagoya to Ise. This premium limited express train requires booking a ticket in advance. The Shimakaze services routes between Osaka, Kyoto, and Nagoya (More details here).

(My mother and I travelled on this Shimakaze train)

Tickets are available one month in advance, and you need to pay an extra fee for a reserved seat on Shimakaze, in addition to the basic fare. I tried to book tickets online as soon as they were released (10 am Japan time) but couldn’t get two seats together for my mother and me. Instead, I got two individual seats, one in front of the other. It turned out to be a more luxurious experience, with reclining leather seats!

(Reading a leaflet of Shimakaze whilst travelling)

Proper Way to Visit Ise Jingu

There are many shrines in Ise, the Ise Grand Shrine complex consists of 125 shrines in total, making it impossible to visit them all during a short stay. The main parts of this complex are Geku (Outer Shrine) and the Naiku (Inner Shrine).


Here's how to visit Ise Jingu traditionally:

Start with the Outer Shrine (Geku) and then visit the Inner Shrine (Naiku).

Ise Jingu Geku

Toyo’uke no Omikami is the deity worshipped at Ise Jingu’s Geku. She is the goddess of agriculture and industry. We took a taxi guided tour, and the guide told us that food has been offered to the goddess at Geku twice a day, every day for the past 1500 years! The food is prepared with special fires and pure water, including rice, dried tuna, fresh fish, seaweed, vegetables, fruits, salt, water, and sake, all sourced locally. This ritual has been performed daily without a fail.


(The outside view of Gaiku)

Ise Jingu Naiku

Naiku is considered the most sacred Shinto shrine in Japan and has been central to Shinto belief for over 2000 years. It is dedicated to Amaterasu-Omikami, the sun goddess, and the mythical ancestor of the Japanese Imperial family. One of the most significant practices at Naiku is Shikinen Sengu, a ritual involving the reconstruction of the shrine every 20 years. This tradition, over 1,300 years old, symbolizes Shinto concepts of renewal and impermanence.

Visitors enter Naiku through the Uji Bridge, which spans the Isuzu River and symbolizes the transition from the mundane world to the sacred realm. The approach to the shrine is a serene pathway lined with ancient cryptomeria trees. Before approaching the main shrine, visitors purify themselves at the temizuya, a water basin for ritual hand washing.

(The steps and the gate lead to Naiku)

How to Travel from Geku to Naiku

To travel from Geku (Outer Shrine) to Naiku (Inner Shrine) at the Ise Grand Shrine, you have five options:

  1. Bus: The easiest way is by taking a bus. Direct buses connect Geku and Naiku, taking about 15 minutes and costing approximately 440 yen. Buses depart regularly, especially during peak visiting times.
  2. Walking: If you prefer a leisurely approach, you can walk between the two shrines. The distance is about 6 kilometers and takes roughly 1 to 1.5 hours. This route allows you to enjoy the natural beauty and peaceful atmosphere of the area.
  3. Taxi: Taxis are readily available and provide a quicker but more expensive option. The ride takes about 10-15 minutes depending on traffic.
  4. Own Car: If you are hiring a car, you can drive between the shrines. It takes about 10-15 minutes, similar to a taxi. There is parking available within walking distance of Naiku.
  5. Cycling: Another option is to rent a bicycle. This can be a pleasant way to travel and allows you to explore the surrounding areas more freely.

Who Visits Ise Jingu?

Members of the Japanese Royal Family regularly visit Ise Jingu. Historical figures such as the Tokugawa, Toyotomi, and Oda families have also visited. Oda Nobunaga, a prominent daimyo who played a crucial role in the unification of Japan in the late 16th century, made several pilgrimages to Ise Jingu to legitimize his rule through religious and cultural patronage.

Ise Jingu attracts about 6 million visitors annually, highlighting its importance in Japanese culture and spirituality. Surprisingly, I didn’t see many foreign tourists in Ise Jingu and the surrounding area. Unlike other tourist spots in Tokyo, Ise remains less frequented by international visitors. A taxi driver mentioned that this is because Ise is a spiritual area, and thus, it doesn't attract as many tourists.

Near Naiku, you can explore old-fashioned streets like Oharai-machi and Okage-yokocho, where you can enjoy local foods and buy souvenirs.

(Oharaimachi street)

If you have already visited Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Hokkaido, and other popular destinations in Japan, maybe it’s time to visit Ise!


Before your travel to Japan, don’t forget to grab your Goshuincho! Here is our Goshuincho collection!

I used Kyoto Golden Temple Japanese Stamp Book and I gained Gaiku and Naiku Goshuin (Shrine’s stamps). I have created Reel in our Instagram a few weeks ago. Please visit our Instagram! In this post, you will see a little bit of Geku and Naiku.



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