Although there is a lot of shrines in Japan, the ones which represent Japanese shrine the most are Ise Jingu and Izumo Taisha.
What is the difference between these two shrines?
I will tell you the origin and the difference of these two shrines.
I also would like to show you what “Sengu” is.
What is Ise Jingu?
The biggest difference between Ise Jingu and Izumo Taisha is that they deify different “Gosaijin”.
“Gosaijin” is Japanese word for the god who is deified at its shrine.
Ise Jingu consists of two main shrines, “Naiku” and “Geku”. Each of them dedicates their own Gosaijin.
The one is “Amaterasu-Omikami”, the goddess of the sun.
Because it is said that Japanese emperor is the descendant of Amaterasu-Omikami, Ise Jingu has had very strong tie with royal family from ancient times. These kind of shrines which has had long relationship with loyal family or dedicated to the emperor himself are called “jingu”.
The other Gosaijin is “Toyo’uke-no-Omikami”, the goddess who is the guardian of necessities of life, such as clothing, food and housing.
Naiku is dedicated to Amaterasu-Omikami, and Geku is dedicated to Toyo’uke-no-Omikami.
There is some certain rules when you visit to Ise Jingu. Usually Geku should be visited first, then Naiku. When you worship at Ise JIngu, the procedure is the same as common shrines. You should do “Nihai-Nihakusyu-Ichihai”; bow twice, clap twice, pray, bow once and then leave.
The main shrine of Ise jingu is the place where you come to send your thankfulness of daily life to the god, rather than praying for something specific.
When you would like to pray for something, it is advised to visit “Kaguraden” of Naiku and Geku where you can receive the special blessing.
What is Izumi Taisha?
We usually call it “Izumo Taisha”, but “Izumo Oyashiro” is the formal name.
Izumo Taisha is dedicated to “Okuninusni-no-Okami” who is the god of nation-building, farming, business, and matchmaking.
The word “Taisha” means a very large shrine and “Oyashiro” was used to be referred to only Izumo Taisha.
The history of Izumo Taisha is very old. There is no document of the origin of the Izumo Taisha left. It is said that it was built during “Shindai”, the era of ancient gods and goddesses.
The origin of Izumo Taisha is written in Japanese mythologies. In those days, “Ashihana-no-Nakatsukuni” which is located between heaven and the underworld, which imply Japan, was the land of Okuninushi-no-Okami, the Japanese native god.
On the other hand, “Takamagahara”, the heaven where Amaterasu-Omikami lived, was the land of “Amatsukami”, the gods of heaven.
Amatsukami asked Okuninushi-no-Okami to yield Ashihara-no-nakatsukuni. Okuninushi-no-Okami agreed to Amatsukami, but in exchange for his land, he demanded a grand shrine to live in as compensation, and then Izumo Taisha was built for himself.
Okuninushi-no-Okami is also called as “the god of transfer of land” because of this episode.
Okuninushi-no-Okami is famous for the god of matchmaking, too.
One of the origin of this is that he himself got married to lots of goddesses.
The other is that once a year in “Kannazuki” which is October in the lunar calendar, “Yaoyorozu-no-kami” - countless gods and goddesses - gather in Izumo for conference. Yaoyorozu-no-kami means eight million gods literally, but it actually expresses the numerous gods and goddesses existing in Japan.
Okuninushi-no-Okami hosts them and does matchmaking during this time.
By the way, the lunar calendar was used to be used in Japan.
The tenth month in the lunar calendar was called Kannazuki which means the month of gods absent, because all the gods go to Izumo for that conference.
But only in Izumo, it was called “Kamiarizuki”, which means the month of god present because all the gods are here in Izumo.
In Kannazuki, lots of people come to worship Izumo Taisha because they believe the gathering gods and goddess talk and do the matchmaking.
You have to note that the procedure of the worship at Izumo Taisha is different from common shrine's one.
After you purify yourself at “Temizuya / Chouzuya”, where you can cleanse your hands and mouth with water, you stop in front of “Yatsuashimon”, the special gate for the main shrine of Izumo Taisha, and worship from there.
You will do “Nihai-Shihakusyu-Ichihai”; bow twice, clap four times, pray, bow once and then leave.
What is “Sengu”?
“Sengu” is to transfer the body of god to another new building of the shrine.
At Ise Jingu, Sengu is taken place once in every 20 years. This periodic Sengu is called “Shikinen Sengu”.
Shikinen Sengu at Ise Jingu started in Asuka Period (538 A.D. to 710 A.D.) by emperor Tenmu. It is said that they regarded the purity of the shrine as one of the most important features and started this periodical building of new shrine to keep its pureness and freshness.
It was one of the biggest topic in 2013, Heisei 25, that Shikinen Sengu at Ise Jingu and “Heisei Daisengu” at Izumo Taisha, which happened first in 60 years, took place in the same year. As for Sengu at Izumo Taisha, they don’t do it periodically like Ise jingu.
The reason of the Sengu of Izumo Taisha in 2013 was just because the old shrine became aged and needed to build new one. So, Izumo Taisha’s Sengu is not called Shikinen Sengu.
Ise Jingu and Izumo Taisha. Most of the people are familiar with their names but may not know their history or origin.
If you have any chance to visit there, please remind of their origin and its meaning.
You may be able to worship more wholeheartedly than before.