Sacred Shrines in Japan

Shinto is the basic religion of Japan. Their gods are represented by objects such as rivers, sun, trees, rocks etc and even some deceased humans are considered to be Kami. Shinto Shrines are sacred places where Kami, the Shinto Gods reside. Kami is represented by a sacred object which is not for public viewing and is only taken out once a year during a festival for display. Shrines are frequently visited by devotees who pray and pay homage to their gods, and seek their blessings. People visit shrines on special occasions of their lives and festivals. The Torii, a symbolic gate marks the entrance of the shrine and is an important architectural aspect of the shrines.

The Meiji Shrine is located in Tokyo and is dedicated to Empress Meiji and his wife Empress Shoken. During the rule of the Emperor Meiji, Japan prospered and joined the ranks of powerful nations. The Emperor passed away in 1912 and a shrine was built in his honor in 1920. The shrine was damaged during World War II and was rebuilt again.

Sumiyoshi Taisha is the most important and perhaps the most ancient shrine in Japan. The foundation of the shrine was laid in the 3rd century and it has the typical architecture of the Japanese shrines. Sumiyoshi shrines are mostly located near the harbors for the protection of fishermen, travelers and sailors.

Another famous Shinto Shrine in Japan is the Fuji Sengen Jinja. It is erected at the base of Mt. Fiji and is dedicated to Konohanasakuya-hime. The shrine was originally built in 788 and it underwent reconstruction in the 17th century. The shrine is located in a thick forest in the town of Fujiyoshida. A tree lined passage with stone lanterns leads to the shrine. There is an 18m high wooden torii gate. The highlights of the shrine are three sacred trees known as the Goshinboku. They are at least a thousand years old and are known to guard the shrine.

The Grand Ise Shrine is located in the city of Ise and is perhaps the most sacred shrine in Japan. It actually comprises of two shrines the outer shrine Geku; built in the 5th century, this shrine is dedicated to Toyouke the Kami of housing, food and clothing. While the inner shrine Naiku is dedicated to the sun goddess Amaterasu. It was built in the 3rd century. The two shrines are simple but extremely impressive and are rebuilt after every twenty years in accordance with Shinto traditions.

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