Jingu Shikinen Sengu (神宮式年遷宮)

Jingu Shikinen Sengu is the Shikinen Sengu (transfer of a deity to a new shrine building once in a prescribed number of years) at Jingu (Ise-Jingu Shrine).

In Jingu, every 20 years all Shaden (the buildings) and the Torii (an archway to a Shinto shrine) of Shogu (the supreme two shrines) and Betsugu (second ranked affiliated shrines) including Kotai-jingu Shrine and Toyouke-Daijingu Shrine are rebuilt, and the Onshozoku (the sacred apparel) and Shinpo (the treasures) are remade, and they are carried to a new site along with the symbol of the kami (deities). Uji-bashi Bridge was also reconstructed at the same time from the Meiji to early Showa period, but since the Pacific War, it has been rebuilt four years before Shikinen Sengu.

The first Shikinen Sengu was performed in 690, in the time of Empress Jito, and since then, with only a few exceptions such as during the Sengoku period (period of warring states), has been conducted once every 20 years (there were some postponements), and the 61st Shikinen Sengu was conducted in 1993.

Ceremonies for the 62nd Shikinen Sengu have been performed since 2005, and the Seisengu (transfer of the symbol of the kami) is scheduled for 2013

Significance of Sengu (transfer of a deity to a new shrine building)

The Sengu is conducted because the buildings need reconstructing as they get old.

Plain wood hottatebashira (pillars) and thatched roofs do not last long.

However, in Tenmucho (the period of Emperor Tenmu) when the system of Shikinen Sengu was established, Horyu-ji Temple, of which original and rebuilt structures exist, was built.

Considering the national strength and the level of technological development at that time it would have been possible to build Jingu structures that survived to date.

Although there are no definite records at the shrine relating to why they dared to spend a huge amount of the nation's power to conduct Shikinen Sengu, the following four reasons are given:

They recognized the value of preserving Yayoi architecture which was already becoming obsolete at that time.

Shinto valued the renewal of mind which constantly purified the spirit, called 'Tokowaka' (forever young). In other words, they thought that the aging of the buildings meant that 'kegare' (weakening) would dissipate the vital energy endowed by the kami, so their reconstruction would also renew the energy of the kami to make the people full of energy again.

The first Daijo-sai ceremony (a festival to celebrate the succession of an emperor) was conducted in the period of Emperor Tenmu. This was the major shrine ceremony conducted only once in the reign of the Emperor, in contrast to the annual Niiname-sai (offering of the First Fruits to the kami) by the Emperor. As a result of this, the Sengu was performed as the 'Okanname-sai' (grand Kanname-sai) ceremony in contrast to the annual Kanname-sai ceremony (an offering of firstfruits of the harvest to the Ise deities by the emperor).

Each Emperor had a new Imperial Palace built for himself prior to Emperor Tenmu, but since a permanent capital (Fujiwara-kyo) was built, the values of the renewal of the capital were maintained through the Sengu of the Jingu.

Likewise, there are no definitive records as to why Shikinen Sengu has been conducted every 20 years, but the following possible reasons are given:

As mentioned above, buildings were thought to keep their 'purity' for about 20 years.
(They would of course be usable for a much longer time.)

This 20-year interval was appropriate when the passing on of the techniques of reconstruction through the generations is considered.
(Workers were footmen or apprentices in their teens and twenties, mid-career or master carpenters in their thirties and forties, and tutelages in their fifties.)

In the lunar calendar, 'Sakutantoji' (the winter solstice on the 1st of the eleventh month) comes around once in 19 or 20 years (Metonic cycle).

20 years can be considered an appropriate period to mark the sections of an individual's life or changes in society.

An aspect of the Okanname-sai within the Shikinen Sengu is the use of grain, and the shelf life of grain is 20 years.


In order to perform the Sengu more than 10,000 Japanese cypress trees are needed.

Until the thirty-fourth Shikinen Sengu the source of the timber had always been the forest (called Miso-yama) on Mt. Kamiji or Mt. Takakura located behind the Naiku (inner shrine) and Geku (outer shrine), with three exceptions when the trees came from neighboring mountains.

After this time, the timber for the Naiku was taken from Mikawa Province after the 35th Shikinen Sengu, and the timber for the Geku came from Mino Province after the 36th Shikinen Sengu, with the exception of Osugi-dani Valley, Ise Province between the 41st and 46th Shikinen Sengu.

This region was the territory of the Kishu Domain which was one of the Tokugawa Gosanke (three privileged branches of the Tokugawa family) in the Edo period.

