If I asked you: “Where is the most important shrine in Japan?”, you will perhaps reply with places such as Yasukuni in Tokyo or Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto. Few people would probably think about a small and beautiful island between Honshu and Shikoku: Awaji Island and Izanagi Jingu, where the two ancestral deities of Japan are worshipped.
Izanagi, from which Izanagi Jingu takes its name, is one of the two ancestral deities of Japan. According to Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters) and Nihonshoki (Chronicles of Japan), the two most important mythological books of Japan, the country was created by Izanami (She Who Invites) and Izanagi (He Who Invites). The first island that they created was Awaji Island. It goes without saying that Izanagi Jingu, where Izanami and Izanagi are worshipped, is a central shrine when it comes to history and mythology.
Today I visited Izanagi Jingu and it was an amazing experience. I was lucky enough to assist to one of the many rites that are frequently performed there. The sound of the flutes filled the air while the Shinto priest was dancing slowly inside the main building. Few people were around me, that day. That mystical atmosphere sent shivers down my spine.
In Izanagi Jingu you can really experience Japanese culture and Shinto in an intimate way, far from the crowds of tourists. Yet, even if fairly unknown by foreigner tourists, Izanagi Jingu is considered to be as one of the most important cultural heritage of Japan.
I’ve visited Japan for a long time. Many of the most beautiful temples and shrines I visited were partly ruined by the great number of people walking around, taking pictures and talking loudly. It is difficult to experience a similarly peaceful feeling in such a beautiful shrine. Izanagi Jingu occupies a fairly large surface and with its beautiful buildings, a carp pond, a 900 years old camphor and many other attractive features, it has nothing to envy to the most famous shrines in Japan. Even so, relatively few people visit the shrine every day and most of them are Japanese. The temple, located in a natural environment, is close to Kobe, but still away from the noise and the crowds of people and tourist that you can find in the city.
The shrine is also linked to controversial revisionist politicians. It is not rare, in fact, to find yourself in front of signs advertising ultra-nationalist politicians. The reasons are clearly linked to the importance of the temple, at the center of the mythological creation of Japan. Whatever your political beliefs are, this will be an interesting experience. Many people say Japan is a place of contradictions. Walking in such a beautiful shrine and noting similar details can help you understand many aspects of Japan, hidden to the common tourist.