For a rough estimate of 1,300 years, the Ise Jingu grand shrine of Mie Prefecture, Japan is torn down every 20 years. Their main aim? To rebuild it anew.
According to records, the Shrine dates up to 2,000 years old and was fortified by a process where it is broken down and rebuilt again. This process of preserving the building and the original architect’s design has helped the Shinto shrine stay the same over the tests of time.
The Long Now foundation writes about the shrine’s secret: “It’s secret isn’t heroic engineering or structural overkill, but rather cultural continuity.”
Ise Jingu was rebuilt in 2013 and the people became busy preparing for the ceremony called Shiken Sengo.
2013 is one of the reconstruction years, and people in Ise are busy preparing for a ceremony to mark this event, called Shikinen Sengo. Japan for Sustainability’s Junko Edahiro describes the history of the ceremony at length and reports on the upcoming festivities:
Junko Edahiro described the ceremony saying:
This is an important national event. Its underlying concept — that repeated rebuilding renders sanctuaries eternal — is unique in the world.
The Sengu is such a large event that preparations take over eight years, four years alone just to prepare the timber.
For the ceremony, townsfolk participate in a parade to carry the wood along with stones. Each person carries two and places them in sacred spots around the shrine.
According to a shrine visitor, the Shiken Sego ceremony keeps the Japanese artisan alive and invigorates spiritual bonds.
It also involves the wish that Japanese traditional culture should be transmitted to the next generation. The renewal of the buildings and of the treasures has been conducted in the same traditional way ever since the first Shikinen Sengu had been performed 1300 years ago. Scientific developments make manual technology obsolete in some fields. However, by performing the Shikinen Sengu, traditional technologies are preserved.
Here are a few photos: