The Japanese people are world famous for their love of sakura, the symbol of spring. Spread out your blankets, open up the picnic baskets and pop the corks: the cherry blossoms are a feast for the senses. As with any beauty, the petals cannot sustain their head-turning quotient for more than a few weeks, after which we watch them dance in the wind and carpet our walkways.
It is this fleeting season of hanami that is perhaps the most recognized symbol of Japan and its reverence and respect for nature. Another tradition deserves its place in Japan's storytelling to the world: Ise Jingu (officially known as "Jingu") and its 20-year ritual known as Shikinen Sengu (shrine reconstruction ceremony), passed down across generations for over 1,300 years. The first Sengu was performed in 690 and the 62nd was conducted in 2013.
This year's Group of Seven summit (Ise-Shima summit) is taking place on Kashikojima island in Mie Prefecture. Central Japan was chosen to allow the world's top leaders to have firsthand experience with Japan's nature, core culture and traditions. Ise Jingu has much to share about sustainability and continuity that could help shape the conversation of the global influentials. But to begin to know it, you must visit. Picture books cannot tell the full story, for all the senses must be fully engaged. It is why Shinto and Ise Jingu are called the "soul of Japan."