The Inner Shrine (内宮, Naikū) is one of the two main shrines making up the Ise Shrines in Ise City. Formally known as Kotai Jingu, the Inner Shrine enshrines Shinto's most venerated deity, the Sun Goddess (Amaterasu Omikami), and is considered Japan's most sacred shrine.
The Inner Shrine is believed to have been established over 2000 years ago. Its main buildings resemble ancient rice granaries and are built in an architectural style that shows almost no influence from the Asian mainland because they predate the introduction of Buddhism. Both, the Inner and Outer Shrine, are rebuilt from scratch every 20 years according to an ancient Shinto tradition. The 62nd rebuilding was completed in 2013. The 63rd rebuilding will take place in 2033.
A typical visit to the Inner Shrine takes between 60 and 90 minutes and starts from the Uji Bridge, an approximately 100 meter long, wooden bridge across the Isuzugawa River. The bridge has two large torii gates, one at each end, which are made from the former shrine building's main pillars. The shrine grounds fascinate through their simplicity, as visitors encounter little more than gravel-covered walkways and wooden, barely painted shrine structures, surrounded by a serene forest.
After passing the purification trough and one more torii gate, visitors have a unique additional opportunity to cleanse and purify themselves at a riverside site, using the water of the sacred Isuzugawa River. Further along the approach to the main sanctuary, visitors pass the Kaguraden, a building complex where charms and amulets can be acquired.
The main sanctuary is found at the top of a flight of stone stairs. The main hall enshrines the Sun Goddess and is surrounded by multiple sets of fences. Visitors are only allowed to go beyond the outermost of them where photography is not allowed. Only partially visible, the main hall features forked roof finishings (chigi) that are cut horizontally at their tips and have ten decorative wooden beams (katsuogi), differing slightly from the Outer Shrine.
There are a number of auxiliary shrines on the grounds of the Inner Shrine: a beautiful wooden bridge (shown on this page's top picture) leads from the Kaguraden building to the Kazahinominomiya which enshrines two wind deities. On a small hill next to the main shrine stands Aramatsurinomiya which enshrines the spirit of the Sun Goddess. Furthermore, there is an ancient rice granary called Mishinenomikura where the rice used for offerings is stored.