Map of Ise Shrine Pilgrimage Route, 1892

click on image to enlarge

IHL Cat. #557 

Map of Ise Shrine Pilgrimage Route, 1892


unknown artist

image: 8 5/16 x 12 1/4 in.

sheet: 9 x 13 in. 


In this 1892 woodblock printed bird's-eye view of Ise Jingū (伊勢神宮), the most important shrine in the Shintō shrine hierarchy, we see pilgrims arriving by foot, by jinrickisha, and by wagon. As discussed below, a network of travel agents (pilgrimage oshi), accommodations and entertainments existed to help pilgrims arrive and enjoy their visit. Printed guidebooks, route maps and various ephemera were printed and published to support the traveler. 

In this map, similar to so many other shrine maps published each year, the important shrines, gates, fences (tamagaki), and landmarks in the massive Ise shrine complex and nearby areas are shown and named in the yellow and red rectangular cartouches. Being hastily and cheaply produced, it is difficult to read many of over forty identifying yellow and red cartouches. The right half of the print shows shrines and landmarks within Naikū (内宮), the Inner Shrine, official name Kōtai Jingū (皇大神宮), dedicated to the sun goddess Amaterasu Ōmikami, and the left half of the print shows shrines and landmarks within Gekū (外宮), the Outer Shrine, official name Toyouke Daijingū (豊受大神宮), dedicated to the goddess of grain Toyouke Okami who offers sacred food to Amaterasu. In the foreground we see the long Miyagawa Bridge (宮川橋), crowded with pilgrims, leading from Yamada Town to the shrine precincts. Pictured in the center of the print is the sacred Uji Bridge (宇治橋) over the Isuzugawa River (五十鈴川), leading to Naikū, the inner sanctum of Ise Jingū. Crossing the Uji Bridge took pilgrims from the the secular to the sacred world.

The Rising Sun (a symbol of Amaterasu), Mount Fuji, the famous Wedded Rocks of Meotoiwa in Futamiura (二見浦) and the Hinjitsukan (賓日館), built in 1887 as a rest house for important visitors to the Grand Shrine of Ise, are seen in the distance. There is no scaling to the map and the two shrine complexes are actually a few kilometers apart and the Wedded Rocks over 10 kilometers from the Inner Shrine.

Published five years before the completion of the privately owned Sangū Railway and the opening up of Yamada Station on November 11, 1897, which "brought pilgrims into Yamada from across Japan with a speed and comfort heretofore unimaginable,"[1] it is likely that the number of pilgrims visiting was still relatively low compared to pre-Meiji times, as explained below. After the arrival of the railway, maps of Ise Jingu would invariably include a depiction of a steam train, as can be seen in the shrine maps dated 1897 or after below.

[1] A Social History of the Ise Shrines Divine Capital, Mark Teeuwen, John Breen, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017, p. 177. 

A Sampling of Ise Shrine Maps

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Ise Jingū Background

"The Ise Grand Shrine or Ise Jingū, located in the heart of a sacred forest in the Mie Prefecture of Japan, is the most important Shintō shrine in the country and is dedicated to the sun goddess Amaterasu with a separate shrine dedicated to Toyouke, the food goddess. First built in 4 BCE, the present-day structures are based on the buildings erected in the 7th century CE. Uniquely, 16 of the 125 buildings at the sprawling complex, as well as the Uji bridge and torii gateway, are rebuilt exactly every 20 years, the last occasion being 2013. Ise Jingu is the ancestral shrine of the emperors of Japan" and ordinary visitors are not allowed to enter the main shrine buildings, partially obscured by sacred fences.[1]

Pigrimage to Ise Shrine during the Edo Period

During the Edo period (1600-1868) travel was severely restricted by the Tokugawa regime, with pilgrimage to religious sites being one of the allowable forms of travel. Of the many sites a pilgrim could visit, Ise was among the most popular. "Each year Ise routinely received between two hundred thousand and five hundred thousand visitors. At three times during the Edo period, in 1705, 1777, and 1830, Ise pilgrimage reached a  fever pitch; in 1830 upward of five million people traveled to the shrines."[2]

