“Soul of Japan,” Imperial Standard at Ise Jingu

Figure 1: Soul of Japan: Promotional Video I
Accessed 5/7/20. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3B0UdMuVd0

A promotional video created by Ise Jingu, “Soul of Japan” provides a tour of much of the Temple complex, the surrounding land, and via cinematic effects, promotes a magical relationship between Shrine and nature.

Stairs and Torii leading up to the Naiku at Ise Jingu
Figure 2: The Naiku
Accessed 5/7/20. Photograph: https://www.isejingu.or.jp/en/about/index.html

Japan’s Imperial Shrine, Ise Jingu’s Inner Shrine (Naiku 內宮) houses the sun-goddess Amaterasu-Omikami, the highest deity of the Shinto pantheon and ancestor of the royal family. The Emperor holds direct authority of the rites performed at Ise Jingu. Surrounded by forests and rivers, Ise Jingu is a natural extension of the land with constant ritual attendants. Ise Jingu’s public image is presented as the “Soul of Japan.” This epithet reorganizes a popular conception of what constitutes a Japanese identity around prayers under the supervision of the Emperor directed towards the longevity of the royal lineage. Additionally, Ise Jingu’s ritual calendar is based on the cycle of rice cultivation, which is also controlled by the Japanese government.[1]

“The most important ceremony of the year is Kanname-sai, during which Jingu priests offer the first rice of the year harvested in Jingu and dedicate a prayer of gratitude to Amaterasu-Omikami for presenting the first rice to the terrestrial world through her grandson. At Kanname-sai, an ear of new rice grown by the Emperor is also dedicated to Amaterasu-Omikami.[2]

Ise Jingu annual ritual calendar part 1
Ise Jingu annual ritual calendar part 2
Figure 3: Ise Jingu’s Annual Ritual Calendar. Accessed 5/11/20. Photographs: https://www.isejingu.or.jp/en/ritual/index.html.
Saitan: The New Year.
Genshi-sai: Celebration of the headquarters and origin of the Imperial Throne.
Kenkoku-kinen-sai: National Foundation Day
Kinen-sai: Harvest Festival
Tencho-sai: The Emperor’s Birthday
Kazahinomi-sai: Prayer for good weather and harvest
Kammiso-sai: Dedicated to Amaterasu and Weaving
Tsukinami-sai: Seasonal Festival
Kanname-sai: Rice Harvest Dedication
Niiname-sai: Harvest Festival
Higoto-asa-yu-omike-sai: Morning and Night Geku Ceremony

Figure 4: Example Jingu Prayers: Promotional Video II
Accessed 5/7/20. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eL1EOEBYXk4

This prayer is an example of Gyoza and Kagura performed by a family or on a family’s behalf. Both prayers are directed towards the Imperial Family and Amaterasu Omikami. Families are charged depending on number of attendees, specific rite enacted, and the status of the worship, which can be changed depending on offering size.[3]

Ise Jingu’s second promotional video demonstrates a sequence of rituals featuring traditional ceremonial garb, the sacred branches of Sakaki (榊), ceremonial music and dancing, and concludes with the traditional bowing and clapping.

Shikinen Sengu 四季年遷宮// Sengu 遷宮: Ritual Renewal


[1] Ise Jingu, “Rituals and Ceremonies.”

[2] Ibid

[3] Ise Jingu, “Worship and Prayer,” Information on Prayer, accessed 5/11/20, https://www.isejingu.or.jp/visit/prayer/index.html&prev=search