Geku – Ise Outer Shrine – A start to a Shinto Pilgrimage

My dentist in Japan actually recommended me to go to Ise in Mie Prefecture. Ise is home to the grandest and holiest of all the Shinto shrines in Japan. Born into a Buddhist background, I have never been a pious man but I have always been fond of Japanese shrines. I can somehow find some peace in life every time I visit and pray.

In Ise, you will get to visit Geku, the outer shrine and Naiku, the inner shrine. Like other people in Japan, I pay pilgrimage at Geku first on the first day of my trip before visiting Naiku the next day. The spirit of Toyouke-Omikami, the goddess of agriculture, industry and fertility, is enshrined here at Geku. According to Shinto belief, she was responsible for filling the sea of Japan with fishes, the forest with deers and animals and the fields with rice.

Maybe the peace in Japanese shrines is derived from the connection with nature. Geku is a prime example of this. In order to get the temple, you have to cross a bridge. This is like entering into a foreign land. Once you are inside the compound of the shrine you have to walk among the very gigantic trees before reaching the shrine. You can’t enter the shrine but you have to pray from the front. The houses of the gods and goddesses are not grand but elegantly and simply made from timber. All of these aspects make you feel very much surrounded by the spirits of nature.