Prior to and during the Edo period a large network of (confraternities) arose to encourage and support pilgrimages for kō members. Working with the were oshi, "semi-lay proselytizers, who provided accommodations for pilgrims at their inns, acted as guides, distributed amulets and collected donations."[3] Woodblock printed material, guidebooks and prints depicting the sites at the shrine were issued to support the traveler and  provide a vicarious experience to those who longed for travel to Ise, but could not travel. While many visited primarily for religious reasons, for many a religious pilgrimage to Ise was merely a pretext to obtain official permission to travel with the real purpose being to avail themselves of the inns and prostitutes in the shrine vicinity. "It is estimated that there may have been as many as one thousand prostitutes in brothels in the vicinity of Ise during the Edo period."[4]

Pilgrimage to Ise Shrine during the Meiji Period

Throughout the Edo period, Ise was Buddhist led and operated, but with the rise of State Shintōism in the Meiji period it would be purged of its Buddhist priests and rituals (as a result of shinbutsu bunri, the 1868 government order for the separation of Buddhism from Shintō, which directed Ise and other shrines to "rid themselves of all Buddhist elements.")[5]  With the 1869 visit of Emperor Meiji, "the first time an emperor had visited Ise in person since the seventh century" Ise Shrine would become the symbol of State Shintōism, with all shrines under its umbrella.[6]

But, despite the emperor's visit, travel to the shrine fell off in the early Meiji years due to general social upheaval coming on the heels of the Meiji Restoration, the suppression of Buddhist content at the shine and restrictions placed on the Ise oshi, priests who encouraged and coordinated travel to Ise from all over Japan throughout the Edo period. 

The modern state's reimagining and reshaping of Ise - its meanings, practices and physical contours - had a profoundly isolating effect. The closer Ise was allied to the modern state, the more remote it became from pilgrims' needs. The raft of government-led reforms had rendered Ise unfamiliar. Critical among these reforms was the abolition in 1871 of the Ise oshi, who were the vital link between the Ise Shrines and pilgrims.[7]

However, within a few years a number of oshi reorganized, fashioning themselves into innkeepers, an allowable trade, and were again coordinating pilgrimages to the shrines and partaking in the more secular activities available in the surrounding areas. With the coming of the privately owned Sangū Railway to Ujiyamada (the newly formed town which joined Uji and Yamada in 1889) and the opening of Yamada Station on November 11, 1897 pilgrims could now arrive in "Yamada from across Japan with a speed and comfort heretofore unimaginable."  

Souvenir Pictures of Famous Places in Ise - Twelve Prints by Hirose Harutaka, February 1897

For more views in and around Ise Shrine click on the above image to see the color lithograph set titled Souvenir Pictures of Famous Places of Ise, issued to promote the completion of the Sangū tetsudō 参宮鉄道 rail line (shrine-bound railway) which would reach Ise Shrine proper (Yamada Station) in November 1897.

[1] "Ise Grand Shrine" by Mark Cartwright appearing in the World History Encyclopedia, April 2017. 

[2]  "Ise Shrine and a Modernist Construction of Japanese Tradition," Jonathan M. Reynolds, appearing in The Art Bulletin , Jun., 2001, Vol. 83, No. 2 (Jun., 2001), CAA, p. 318.

[3]  "Localized Religious Specialists in Early Modern Japan: The Development of the Ōyama Oshi System," Barbara Ambrose, appearing in the Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, Fall, 2001, Vol. 28, No. 3/4, Local Religion in Tokugawa History (Fall, 2001), Nanzan University, p. 330. 

[4]  Shintō and the State, 1868-1988, Helen Hardacre, Princeton University Press, 1989, p. 16.

[5] ibid. p. 41.

[6] op. cit. Reynolds, p. 322. 

[7] A Social History of the Ise Shrines: Divine Capital, Mark Teeuwen and John Breen, Bloomsbury, 2017, p. 164.

Print Details

Map of Ise Shrine Pilgrimage Route #557