However, because it became difficult to log the forest due to the depletion of raw wood in this region, Miso-yama was moved to Kiso-dani Valley which was in Owari Domain, also one of the Tokugawa Gosanke, after the 47th Shikinen Sengu, and it has stayed there ever since (only once returning to Osugi-dani Valley for the 51st Shikinen Sengu).

The forest belonging to the Owari Domain was nationalized after the Meiji Restoration, and Jingubirin (resource forests for the Jingu) were set up in Akazawa Natural Recreation Forest and other areas during the Meiji and Taisho periods, with a systematic afforestation program making it possible to stably supply 200 to 300 year-old timber.

They are still the main suppliers of the timber for the Sengu, although the designation of Jingubirin was halted after the Second World War.

The Jingu made a forest management plan in 1923, after which they have continued planting Japanese cypress since the end of the Taisho period (1925 or 1926) in an attempt to lay Miso-yama again in Mt. Kamiji, Mt. Shimaji, and Mt. Takakura.

Because Japanese cypress needs at least 200 years to grow tall enough to be logged, this is a far-reaching program where logging is expected to begin in 120 years (2125) and for it to be the main source of timber only in the 25th century.

However, they plan to use thinned wood for various parts covering twenty-five percent of the total for the sixty-second Sengu.

The materials from the old buildings will be recycled and used to build or repair the Sessha (auxiliary shrine) and Massha (affiliated sub-shrines) inside the Jingu and other shrines across the country. The Naiku Goshoden Munamochi-bashira (the main pillars of the Naiku) will be re-used to rebuild the Torii at Ujibashi Jingu Shrine next time, and also will be used for the Torii of Higashi no Oiwake at Sekijuku. The Geku Goshoden Munamochi-bashira (the main pillars of the Geku) will be used to rebuild the Torii on the Ujibashi Oharai-machi side next time, and also for the Torii at Shichiri no Watashi at Kuwanajuku.

Rituals and events

(The schedule of the 61st Shikinen Sengu is on the left side, and that of the 62nd Shikinen Sengu currently underway is on the right; blank means undecided.
The dates marked "*"are called "Gojijo", which will be decided by the Emperor.)



May 2, 1985/May 2, 2005*

This is the first ceremony in the series of Sengu ceremonies. It is to offer prayers to the kami who resides at the foot of Miso-yama where the wood is to be cut.

Although the timber is cut in the mountains of Kiso, this ceremony is conducted at the foot of Mt. Kamiji for the Naiku, and at Mt. Takakura for the Geku, as it was conducted in ancient times.



May 2, 1985/May 2, 2005*

This ceremony is to offer prayers to the kami who dwells in the tree of which the core pillar is made.

It is conducted in secret late in the night.



June 3, 1985/June 3, 2005

This is the event to cut the wood which is to be used to make the Mihishiro (the sacred box to hold the symbol of the kami).

It will be conducted in Agematsu-machi, Nagano Prefecture as it was last time.

The wood is cut in the ancient manner called 'Mitsuogiri (or Mitsuhimogiri).'

In the ceremony, a tree for the Naiku and another for the Geku are cut in this order. Traditionally, these two trees are cut down so that they cross on the ground.


Urakiso-goyozai Bassai-shiki

June 5, 1985/June 5, 2005

The trees for Mihishiro are also cut in Urakiso where prayers are offered for safety during the work.

It will be conducted in Nakatsugawa City, Gifu Prefecture (in what was Kashimo-mura) as it was last time.

The order of the ceremony is the same as that of Misoma-hajime-sai.



Naiku: June 10, 1985/ June 9, 2005; Geku: June 11, 1985/June 10, 2005

This is the ceremonial transport of the materials for the Mihishiro (including the two spare materials for both Naiku and Geku) that have been brought to Ise to each Gojoden in the Naiku and Geku.

For the Naiku, they are carried on Kizori (wooden sledges) through the Isuzu-gawa River from behind Mie Prefectural Gymnasium to Kazahinomino Miya-hashi Bridge in the Naiku compound.
(This is called 'Kawabiki' (literally, pulling via the river).)

For the Geku, they are carried on Hoeisha (wheeled carriages) from Watarai-bashi Bridge on the Miya-gawa River across the city to the Geku.
(This is called 'Okabiki' (literally, pulling over land).)
More precisely, the part of the ceremony in the urban area is 'Hoei Gyoji' (the ceremonial offering of the transportation of the timber) hosted by Hoei Honbu (the local community group for the event), and 'Hoei-shiki' is the ceremony conducted by the Jingu of the transport of the materials from the Kitamikado of the Geku to Gojoden.



