By: Stephen Lauer
Shrines usually have similar architectural features that signify that the structure is a prayer location. The first feature is a torii, which denotes the entrance or approach to the shrine. The purpose of torii is that they are the gate that divides the earth and the spirit world as Shinto shrines do not exist on earth according to Shinto teachings. The ground the shrines sit on is on earth but the structures and homes for the deities are in the spirit world thus allowing the deities to hear the people’s prayers much easier. Most torii are made out of wood but can be made out of other various materials and painted different colors. The main color scheme for torii is orange and black. The next feature is the komainu which are a pair of dogs or lions that guard the shrine. These are usually located by the entrance to the shrine to oversee who enters the shrine. Next is the purification trough which allows people to wash their hands and mouths before entering the shrine. Anyone that is sick, has open wounds, or is mourning must wash before entering to remove the impurities that you are bringing in. Next is the main building and offering hall which usually consist of separate buildings. The main hall is where the sacred artifacts are stored and kept safe while the offering hall is where the visitors come to say their prayers and give their offerings to the shrine. The next feature is not at all shrines but is a stage for bugaku dance or noh theater. Noh theater are songs and dances that tell the stories of legends, history, literature and even current events. Ema are the next feature at shrines and are a place for visitors to write their wishes down and leave behind in hopes that the deities will see them and make them come true. The most wished for things include good health, success, passing exams, love, and wealth. Omikuji are hung throughout shrines and are paper slips with fortunes on them. The fortunes written on them range from very good luck to very bad luck and it is said that by tying the fortune to a tree branch the good will come true and the bad can be prevented. The final feature is shimenawa which is a straw rope with white paper hanging from it to denote a sacred on the other side of the rope. Usually these are placed on torii gates to signify the shrine on the other side being sacred. One feature that will never be found at a Shinto shrine is a cemetery as death is seen as an impurity and therefore not dealt with by the Shinto shrines.
Ise Grand Shrine is the shrine dedicated to the most important deity in the Shinto religion, Amaterasu, the sun goddess. The shrine is made up of a complex of buildings which in total is roughly 125 different buildings. The main buildings in the shrine resemble granaries and do not resemble any other Asian architecture style. Naiku, the inner shrine, and Geku, the outer shrine are both disassembled and rebuilt with new materials every twenty years to keep the building fresh and new for the deities. This tradition just completed its 62nd rebuilding in 2013 making the 63rd to happen in 2033.
Low Poly Perspective of the Ise Grand Shrine