With over 100 separate sacred sites, there are so many things to say about the powerful and beautiful area around Ise Jingu but perhaps the most interesting is the festival held every 20 years called Shikinen-Sengu (式年遷宮) ‘shrine renewal ceremony’. Every 20 years an identical, replacement shrine building is constructed on a site adjacent to the existing structure, the previous one dismantled and the sacred deity is transferred between the two.
This process of renewal is an important philosophy, integrated deep in Shinto belief, as it is in nature itself. Numerous trees are carefully selected and felled for each Shikinen-Sengu. New trees are replanted to replace those used, and the timber taken from the dismantled shrine is distributed to shrines throughout Japan, particularly to those in disaster or earthquake-hit areas. Each stage of this assembly and disassembly process is celebrated with ceremony or festival. This pattern of alternation has occurred every 20 years and the final transfer ceremony will happen again this year for the 62nd time.
As you walk through the forest, you can physically feel something spiritual all around you. The air is intensely pure; the cleanest, freshest air either of us had ever experienced.