Unknown/July 8, 2005

This ceremony is conducted at a silk thread factory in Seiyo City, Ehime Prefecture to start producing raw silk for the sacred treasures and apparel.



Naiku: September 17, 1985/September 17, 2005; Geku: September 19, 1985/September 19, 2005*

This is the ceremony for cutting the materials for the Mifunashiro (which is shaped like a ship), the wooden box to hold the Mihishiro of both the Shogu and Betsugu shrines in the Jingu.

After Sanshin and Shubatsu, the main ceremony is conducted at Miya-yama-saijo (Naiku: at the southeast side of Kazahinominomiya-hashi Bridge; Geku: at the east side of Tsuchi no Miya Shrine).

The most important procedure is when the 'Monoimi' (物忌), a boy designated 'Oguna' for the Naiku and a girl designated 'Warawame' for the Geku cut twigs with a hatchet.

The timber for this is cut in Kiso (in the case of the Naiku) and in Urakiso (for the Geku) for the occasion of this ceremony.


Onshozoku-shinpogoryo Orizome-shiki

(Unknown)/November 9, 2005

This ceremony consisting of Norito (Shinto prayer), Gagaku (traditional court music), and Kiyomeharae (a purifying procedure) is conducted at a textile factory in Kamigyo Ward of Kyoto City to start weaving the sacred treasures and apparel.



Naiku and its Betsugu shrines: April 12, 1986/April 12, 2006 (April 16 for the two shrines of Takiharamiya, and Izawanomiya); Geku and its Betsugu shrines: April 13, 1986/April 13, 2006

As the ceremony marking the start of pulling the timber into the sanctuary, special 'Shinryomin' (people who live on the land once owned by the Jingu before the Meiji period) transport the important wood (called 'Yakugi') such as for the rafters of the main shrines of both the Naiku and Geku. Until the sixty-first Sengu the phrase 'Munamochi-bashira and others' had been used, but it has been announced that the sixty-second Sengu will not include Munamochi-bashira (outer supporting pillars for the shrine building).

Three Yakugi are required by each part of the Shogu (Naiku and Geku), and one Yakugi for each of the Betsugu shrines.

This ceremony is almost the same as Mihishirogi-hoei-shiki with the following differences:

The wood is pulled into the Naiku compound from Mitarashiba.

When the wood is raised from the Miya-gawa River, a procedure called 'Donden' where the timber is drained of water is conducted in the traditional manner.

Because the Yakugi for the Betsugu must be carried into the sacred area, workers carry them on their shoulders at the end of the journey. They are carried on sledges or wheeled carriages to the Betsugu of the Naiku outside the precincts.

The wheeled carriage and Kiyariuta (song) are unique to each section of the journey.

This ceremony is also called 'Yakugibiki' (literally, towing of Yakugi).



April 21, 1986/Naiku and Geku: April 21, 2006; Aramatsurinomiya and Takanomiya: April 22; Tsukiyominomiya: April 23; Takiharanomiya and Izawanomiya: April 25; Kazahinominomiya and Yamatohimenomiya: April 27; Tsuchinomiya, Tsukiyominomiya and Kazenomiya: April 28

This ceremony is to pray for the carpenters' safety when they begin construction.

The Shinsen (an offering of fruits, vegetables and sake) will be placed in front of the Yakugi that have been brought in during the Okihiki-zome-shiki, and Norito prayers are offered to Yafune no Okami, the guardian of buildings.

Some ritual procedures are then conducted: the cutting of a small piece out of the wood, the inking of a line on the wood, and the hitting of the wood with a hatchet.

This is called 'Chonahajime' (the starting of the cutting) or 'Kotohajime Shinji' (sacred ritual of starting things).

The Jingu Shicho (Jingu Administration Office) holds the ceremony of "Kyozen no gi" where people from the 'Jingu Shikinen Sengu Construction Office' who are engaged in the construction, are invited to dinner and sake (sacred sake); Kyozen no gi is held before the ceremony at Naiku, while it is held after the ceremony at Geku.



The first Okabiki (pulling over land): April 26, 27, 29; May 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, 25, 31; June 1, 1986/May 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, 28; June 2, 3, 4, 2006 (On the days in italic letters, only Ichinichi Shinryomin, or a temporary Shinryomin only for the day, conducts the event.)

