A Style of Shrine Architecture that Goes back to the Time of Myths
The magnificent architecture of the Main Hall of the Izumo Taisha Shrine was mentioned in Japan's most ancient chronicle, the Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters), which was first compiled at the beginning of the 8th century. Beyond this chronicle, we have to rely on orally transmitted accounts based on myths. For this reason, it is difficult to know for sure just when the shrine was actually built. According to a document dating from around the year 950, the Main Hall was a gigantic edifice that reached a height of 50 meters (164 feet). The existing structure, however, was built in 1744 as a square building that stands about 24 meters (79 feet) high with a floor area that measures approximately 11 meters (36 feet) on each side. Built in an architectural style that is as old as that found at Ise Jingu Shrine, the shrine, designated a national treasure, is an example of one of the oldest styles of shrine architecture that still exists in Japan today.
The unique Taisha style of architecture is now found only
in Shimane Prefecture. Experts have determined that, with its simple style,
plain wooden structure, and elevated floor, the shrine was built with a
construction method similar to that used for ancient houses.
The extensive shrine precincts cover an area of 27,000 square meters (290,625 square feet). After passing through the torii, or shrine gateway, the first building you encounter is the haiden, or hall of worship. This elegant structure, made of Japanese cypress, was rebuilt in 1959. Decorating the entrance is an eye-catching shimenawa; this huge ceremonial rope made from plaited straw is 8 meters (26 feet) long and weighs as much as 1,500 kilograms (3,307 pounds).
Photos: (Top) A ceremonial proceeding of the priests (Shimane Prefecture); (middle) the Worship Hall of the Izumo Taisha Shrine (Ministry of Foreign Affairs).
Unauthorized reproduction of the
photos in this page is prohibited.