Once in Every 20 Years! Ise Shrine Sengu Festival 伊勢神宮式年遷宮
It’s been a long time since I last wrote an article about Japan.
All should thank to my new project Shen Lim TV. >< The last 2 weeks drove me crazy as I promised to myself that I would make at least 2 videos a month. As a result, I have been spending times on planning new videos, shooting, editing, releasing to public, everything 1 MAN SHOW! TT
Though It was tough, I learned a lot from the process of making videos. And guess what, my 1st vlog – “4 levels of Japanese Heee” got more than 2,000 views after 5 days release!!!
To be honest, I never expected my video would be watched or shared. I just made it for fun and because of the many positive comments from my audience, I decided to keep on making more videos about Japan topics. Thanks for supporting Shen Lim TV! You’re awesome!
Ise Shrine Sengu Festival 伊勢神宮式年遷宮
OK let’s get to the topic.
Today I want to introduce a very rare chance in one’s life could see – Shikinen Sengu in Ise Shrine!! (伊勢神宮の式年遷宮) I went on a 1 day bus tour with Hippo Family (a Japan-based multilingual association) friends. Let’s call it a “Cleansing Tour” because the main purpose of the tour was visiting Ise Shrine (伊勢神宮) and cleansing ourselves.
Trust me, this is a freaking difficult topic because it relates to Japan religion Shinto. I can’t explain the whole thing here but I will try my best to tell what I learned and saw. 🙂
Why are we studying all these stuff?
Because we are going to visit the Ise Shrine for its “Shikinen Sengu Festival” only held once in every 20 years! Let me explain the whole thing for you before we see more pictures. ^^
Shikinen Sengu 式年遷宮
Shikinen Sengu （式年遷宮) means the religious festival to celebrate the construction of a new shrine and transfer of the enshrined object from the old to the new one.
When we say Sengu (遷宮), it refers to the construction conducted by all shrines in Japan. The cycle span of the Sengu event differs from shrine to shrine. However, Shikinen Sengu (式年遷宮), in many cases, it refers to Ise Shrine, the shrine that holds the largest Sengu festival in Japan in every 20 years.
The word Shikinen (式年) means “fixed year”, which means the “Sengu” festival is conducted after a fixed period of time.
Why do they hold Shikinen Sengu Festival?
One say that the Sengu Festival’s purpose is to keep the holy environment pure and clean, representing the everlasting power of God. On the other hand, the Sengu festival is said to hold the meaning of “return to the source”, which means “God is the beginning of the world”.[note]古来、神は清らかな環境を好み、穢れを嫌うとされた。このため、神威発揚を祈るためには、老朽化した社殿や神宝を新たに造り替える必要がある、と信じられたのである。
– quoted from Nikkei BP press[/note]
“From time immemorial, God is said to prefer pure and clean environment, and dislike the uncleanness. Therefore, it is believed that for the sake of praying for the aggrandizement of the God’s majesty, the superannuated (main building of a) Shinto shrine and the sacred treasure should be renewed after a certain time period.” (translated by Shen)
Overlap of the Ise Shrine Sengu & Izumo Taisha Shrine Sengu
The Sengu Festival this year is rare becauese it’s held only once in every 20 years!! Imagine how old I will be next time I get to see the festival? 44 years old! lol
And 1 more event made this year Sengu festival even rarer – it overlaps with the Izumo Taisha Shrine’s (出雲大社) Sengu festival which is held once in every 60 years! (I probably won’t live to see another Sengu festival in Izumo Taisha Shrine lol…but if we do, let’s bring our grandson together xD)
The Sengu Festival has been held for over 1300 years constantly. It had been held under the management of the country in past times as one of the largest events in the nation. In modern times, government no longer manage the religious festival, however, the tradition is still preserved, and the money which has been donated to hold this 20-years-once-event is said to be 50 billion yen (donation from citizens)! Bravo Japan!
What is Ise Shrine (伊勢神宮)?
Since there are a lot of articles about the history of Ise Shrine (wikipedia lol), I will only introduce what I learned from the Japanese people along with my “Cleansing Tour”.
Among thousands of Shinto Shrines in Japan, Ise Shrine, located at Ise city in Mie prefecture, is treated as the most sacred place from time immemorial. Actually, the official name of “Ise Shrine” should be “Shrine” (神宮) only. “Ise Shrine” refers to a group of 125 different shrines in the Ise city.
The Ise Shrine is dedicated to the goddess of sun, also of the universe – Amaterasu-omikami. She is the major deity of the Shinto religion. The meaning of her name is “the great august kami (Gama or God) who shines in the heaven”.
So what we do in the 1 day tour is basically
・visit Ise Shrine (参拝, “Sanpai” means pray)
・study about its tradition & history
・ Special event – Okagura (お神楽)
We can’t see the ceremony of the Sengu because it is top secret of the shrine. Anyway, we arrived at Ise Srhine!!!