The first Kawabiki (pulling via the river): May 17, 18, 24, 25, 1986/July 22, 23, 29, 30, 2006

The second Okabiki: May 5, 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24, 25, 30, 31; June 6, 7, 1987/May 4, 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, 27; June 2, 3, 2007 (Each Monday is reserved.)

The second Kawabiki: May 10, 17, 24, 31, 1987/July 21, 22, 28, 29, 2007 (August 4 and 5 are reserved.)

This is the biggest event attended by many people in the first half of the process of the Sengu.

It is attended by all the Shinryomin and "Ichinichi Shinryomin" from all over the country as well (about 20,000 attendants for the 61st Sengu, and about 35,000 for the 62nd Sengu).

The procedure of this event is about the same as that of Okihiki-zome-shiki with some differences such as the use of two or three logs, and in the transportation course as follows:

In Okabiki, the timber is delivered to the timber pond of the Geku Yamada workshop.

In Kawabiki, the timber is pulled up from the river before Uji-bashi Bridge into the precincts of the Naiku, and handed over to the Jingu in front of Sanshuden.

Although the timber for the Naiku is traditionally pulled by Kawabiki, on some exceptional courses Okabiki is conducted for some historical reasons.

The residents of Iso-cho, which used to be a domain of Keikoin who was credited with re-establishing the Sengu, perform the Okabiki of the wood for the Tobiragi (wood for doors) of the Naiku from the Miya-gawa River via the Geku and Yamatohimenomiya to Naiku Uji workshop.
This is also called 'Keikoinbiki' (literally, pulling via Keikoin)

The residents of Ominato-cho, which used to be a terminal for wood transportation by ship, perform the Okabiki of the wood for the munamochi-bashira (pillars which rise from the ground to directly support the ends of the roof) of the Naiku from Yamatohimenomiya to Naiku Uji workshop.

This event is designated a National Selected Intangible Folk Cultural Property as Ise's 'Okihiki' (manners and customs: rituals (beliefs)).


Karimihishirogi Bassai-shiki

July 13, 1986/May 17, 2006

This ceremony is to log the wood for 'Karimihishiro' and 'Karimifunashiro' which are wooden boxes used for holding the symbol of the kami during the transfer from the old sanctuary building to the new one.



April 25, 1988/April 25, 2008 (April 25 to May 2 for Betsugu)*

This ceremony is to offer prayers at the site of the new sanctuary for the safety of construction work. It corresponds to the Jichinsai which is commonly conducted before building homes.


Ujibashishuzo Kiko-shiki

July 19, 1988/July 26, 2008

This ceremony is to offer prayers for the safety of construction work before the rebuilding of Uji-bashi Bridge.

It is performed by hitting each pillar of the bridge three times at the site of a temporary bridge after the prayers offered to Aedobashihime-jinja Shrine, the guardian of the bridge.



(Unknown)/December 27, 2009

This ceremony offers purifying rituals for safety on the completion of the temporary bridge.


Ujibashi Watariosame-shiki

January 16, 1989/January 2009

This is the ritual for the last traffic on Uji-bashi Bridge, which is to be rebuilt.

It is conducted solely by the city residents.


Ujibashimandonusa Hoge-shiki

(Unknown)/February 2, 2009

In this ceremony the Mandonusa (a talisman) is removed from the Giboshi (an ornament on a parapet of the bridge) before the dismantling of Uji-bashi Bridge.


Ujibashi Watarihajime-shiki

November 3, 1989/November 3, 2009

This ceremony is to offer prayers for safety over the new bridge.

The Mandonusa is placed in a new Giboshi after prayers are offered to Aedobashihime-jinja Shrine, the guardian of the bridge.

A woman called 'Watarime' who has been selected from the Shinryochi (the land once owned by Jingu before Meiji period) leads the procession of the first crossing with her husband, their sons and daughters in couples, and their grandsons and granddaughters in couples, followed by three-generation couples selected from all over the country.



Naiku: March 11, 1992/March 2012; Geku: March 13, 1992/March 2012*

This ceremony is to erect the first pillar for the main sanctuary building.



Naiku: March 11, 1992/March 2012; Geku: March 13, 1992/March 2012

This ceremony is to place the Gogyo (metal plates under the gate at either end of the main sanctuary roof).

This ceremony follows Ricchu-sai on the same day, but it is not open to the public.



Naiku: March 26, 1992/March 2012; Geku: March 28, 1992/March 2012*

This ceremony is to lift up the ridge pole of the main sanctuary building.

