Also known as Izumo Grand Shrine, or Izumo Oyashiro, Izumo Taisha is Japan’s second most important Shinto shrine, after Mie’s Ise Jingu (Ise Shrine). It was founded sometime in the early 700s and is regarded by many as Japan’s oldest shrine. According to folk legend, this site is home to the annual meeting of Japan’s gods.
The shrine is located in Izumo, a city once ruled by a powerful samurai clan, and a city shrouded in spiritual legend. The shrine is home to the enshrinement of Okuninushi no Okami, the once ruler of Izumo, the creator of the land of Japan and the god of happiness, good fortune, and connection, known in Japanese as en-musubi.
From the 10th to the 17th day of the 10th lunar month—which is typically November—is when the eight million deities that make up Shintoism journey to Izumo Taisha for an annual meeting. During this time of year, people from across Japan—and the world—make the pilgrimage to the site to celebrate by throwing a festival known as Kamiari Festival (“month with deities”) and pray for good luck.
Architecturally, Izumo Taisha shares some resemblance with Ise Shrine, the most sacred of all Japan’s shrines. Its design style is known as taisha-zukuri, which features a bark roof, gable-end pillars, a single central pillar, and a raised honden (main hall).
Between 2000 and 2001, giant pillars (around six meters in diameter) were discovered under the shrine’s ground. According to scientific analysis and archaeological records, it’s entirely possible that these pillars once supported a towering incarnation of the main shrine, which was likely built in 1248.