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Ise Shrine, Mie Prefecture: click for larger

Given that part of the purpose of this trip was to get away from all the various goings on around New Years time, it’s highly ironic — or just stupid — that I decided on the spur of the moment to visit Ise Shrine, which just so happens to be the holiest Shinto place in Japan. “The ‘vatican’ of Shintoism,” as it has been put. I almost got to where everyone was heading, but the steady flow of foot traffic soon became a solid wall of standing still worshippers, and I didn’t like my prospects of getting there and back in a reasonable time, and so I turned around. And less pragmatically speaking, I started to feel somewhat guilty of my agnosticism. A perverse notion in Japan perhaps, considering that if you asked the legions who were there today, “Are you religious?” the overwhelming answer would be “No!” But having experienced more or less the same thing yesterday at Himeji, seemingly the only person not offering a prayer at the shrine, I knew it would be awkward.


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