It is performed by pulling ropes that ritually signifies the lifting up of the poles.



Naiku: May 23, 1992/May 2012; Geku: May 25, 1992/May 2012

This ceremony is held to commemorate the start of the thatching of the roof of the new building.



Naiku: July 21, 1992/July 2012; Geku: July 23, 1992/July 2012

This ceremony marks the completion of the thatching of the roof of the new building.


Oshiraishimochi Gyoji

Naiku: July 31 to August 11, August 17 to 19, 1993/July and August 2013; Geku: August 2 to 30, 1993/July and August 2013

This is the biggest event in the second half of the process of the Sengu and is attended by many people. About 210,000 people participated in this event last time.

Brought by Okabiki and Kawabiki in the same way as the Okihikigyoji, participants carry 'Oshiraishi' (white pebbles) which have been taken from the riverside at the Miya-gawa River, in order to place them in the sacred grounds.

This is the only chance for people to be in the sanctuary grounds as no one is ever allowed to set foot inside after the transfer of the symbol of the kami.

The participants of Okihikigyoji, including Ichinichi Shinryomin, attend this event.

This event is designated a National Selected Intangible Folk Cultural Property as Ise's 'Shiraishimochi' (manners and customs: rituals (beliefs)).



Naiku: September 13, 1993/September 2013; Geku: September 15, 1993/September 2013

This ceremony is to affix the sacred door of the new building.


Mifunashiro Hono-shiki

Naiku: September 17, 1993/September 2013; Geku: September 19, 1993/September 2013

This ceremony is to place the Mifunashiro, the sacred wooden box for holding the symbol of the kami, in the main sanctuary.



Naiku: September 24, 1993/September 2013; Geku: September 26, 1993/September 2013

The newly constructed building is purified in this ceremony.


Shinnomihashira Hoken

Naiku: September 25, 1993/September 2013; Geku: September 27, 1993/September 2013

This ceremony is to place the Shinnomihashira, the sacred core pillar, in the center of the floor of the new sanctuary building.

It is conducted late in the night, and is not open to the public. The details of the ceremony are not disclosed.



Naiku: September 28, 1993/September 2013; Geku: September 29, 1993/September 2013*

This ceremony is to consolidate the grounds of the new sanctuary.



Naiku: October 1, 1993/October 2013; Geku: October 4, 1993/October 2013

This ceremony is to offer prayers to the kami to make the grounds of the new sanctuary tranquil.



Naiku: October 1, 1993/October 2013; Geku: October 4, 1993/October 2013

This ceremony is to confirm that the newly made clothing and treasures for the Sengu are in accordance with tradition.



Naiku: October 1, 1993/October 2013; Geku: October 4, 1993/October 2013

This ceremony is to purify the 'Karimihishiro' (the Mihishiro to carry the symbol of the kami), the 'Karimifunashiro' (the Mifunashiro to carry the Karimihishiro), and the new clothing and treasures that are to be dedicated to the kami, along with the priests that attend the transfer ceremony.



Naiku: October 2, 1993/October 2013; Geku: October 5, 1993/October 2013

This ceremony is to decorate the inside of the new building.



Naiku: October 2, 1993/October 2013; Geku: October 5, 1993/October 2013*

This is the ceremony to transfer the symbol of the kami from the old to the newly constructed building.

It is the culmination of all of the Shikinen Sengu ceremonies.

It is conducted at night with very little illumination, and is attended by members of the Imperial family and many other attendants.



Naiku: October 3, 1993/October 2013; Geku: October 6, 1993/October 2013

The Omike ceremony is performed to serve "Omike" (the first sacred food) to the kami in the new building.



Naiku: October 3, 1993/October 2013; Geku: October 6, 1993/October 2013

This ceremony is to present the "Heihaku" (sacred silk and other sacred materials) from the Emperor to the kami.



Naiku: October 3, 1993/October 2013; Geku: October 6, 1993/October 2013

This ceremony is to transfer the sacred treasures that were left in the former sanctuary to the Saihoden, the western treasure house, in the new compound.



Naiku: October 3, 1993/October 2013; Geku: October 6, 1993/October 2013

This ceremony is to offer sacred food to the kami before the Mikagura ceremony (Music performed in court shinto ceremonies).



Naiku: October 3, 1993/October 2013; Geku: October 6, 1993/October 2013*

This ceremony is conducted by "Kunaicho Shikibushoku" (court musicians of the Imperial Household) who have been dispatched by the Emperor to offer ceremonial court music and dance.

[Original Japanese]