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Izumo Taisha Shrine

Listed under Sacred Spaces in Matsue, Japan.

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Situated at the foot of the sacred Yakumo and Kamiyama hills, the beautiful complex of Izumo Taisha is one of the oldest and most important Shinto shrines in Japan. According to the Kojiki (the Legendary Stories of Old Japan) and the Nihon Shoki (the Chronicles of Japan), the main shrine was the largest wooden structure in the country prior to 1200 AD. The height of the main shrine was then about 50 meters, surpassing the 46 meter height of the Todaiji Temple in Nara (the largest wooden structure in the world today). Sometime around 1200, following a great fire, the main shrine was rebuilt to a height of 25 meters. The present shrine dates from 1744.

The Izumo Taisha shrine is dedicated to the Shinto deity, Okuninushi-no-kami. Legends tell that Okuninushi's father courted and married his mother at Izumo Taisha. Because of this divine marriage, the shrine has from ancient times been a special place for marriage for the Japanese people. Okuninushi is also the deity who is traditionally credited with the introduction of medicine and the art of farming. Izumo Taisha hosts at least fifteen major festivals each year. The November festival of Kamiarizuku, 'The Time When the Spirits Gather' is an especially fascinating festival attended by thousands of pilgrims. During this festival it is believed that the Kami nature spirits of lakes, rivers and mountains come from around the country to gather for one month at Izumo Taisha. The photograph shows Shinto priests welcoming the Kami spirits at the shore of the nearby ocean. There was a definite and palpable sense of a mysterious energy at this time. Following the beach side greeting, the Kami spirits were installed in wooden boxes, carried through town by dancing pilgrims, and then taken to the shrine.

Photo: Shinto priests welcoming Kami spirits at the Kamiarizuku festival, Izumo Taisha Shrine

More about the Izumo Taisha Temple from Sacred Sites.

Written by  Martin Gray.

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

Beautiful place, but you have some inconsistencies here. It is not a temple but a shrine. In Japan "shrine" always refers to Shinto sites of worship and "temple" refers to Buddhist ones. Also, this may be an important shrine, but it is not THE most important. In the pantheon of Shinto shrines the Ise Shrine which is dedicated to the sun goddes Amaterasu is the most important followed closely by the Toshogu Shrine which is dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu.

1 Reply

Hi Frank - thanks for your comments, we've made the editorial changes you suggested.

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