Thursday, Apr. 23, 2009

Constant Change

Best Ongoing Renovation
Ise, Japan

Worshippers have been coming to Ise Jingu — Shinto shrines less than two hours away from bustling Nagoya — for around 2,000 years, but work on this venerable place of pilgrimage is still not finished, nor will it ever be. And that's a good thing.

Every 20 years, an army of thousands of craftsmen is employed at the complex to completely rebuild the buildings that house its ancient pantheon, as well as a number of other structures and artifacts — exactly in the manner in which they were originally constructed. The work involves recreating 65 buildings and 1,600 sacred objects, and has been carried out since the year 690. The 62nd renovation of Ise Jingu is scheduled for 2013, and a budget of $5.5 million has been earmarked.

The ritualistic refurbishment is connected to the Japanese belief of tokowaka — the idea that through constant regeneration and renewal both the gods and the nation can remain eternally young and vigorous. But regardless of one's spiritual beliefs, the qualities that Ise Jingu exemplifies — continuity, tradition and a common purpose that spans the generations — are wonderfully uplifting. Here the noisy, earthly work of construction intersects with a timeless, eternal peace.