Located in the city of Izumo in Shimane Prefecture, about an hour west of Matsue, Izumo Taisha is one of Japan’s most important shrines. Although no records exist of exactly when Izumo Taisha was built, it is often considered the oldest shrine in Japan, already in existence in the early 700s as shown in the nation’s oldest chronicles.
The Izumo region plays a central role in Japan’s creation mythology. The main deity enshrined at Izumo Taisha is Okuninushi no Okami. According to creation myths, Okuninushi was the creator of Japan and the ruler of Izumo. He also became known as the god of good relationships and marriage. Visitors consequently clap their hands four times instead of the usual two times during their prayers: twice for themselves and twice for their actual or desired partners.
Every year during the 10th lunar month (usually in November) the 8 million (!) Shinto deities from all over Japan are said to gather at the shrine for a meeting. There is even a special building, the Jukusha, which was built to provide lodgings for the visiting gods.
Until 1744, Izumo Taisha used to be periodically rebuilt like the Ise Shrines. Since then, the tradition has been only partially maintained with major renovations instead of full rebuildings carried out once approximately every 60 years. The most recent such renovation began in 2008 and was mostly completed by spring 2013 when the construction scaffolding around the main hall was removed and the deity moved back into the building.