Tokyobling's Blog

Izumo Taisha

Posted in Japanese Traditions, Places by tokyobling on July 4, 2012

Among the several classes of shinto shrines in Japan, ranked according to importance and seniority, the taisha class is one of the highest, and one of the highest among the taisha shrines of Japan is the ancient Izumo Taisha, or Izumo Grand Shrine in Shimane prefecture on the north coast of Japan. It is so old that it’s founding predates Japanese written history and it is widely believed to be the first shrine in Japan, with its origins in the mythical beginnings of this country. In the old days this magnificent shrine was said to have been much bigger and the fact that archeaological digs have revealed pillars made up of three giant tree trunks each three meters in diameter makes this claim very believable. If it took that kind of trees to make just one out of dozens of pillars it must have been huge indeed. The building in these photos is merely the ceremonial performance hall for weddings and such, the Kaguraden, but the shimenawa, the giant straw rope hanging at the entrance is the biggest in Japan and is said to weigh about 5 tons. The rope is now the symbol of the shrine for most people around Japan. The red threads you can see if you look closely on the photos of the shimenawa are tied to five yen coins that have been thrown into the straw. If you get it in just right it will stick. As an interesting side note, the care takers of this shrine is said to be descendants of the first Gods of Japan and thus related to the Imperial family. The present head care taker is the 84th in line and took aver after the death of this father in 2002. Eighty four generations of the same family! Imagine that!

Since the God and Goddess associated with this shrine is also the Gods representing marriage in Japan, this shrine is a very popular place to tie the knot!

22 Responses

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  1. lilichan06 said, on July 4, 2012 at 5:51 am

    Oh this rope is really impressive !!
    It must be very heavy!
    I like it 😛


    • tokyobling said, on July 18, 2012 at 10:18 am

      It weighs tons and tons! (^-^;) Very stylish!


  2. romainboitier said, on July 4, 2012 at 6:11 am

    THAT is a node!!!!


    • tokyobling said, on July 18, 2012 at 10:18 am

      Haha… thanks for that comment Romain! (^-^)


  3. youmeandatanuki said, on July 4, 2012 at 6:43 am

    Beautiful shrine, one of my favorites in Japan.


    • tokyobling said, on July 18, 2012 at 10:19 am

      Have you been? I guess it is pretty close to where you are…! (^-^)


  4. Jonelle Patrick said, on July 4, 2012 at 9:07 am

    Oh, I am soooo envious! I’ve always wanted to see that shrine! I have a bit of a fetish for shimenawa, and this one is by far the finest in all of Japan. And that’s super interesting about the lineage of the 84 generations of priests too – thanks for dishing out that excellent tidbit.


    • tokyobling said, on July 18, 2012 at 10:22 am

      You’re not alone in that fetish I think! (^-^;) Thanks for the comment Jonelle!


  5. zoomingjapan said, on July 4, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    Izumo Taisha is great!
    Unfortunately when I went there, it was raining cats and dogs and on top of that I was sick with high fever, so I couldn’t enjoy it very much.


    • tokyobling said, on July 18, 2012 at 10:23 am

      Ah, that would make it a little less enjoyable I guess…


  6. David (@sleepytako) said, on July 5, 2012 at 3:01 am

    Make sure to clap for times. Twice for yourself and twice for your future spouse. Worked for me! 😀


  7. Timi said, on July 6, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    First thing came to mind was giant, second is breathtaking, I would love to see it in real, I would feel myself as small as a bug I guess.. (^-^);


    • tokyobling said, on July 18, 2012 at 11:03 am

      You do when you stand under it! It looks really soft and light, but it really isn’t! (^-^)


  8. yoshizen said, on December 21, 2013 at 7:42 am

    If the rope weight 5 tons, the log holding it above must be more than 2′ diameter
    and itself weigh 2~3 tons isn’t it ? —– it huge ! Almost insane.
    It’s mean, it needs to have the same effort to push up a stone on top of Stone-henge !
    And keep doing it since the time of Stone age. = Insane again.


    • tokyobling said, on December 24, 2013 at 6:15 am

      I admire the skill it takes to build something like this with stone age tools, and I admire even more the drive to do it! (^-^)


  9. Pete said, on June 26, 2014 at 11:29 am

    Does s.b. know what color usually is used (kind of vermillion) for all the shrines (Heian, Kyoto, etc.) and where it comes from?


    • tokyobling said, on June 27, 2014 at 1:04 am

      Yes. The color is called Shuiro (朱色, vermillion) and the paint is called Ninuri (丹塗り) or Bengaranuri (弁柄塗り). If you can’t find it in a store (not very likely for ordinary people) you can make something similar by using similar ingredients (Occra Rossa, Fe2O3 · nH2O. etc.) The ingredients are on the page in the link below! Good luck.


      • Pete said, on July 16, 2014 at 8:50 am

        Thanks for the profound information.
        Is there a (religious or other) reason why this special colour is used at most shrines and not just ‘blue’ or ‘green’ ?

        Can you also tell why some Shrines (Heian, Fushimi, Itsukushima) use this colour and some don’t (Ise, above Izumo, Meiji)?
        Is there a historical, architectonic or other reason? I couldn’t find any information about that.

        Thank you very much for your answer.


        • tokyobling said, on July 17, 2014 at 7:27 am

          No-one knows for sure, but the vermillion or Shuiro, was made popular by the Yin dynasty in Ancient China, and this cultural influence was later picked up by Koreans and later on Japanase. The Shinto of Japan has more color matches with the Yin dynasty, such as using white for mourning. This kind of red is also the most ancient form of pigment paint that human beings were able to make, so it could be based on a much more ancient tradition. It took quite a while for humans to be able to make other colors than this in sufficient quantities. Also, this color contains iron which works extremely well in preserving wood, so it could be that they noticed buildings painted in red lasted longer than other buildings. Today this color is considered almost holy and it would be impossible to sign a document or use a stamp without this red ink, in both China, Japan and Korea. You will also find this color to be popular with ancient greeks, Scandinavians and Jews, just to mention a few.

          I have my own theory as to why some shrines are red and some are brown black or white. But it is a controversial subject so I will keep it to myself! (^-^;)


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