The town of ISE wears its sanctity lightly, and many visitors find the town a disappointingly ordinary place. However, at Ise-jingū, Japan's most sacred Shinto shrine, even non-Japanese visitors can appreciate a deeply spiritual atmosphere. Apart from their historical importance, there is an unquestionable sense of awe and mystery about these simple buildings, with their unusual architecture, deep in the cedar forest.
Ise-jingū is naturally a top choice for the first shrine visit of the New Year (hatsu-mōde) on January 1. This is followed by more than 1500 annual ceremonies in honour of Ise's gods. The most important of these revolve around the agricultural cycle, culminating in offerings of sacred rice (Oct 15–17). In spring (April 5–6) and during the autumn equinox (Sept 22 or 23), ancient Shinto dances and a moon-viewing party take place at the inner shrine.