One of the most important aspects of the Shinto religion is the shrine, the place where the gods are ensconced and where those who practice the religion go to worship. In Japan, there are countless Shinto shrines, some of which are considered World Heritage Sites. Among these shrines, one of the most famous is Izumo Taishi, or Izumo Grand Shrine in English.
Izumo Taishi is actually considered to be the oldest Shinto shrine in Japan today and is frequently visited by those who practice Shinto and tourists (local and foreign) alike. Aside from being the oldest Shinto shrine in Japan, Izumo Taishi also has the distinction of following a purely Japanese architectural style. This style is called Taisha-tsukuri.
The Grand Shrine is located in Taisha in the Shimane Prefecture. It hosts two major festivals – the Imperial Festival held on the 14th of May and the Grand Festival on the 14th and 15th of May. Izumo Taishi is dedicated to the nephew of the Sun Goddess, whose name is Okuninushi no Mikoto. Okuninushi is actually considered to be the god of marriage and because of this, visitors to the shrine are supposed to clap four times (instead of the usual two that is required when visiting shrines) – the first two are for the person doing the action while the second two are for that person’s partner.
Izumo Taishi was renovated some months ago and visitors were given the chance to visit the most sacred of places – something that is not normally done. After the renovations are done, however, the usual closed sections will go back to being barred from the public.