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ARC Home > Projects > Major ARC events :
Ise, Japan, 2014 | Ise Jingu: The Grand Shrine at Ise | Ise 2014 - formal programme

Ise, Japan, 2014

Tradition for the Future: Culture, Faith and Values for a Sustainable PlanetIse, Japan, 1 – 5 June 2014

Programme for Ise

Delegate biographies

Press Release before Ise, May 23, 2014

The day an ancient taboo bowed out

Both Prince Charles and Prince Philip write to support ARC’s Japan initiative

ValuesQuest Launched at Ise by Olav Kjørven, Assistant Secretary General of the UN

See photos from the Ise event at the ARC Flickr page.

Traditions for the Future

A major gathering of ARC partners in Japan from May 31 to June 5, 2014, will be hosted at the Grand Shrine of Ise by Jinja Honcho in partnership with ARC.

The newly rebuilt Naiku shrine at Ise, dedicated to the goddess Amaterasu-omikami
The event, hosted by Jinja Honcho (the Association of Shinto Shrines) in partnership with ARC, comes just after the rebuilding of the entire shrine complex, which happens every 20 years and is a model of recycling and sustainability, albeit a slightly different model than the one commonly understood in the west. (All the materials are recycled. When the previous shrine was rebuilt 20 years ago some of the shrine materials went to the site of the Great Earthquake of 1995; this time some of the wooden structures are going to northern Japan, around Tohoku to help rebuild shrines destroyed during the 2011 Japanese tsunami.)

The event

The event will open with a ceremonial procession of religious delegates through the Tori gate and across the great bridge, over the sacred Izuzu River, to the Grand Shrine of Ise.

Shinto is not a teaching faith, it is a showing faith, and this procession will embody the international opening up of Shintoism. This is the first time in known history that religious delegates will visit Ise in their robes and religious costume; this is also the first international conference that Jinja Honcho has ever held.

There will be a meeting of around 800 Shinto priests from all over Japan, discussing Shintoism's role as a leader in the protection of Japan's natural environment. The conference will be addressed by Her Imperial Highness, Princess Akiko, whose family members trace their descent from the Shinto goddess Amaterasu. Ise is the shrine of the Imperial family.

International delegates will take part in working groups planning the future development of the five major programmes ARC currently supports. There will also be a unique opportunity to contribute to the UN's next set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with a keynote address from Olav Kjorven, Assistant Secretary General at the UN for the Post-2015 process.

This is a historical event for Jinja Honcho and Japan

Historical context of the Grand Shrine

Ise is the ‘spiritual home’ of the Japanese because at its heart is the Grand Shrine of Ise. Here the sun goddess Amaterasu has been worshipped for over 2,000 years. The Imperial Family of Japan trace its descent from her and so this is not just a shrine for Shintoism but also an Imperial Shrine. This is why we will be joined by Her Imperial Highness Princess Akiko of Mikasa.

Every 20 years the shrine is rebuilt in wood. This enables each generation to learn from the previous generation the skills necessary for such complex woodwork and construction. We have been invited to hold this event in 2014 because this year marks the end of the 62nd rebuilding of the shrine.

The shrine itself is set within beautiful wooded landscape through which flows the sacred river of Izuzu. Surrounding the environs of the shrine is the sacred forest which stretches for miles in every direction. Here the trees that provide the wood for the rebuilding are planted.

This is the first international religious Gathering that Jinja Honcho has ever hosted and marks a significant moment in Shinto history. Responding over the past two decades to the environmental issues confronting not just Japan but the world, Shintoism has looked deep into its own traditions and practices. It has found there is a profound wisdom about our place within the world of Nature and the need to restore respect for Nature. This was clearly expressed in the Shinto Statement on the Environment launched with ARC and WWF in 2000 in Kathmandu:

"The Japanese spirituality inherited from the ancient ancestors has been gradually lost or hidden somewhere deep in our consciousness. It might not be an exaggeration if we said that not only environmental problems but also all problems of modern society have been caused by lack of the awe, reverence, and appreciation for nature that ancient people used to have and taught us." (Jinja Honcho, 2003)

"The Ise Gathering will mark the next major step in Jinja Honcho’s programme to help bring Japan back to its roots in nature," said ARC's secretary general Martin Palmer.

"But it is also more than that. It is a major opening of the Shinto tradition to engagement with other faiths and cultures. A high point of the Gathering will be the Procession of the faith and secular leaders from around the world to the Grand Shrine itself. For the first time in the history of the Shrine, members of other religions will be invited to enter the sacred precinct in their own traditional religious clothing. This is a huge honour and marks a remarkable opening of the Shinto tradition to other faiths and cultures."

ARC is deeply honoured to have been asked to be Jinja Honcho’s partner in this historic Gathering.

Further information

Programme for Ise

Delegate biographies

Press Release before Ise

More about Ise

More about Shintoism

More about Jinja Honcho

Jinja Honcho as member of the Green Pilgrimage Network

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Related information

What does Shintoism teach us about ecology?
A brief outline of Shinto teachings on the environment
Jinja Honcho, Japan
Information about the Association of Shinto Shrines in Japan and the ways they are making their sites into green pilgrimage destinations.
May 17, 2013:
ValuesQuest launches with wide-ranging debates
An exciting new collaboration between ARC and the Club of Rome is launched in the UK. The aim of this ambitious and wide-ranging enquiry seeks to find an answer to the vital question: how can we transform the values guiding our society to create and maintain a sustainable, equitable and fair global society?