This past weekend my friend Yui gave me the wonderful opportunity to meet her family in Aichi. We left by Shinkansen Friday evening and arrived in Nagoya about 1 1/2 hours later. Yui’s family actually lived in America for 3 years, so they were very nice and understanding of my American background. Her mom even hugged me four times which is more than I have received from anyone in the past four months!
On Saturday we got up at 4 am and drove 3 hours to the town of Ise. Ise is home to the Ise Grand Shrine (伊勢神宮, Ise Jingū), one of , if not the most, important Shinto shrines in all of Japan.
Wikipedia Definition: “Located in the city of Ise in Mie prefecture, Japan, is a Shinto shrine dedicated to the goddess Amaterasu-ōmikami. Officially known simply as Jingū (神宮?), Ise Jingū is in fact a shrine complex composed of a large number of Shinto shrines centered on two main shrines, Naikū (内宮?) and Gekū (外宮?).”
The shrines at Ise are rebuilt every 20 years as a symbol of death, renewal , and the impermanence of all things. Everything , at one time or another, will die and become anew. I believe this process of rebuilding has been completed 62 times which is 1,240 years that this tradition has remained intact. At each shrine, we placed coins in a donation box, bowed twice, clapped twice, prayed, bowed once more and moved onto the next shrine. This process is repeated for every shrine, each representing a different spirit of Shintoism. I was completely out of coins by the end of the day but it was worth it. I should also point out that even though the shrines were busy, I saw only 2-4 other non-japanese people the entire day.
Imperial Regalia of Japan (三種の神器 Sanshu no Jingi) or The Deathly Hallows!!
Ise is also the supposed home of the sacred mirror Yata no Kagami which is part of the Imperial Regalia of Japan. Like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, there are three sacred Shinto items. A sword, a mirror, and a jewel.
Wikipedia:“Due to the legendary status of these items, their locations are not confirmed, but it is commonly thought that the sword is located at Atsuta Shrine in Nagoya, the jewel is located at Kōkyo (the Imperial Palace) in Tōkyō, and the mirror is located in the Grand Shrine of Ise in Mie prefecture.”
These items are extremely sacred to the Japanese people. So scared in fact that no one except for the imperial family is allowed to ever see these items. No photographs or drawings of the items exist, but their divine power is still believed by all who hear about their story.
On the second day, we drove to Nagoya to explore the city. I really like Nagoya. It was like a mini version of Tokyo except much hotter. Yui and I went to a Kuma Cafe (Bear Cafe) for lunch and then had a really expensive but amazingly delicious parfait for dessert. In between we spent some time walking around the main city streets and walked all the way to Nagoya Station to ride the Shikansen back home.
It was a really beautiful trip. Yui and her family are some of the nicest people I have met in Japan. They were so kind as to let me into their home and take care of me for a few days. They gave me a wonderful opportunity to see a new place and Japan and to spend some time with some really amazing people.
Her mom gave me chopsticks at the end of my stay because the word for chopsticks is the same as bridge in Japanese and she enjoyed having me “bridge” the gap between America in Japan. I promised her that if Yui ever came to America I would definitely give her the same wonderful experience with my family.