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47 Prefectures from A to Y MIYAGI a b c d e f G h i j k l M MIE Ninja and the goddess of the sun n SELENA HOY o HERE’s something a little bit magical about Mie Prefecture. Positioned between Nagoya and Kyoto – at what might be called the nexus of eastern and western Japan — it's here that Shinto’s supreme deity, the goddess Amaterasu, is venerated, and also here that the famed Iga-ryu school of ninjutsu was born. Ise-jingu Shrine is the home of Amaterasu: goddess of the sun, first among the countless gods of the Shinto pantheon. Over five million people make pilgrimages to the shrine every year. As they p q r s t u v w x y z 28 T cross the Uji Bridge at the shrine’s entrance, they're said to cross the border between the human world and the world of the gods. “Have you ever seen a kami?” Ise-jingu guide Yoko Hasegawa asks, using the Japanese word for ‘god.’ “You haven’t, right? But to come here is to feel them in your heart.” Originally built around 2,000 years ago, the inner- most sanctum of Ise-jingu is accessible only to the selected few. Still, the grounds and buildings have an ancient majesty that harmonizes with the surrounding trees and Torii gate within Ise-jingu Shrine stones, the placid Isuzu River flowing gently alongside. The cypress structures are marvels of Japanese carpentry, constructed using only wooden joints without any nails. Touching the stately cypress torii gate at the end of Uji Bridge, you can almost feel its power. At the entrance to the shrine grounds, Hasegawa demonstrates the ceremonial washing ritual: left hand, right hand, then rinse your mouth with water poured into your left hand, rinse that hand again, then let the remaining water run over the handle of the dipper so that it’s clean for the next person.